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  • Priyank Sharma

Why do great policies fail during implementation?

"Policy is great, implementation is the problem" - You would often hear this. Why? Why do great policies fail during implementation?


In my previous post, we discussed: 1. how policies are not legal documents 2. why can't policies be turned into laws 3. Why would a state adhere to a national education policy (btw, I read the news that Tamil Nadu has rejected the national education policy :D)


Today, let's try to understand with examples why would a great policy fail:


1. Systemic Issues

This is the most prevalent & obvious reason. The problem is we come to know about most systemic issues only when the policy is implemented, and most overarching policies will not be flexible at the implementation level. For example, RTE recommended that elementary education should be free & compulsory to every child. Now, in 2010, states worked differently: in some states, primary was till 6th grade, or elementary was till 7th, and or junior college started from 8th. It was extremely difficult for policy makers to convince these states to make systemic changes to make sure RTE becomes a reality. As we all know: Systems domesticate not just innovations but policies too.


2. Policies are not contextual

Policy borrowing is a crude reality. For example, the no detention policy. Now, it was a great policy on paper advocating for a school experience not focused on exams and labels but our context was just not ready for it. Sad part is, people thought that policy was bad - it was not, we were not ready for it. Also, the social realities of different places are quite different, so it's difficult to implement.


3. Political Will

One may not believe the impact of politics on policy and its implementation - it's huge, and that's why different places respond differently to policies. For example, Andhra Pradesh & Bihar didn't have very different conditions many decades back - it's the political will that took one state miles ahead. My friends working for some of the marginalized populations literally came across a politician who said: "If you educate these people, they will never vote for us". Also, the goals of education policies shift with every govt and political intervention.


4. Lack of collaboration at different levels of implementation

There are times when you have an ambitious policy but it is very difficult to sync all implementing bodies & stakeholders. For example, SSA was the first policy where the govt committed for universalization of elementary education within a time frame. Now, it was not easy to bring stakeholders in sync and be true to the time period as well, so in many places, SSA schools were set up separately. As a policy person, you would find it amusing!


5. Policy document and Policy Implementation May contradict

I gave an example in my last post for this. Though RTE was brought in to break barriers for access to elementary education, the same RTE created barriers in implementation.

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