Education in Manipur
- The need for reform, innovation and vision -

Th Basanta Kumar 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

Introduction: An educated individual can observe, perceive and plan in a more effective and efficient manner than one who is uneducated. An educated workforce will therefore invariably yield a greater economic output for the state that invests in its education.

The initial cost of investment to yield such a workforce may appear to be substantial at first; however, it must be noted that the equitable distribution of quality education that is formally standardized in a state has many long term positive effects:-
(1) Generation of human capital (through an educated, and thereby, qualified workforce);
(2) Reductions in population growth rates & gender inequalities and
(3) Attraction of national and foreign investment (MNCs, NGOs and private enterprises desire qualified human capital).

Through the investments and initiatives of the state, education can be made to become a rock-solid institution in itself, a cornerstone of Manipur society. This institution, once firmly established, will persist and expand generating a positive feedback loop and feeding a virtuous cycle of prosperity and development (two educated adults invariably have a higher pro-bability of securing employ- ment in decent paying jobs, and will presumably want their child/children to follow and improve upon the path of education and employment. This process, played out over several generations, creates the previously mentioned virtuous cycle).

Now, it is extremely important for us to take note of the fact that quality education, on its own, does not guarantee economic growth and development. Education has to go hand in hand with employment opportunity so as not to create a situation where there is prevalence of "brain drain" where overqualified individuals (often with undergraduate and post-graduate degrees) are underemployed.

Subsistence Vs Sustainable survivability in the 21st Century:

It is important to look at the issue of education and employment from the perspective of the populace. While it is true that there are many individuals - educated & uneducated - who are unemployed in Manipur, it quite rare to hear of cases of starvation or people failing to feed themselves. This can be attributed to the fact that most families, at least in most parts of the valley, have small landholdings that provide them with nourishment & subsistence even if any trace of wealth income is absent in the family.

Here, we have individuals with a steady source of subsistence in the absence of a steady source of income. The result is the lack of any sense of urgency in seeking employment or the education and training that employment invariably demands.

What is critical to grasp is that the economic and cultural climate in the state of Manipur will witness a profound change in the foreseeable future. With land being bought and sold, and the gradual development of property markets, such subsistence based "loafing about" will not be a viable option for survival in the 21st century.

It is the duty and indeed the responsibility of the state to inform its citizens of the impending changes and provide opportunities for them to suitably equip themselves against said changes, for when these changes occur (as they inevitably will) and the previously mentioned individuals (of which there are many) are left stranded in the desert of ineligibility and solitude, it is the state to which they will turn their ire for having failed in this responsibility.

The State government with its jurisdiction and authority over the Manipur Board of Education has immense power in its ability to dictate the curriculum and the structure of primary and secondary education for most of the great many educational institutions within the state. With this immense power comes the heavy responsibility of providing the children of citizens, particularly of poor parents in the villages, with an education that they can bank on to survive and prosper in the competitive environment they will inevitably face upon passing out from School. To fullfill this responsibility, the Department of Educa- tion is undoubtedly in need of reform, innovative ideas and vision.

While the recommendations for reforms that shall be listed below are by no means comprehensive (or for that matter guaranteed to succeed), it is a start, and it should be stressed at the outset that any efforts to reform educational institutions should be distributed equitably between valley and hills, so as not to reap a counterproductive result.

Some Innovative Reform Recommendations and Suggestion:

While it is easy to criticize and find fault with the prevailing system, it is imperative for all right thinking citizens to think about and offer recommendations and constructive suggestions in the overall interest of the State and our people. Here are some of mine:-

1) Introduce English language VERBAL communication skills as a part of the curriculum from class 4 onwards upto class 10. The curriculum should involve listening to audio tapes of native English speakers communicating so as to acclimatise students to correct pronunciations. It also serves the purposes of building confidence so that if the opportunity to converse with native speakers should arise, students are not thrown by "unusual accents" or worse yet discouraged or embarrassed to engage in conver- sation.

Today we live in an increasingly globalized world and the ability to communicate in English and articulate ideas (whether or not those ideas bear merit depends on other aspects of education) concisely will be a vital asset to any student in the foreseeable future.

2) Introduce European languages (French, Spanish or German) from Class 7 upto class 10. The reason for recommending the particular languages outlined above is based on the scope of each language. A person trained in these languages will find that not only are France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland & Austria accessible to him/her but also large parts of South and Central America and North and Central Africa. Establishing exchange programs with schools in these Countries would further enrich the educational experience of our students by affording them the opportunity to gain international exposure and practically apply what they have learnt in the classroom.

3) It is recommended that Class 9 students be enrolled in a summer seminar program (lasting the month of their summer vacation) focused on the subject of career counselling and stream selection. It is imperative that students have a clear cut idea about which stream (Science, Commerce, Humanities) they want to enrol themselves in after Class 10 and also formulate an idea about what their respective career prospects would be upon their entry into Class 10.

4) It is recommended that Class 10 students be enrolled in a summer seminar program (lasting the month of their summer vacation) focused on the subjects of sex education, family planning & moral sciences to address the issue of prevailing trends in the state regarding teenage elopement, marriage and pregnancy.

5) It is recommended that a similar seminar be held for Class 11 students (during summer vacation) focusing extensively on career opportunities, college enrolment and internship opportunities.

6) Most importantly, it is recommended that between Class 8 and Class 10 students be given comprehen- sive knowledge about their political systems at the national and state levels. Both theoretical knowledge (the workings of the electoral system, branches of government, separation of powers etc.) as well as practical knowledge (how to register to vote, developing the ability to form political opinions, and learning to measure the worth of political candidates) need to be emphasized. Politically active and well educated citizens lays the foundations of good governance and the resulting economic develop- ment that follows.


Whether or not the state heeds the advice and recommendations above and whether said suggestion yields positive results is yet to seen, and is indeed a matter which is open to discussion, debate and scrutiny. But what is evident is that an attempt (indeed a genuine attempt backed by robust political will) to initiate a departure from the current state of affairs is sorely needed and warranted. We may have to take a lesson in political commitment from the Japanese government of 1868, which issued a firm declaration in its Charter Oath to "seek knowledge wisely throughout the world".

This declaration was formalized under the Fundamental Code of Education issued in 1872 which stated: "There shall in the future, be no community with an illiterate family, nor a family with an illiterate person". What is important to note is that the government in Japan at that time did not rest on firm declarations or codified laws alone, but backed it up with political action. Between 1906 & 1911, educa- tion consumed as much as 43 percent of the budgets of the towns & villages of Japan as a whole.

Like the Japanese of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century, we too must affirm our commitment to the people of Manipur that our children in Manipur shall and will receive the education they deserve, and follow it up with resolute political action for its deliverance.

* Th Basanta Kumar Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a member of the State Executive, BJP, Manipur Pradesh
This article was posted on September 15, 2017.

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