Reintroduction of eggs in the mid-day meal scheme for children in government schools by the Chhattisgarh government has triggered a controversy which encapsulates some of the worst aspects of India’s education policy. First-rate universal school education is the best way to bring about equality of opportunity. However Indian education, particularly in government schools, has become a place to experiment with bad ideas on children who most need help. For long, one bad idea imposed on children was to deprive them of education in English, regardless of the needs of the job market. The off-on policy on eggs is one more example.
One of the aims of the mid-day meal scheme is to provide enough nutrition to children from poor families as it aids cognitive development. But state governments led by BJP have sometimes eliminated eggs, an inexpensive source of protein which malnourished children need, on cultural grounds. This is a bad policy decision. Cumulatively, these bad decisions result in other short-sighted moves such as enhancing quotas to cover up multiple policy failures.
Governments should take education policy seriously as a nation’s long-term prosperity depends on the quality of its human capital. The stark difference between India and China on this account should illustrate how policy has failed in India. Education is not the place to impose a political party’s personal views on children. Pragmatism and the need to enhance quality of human capital should guide policy. The Chhattisgarh government has done well to reintroduce eggs into children’s diet; other governments should follow suit.