Can then Model Schools be the answer? (IV)

S Kunjabihari Singh *

Students appearing for Class X Exam (High School Leaving Certificate) :: 01 March 2016
Students appearing for Class X Exam on 01 March 2016 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam

Any able bodied person in his or her senses, not necessarily educated, need not even have high school degree or even less, will without a hesitation count two or three major problems inherent in the existing school system both government and aided.

In all probability, he/she would mention three governing factors, namely, i) poor quality teachers, ii) poor management iii) poor infrastructures.

There could still be two or three more shortfalls; that's ok, one can count many, all these could effectively be counted as fall-outs of the above three burning issues. Discussion on these will throw some light if these issues are the reality on the ground and if so, how these grey areas can be improved, if not totally removed.

To be honest all these factors are not misplaced. Personally I would count poor management as the principal cause. The offshoots could be easily, poor attendance of both teachers and also of students. The Head Master (HM) is not able to ensure regular classes, primary reason being high level of teacher-absenteeism and the inability of the HM to control such delinquent teachers.

Reasons again could be the HM is too weak or he/she is more often than not a casualty. The teachers too are more ready to fall in line, become adamant or have political connections. The question is then if a strong, efficient HM, who can call a spade a spade, is posted, and take care of absenteeism, can things improve to some extent even with the existing content of teachers and the existing set of infrastructure?

How to go about the schools where the teachers are not themselves clear about basic concepts be they English or mathematics or science and thus fail to raise the quality of students, however competent the HM could be?

In the private-run schools, known also as commercial schools though the cost is high, are such impediments more or less removed? There the teachers are punctual to the dot apprehending summary sacking and usually without a whisper, manage to be at the school premises half an hour before the school time. This scenario is not to be seen in government schools; and yet, the HM is unable to take actions.

Absenteeism, but for authorized leaves, is not in the dictionary of private institutions. And in government schools it is more of regularity. In private schools each teacher is to have 4 to 5 classes a day; in government ones not more than two or three.

While in private ones, the teachers cannot just leave school before 4 or 5 pm when the school closes; not in government ones, they are free to leave ones his/her allotted period is over. In private organizations class or no class they have to be present in the school, attend to class works, home works in the periods where they have no classes.

On the top of these, each teacher has to submit to the head master 'Lesson Plan' (LP), on the areas they are planning to cover in the next one week. These briefs highlight the core areas to be covered in the next week and have to be submitted 2 or 3 days before the classes next week. The Head Master after scrutinizing the proposed LP would return to the subject teacher with whatever changes he fits necessary to improve the content of the subjects. Failure to submit in time would entail disciplinary proceedings.

These actions cannot be taken easily in private schools for obvious reasons. Those who fail to submit the LP would not be allowed to take classes.

Contrast this system with the ones in the government-run schools and also in the aided schools. They even swap classes at their convenience among themselves without the knowledge of the head master let alone approval. The HM rates these as not a serious lapse and goes easy. There is no system of a LP in government schools let alone submit areas one is planning to cover in the next week in advance.

Many could leave midway on the excuses of private urgencies and worst still may not turn up in time or for weeks in collusion with the higher ups. In many of the government schools the HM is unable to control the situation. In such a situation quality teaching would be a far cry.

Given this situation in quality of teaching, control and infrastructure, no wonder that 67 and odd high schools under the government were blank in the last school final examination. And mind you, this is not an isolated case of this year; rather it is a regular phenomenon over the years. Could it be a case where the students and their parents are at fault or the teachers are or are both actors responsible for this utterly impossible scenario?

We often hear about 'surrogate teachers', a term manufactured to cover those unfortunate, so called teachers, hired by a regular teacher by paying a pittance, normally Rs 3000 a month, may be one-tenth of his/her normal pay. These surrogate teachers undertake the task of teaching in often difficult areas, remote hills or villages as a representative of the regular teacher.

Even forgetting the would-be competence of these, how under the government such male practices are allowed that too so brazenly? How the HM of the school, the ZEO or a dozen of his/her colleagues in the district is refraining from reporting to the higher authorities? How then can one talk about quality in government schools? The adage that teachers do everything except teaching turns out to be a gospel truth. Even before we probe, an amusing development has come out to the fore.

The new Minister of School Education had only last week squarely blamed the parents for the fast deteriorating standard of students. He tried to justify this by also exonerating the Ministers and the MLAs. True, the MLAs may not directly be associated in the process, but the Minister in charge of education is. Going by the same logic, do we then charge only the parents of the students in the select 67 schools, and not others, for the 'Zero Performance' of the said schools?

The more desirable factor could be the quality of management or preferably mis-management of such schools. What could be a greater loss than nipping in the bud of the career of these students may be a thousand of them or so?

Pay wise, the private school teachers get less than 25% of what their counterparts in the government enjoy and yet they outperform in the arena of producing better students. Work wise, private school teachers must be performing 3 to 4 times the load of his or her counterpart in the government run schools.

Teacher quality and their competence count significantly in raising the standards of students. The government school teachers inducted during the eighties and in subsequent years for the Primary and Middle schools, except for those recruited under the new project SSA, RMSA could be classified as mostly incompetent. And yet, with a little more zeal to perform, they can be counted upon.

The next issue is if the teachers however competent do get a congenial atmosphere kind of an environment for nurturing an ideal work-culture where they can get absorbed in teaching, a quality teaching? Recent news about non-payment of remuneration for over half a year for these supposedly qualified teachers and them approaching authorities for redressal is sad news. It breeds a totally negative ambience. It would speak volumes on their level of quality of and devotion to work.

In a given situation in a Primary School under the government, the 5 or 6 teachers if effectively controlled, hopefully the students could get at least an average level of quality, if not very ideal.

Infrastructure remaining the same, what appears most vital input in such a school could be a Head Master who could ensure regular classes by enticing all the teachers however moderate their subject knowledge could be. Teacher-absenteeism under control, the teachers adequately motivated for evolving a pleasant work culture, the team would deliver quality and content over the months.

The single most essential component is not infrastructure, not so much of it, not a bit of an additional contingency fund, not even a set of dedicated teachers. It is the Head of the School who may not be a man of great intellect. He or she should at the least, be a hard task master, kind of dhoti-clad, whip-trotting and on the run to chase the students and spontaneously enthuse the teachers. The rest could be a history.

* S Kunjabihari Singh wrote this article for
The article was originally written on 23 August 2016. The writer can be reached at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on August 24 2016.

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