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Published by: Harvard Kennedy School
Published in: 2000
Length: 20 pages

Abstract

As the 1998-99 school year began in the state of Kerala, India, state education officials were setting out to bring radical change to government schools. A new approach-designed to be child-friendly and to de-emphasize rote learning and textbook-based teacher lectures in favor of "guided learning and playful interaction"-would, in the words of Education Secretary K. Jayakumar, be no less than "an affirmation of the rights of the child." But as the extension of the so-called District Primary Education Program (DPEP) began to reach all school districts in Kerala, the approach was embroiled in controversy. The leader of the political opposition called for it to be halted. Newly-organized protest groups, charged that reform threatened to dilute education standards and create two tiers of Kerala students. It would fall to Mr. Jayakumar and other state officials to convince the public that the DPEP plan was best for the nearly three million school children of Kerala. Their task required officials to defend the concept of the program, even as they continued to oversee the details of its implementation. The approach they chose would leave some convinced that DPEP had been successfully institutionalized in Kerala, while some of the reform''s strongest proponents believed that DPEP had been profoundly compromised. This case can be used to support discussion of the political leadership and public persuasion role which non-elected officials find they must play. Its context to India allows for discussion of leadership both in a parliamentary system and in a developing country.
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Abstract

As the 1998-99 school year began in the state of Kerala, India, state education officials were setting out to bring radical change to government schools. A new approach-designed to be child-friendly and to de-emphasize rote learning and textbook-based teacher lectures in favor of "guided learning and playful interaction"-would, in the words of Education Secretary K. Jayakumar, be no less than "an affirmation of the rights of the child." But as the extension of the so-called District Primary Education Program (DPEP) began to reach all school districts in Kerala, the approach was embroiled in controversy. The leader of the political opposition called for it to be halted. Newly-organized protest groups, charged that reform threatened to dilute education standards and create two tiers of Kerala students. It would fall to Mr. Jayakumar and other state officials to convince the public that the DPEP plan was best for the nearly three million school children of Kerala. Their task required officials to defend the concept of the program, even as they continued to oversee the details of its implementation. The approach they chose would leave some convinced that DPEP had been successfully institutionalized in Kerala, while some of the reform''s strongest proponents believed that DPEP had been profoundly compromised. This case can be used to support discussion of the political leadership and public persuasion role which non-elected officials find they must play. Its context to India allows for discussion of leadership both in a parliamentary system and in a developing country.

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