Improving school management in Manipur

Oinam Nabakishore Singh *

In the result of High School Leaving Certificate Examination conducted by the Board of Secondary Education, Manipur, published in local newspapers on the 26th May, 2018, there was no student from Government schools in the first twenty five toppers. This news speaks volumes about the state of affairs in state government run schools.

It is time to look at the causes of such dismal performance. We should also look at the reasons behind the success by private schools, especially schools like Little Flower School, Nirmala Bas, Catholic School, Canchipur, etc.

There are a lot of learning we can get from private schools if we have to improve our schools. The reasons for success or failure of schools, just like any organization or firm, can be found in many of the factors listed below. These factors are not exhaustive, but they are some of the key enabling variables.

(1) Management Structure and Management

Management structure of entirely government run schools is vertical with Cabinet Minister of Education at the top of the hierarchy followed by Commissioner/Secreary of School Education in the Administrative Department in the Secretariat. In field formation, the department of school education has Director as Head of Department at State Level, ZEOs at the District or Zonal Levels in order to monitor the schools. At the school level, there is hardly any supervisory authority except the Principal or Headmaster.

The School Management and Development Committee comprising of local representatives and philanthropists does not have anyadministrative and supervisory authority. Its main job is to make recommendations to higher authority to provide the necessary infrastructure or facilities. In the hill districts of Manipur, school education up to eight standards is managed and run by Autonomous District Councils with supporting staff. In this arrangement, day to day management of government schools has to be carried out by the Principal or Headmaster.

The relevant question is whether the Principal/Headmaster are equipped with necessary administrative powers and authority, skills and knowledge of the job, appropriate reward and punishment for performance. Because of the several pressure groups and interference from various quarters, it is quite likely that the Principal/Headmaster do not enjoy complete independence in exercise of authority in school management. He himself has got to be a committed and dedicated administrator to lead by examples. He has to lead the entire team of teaching and non-teaching staff to perform at the best desirable level.

In case of failure to achieve the target, there has got to be well-defined and clearly understood punishments for Principal/Headmaster or subject teachers. Of course, reward for achieving the target shall have to be built in. Being human beings, it is not only necessary to guide and motivate the Principal/Headmasters, but it is also necessary to make them accountable for failure to achieve the target, which can be set after consultation. ZEOs and other functionaries in the District Education Office, should focus more on the supervision and monitoring on various key performance indicators(KPI) of the school.

The Principal/Headmaster are also required to closely monitor the progress of various well-defined activities of the school. In the present arrangement, the power of ZEOs, Principals, Headmasters , who are obligated to perform the tasks of education administration are diluted mainly due to interference of teaching community. It is a common knowledge many government teachers are supporters of politicians during election and there exists a quid pro quo arrangement.

Nowadays, student bodies have also participated in education administration when they feel that the orders and system of the Government are considered not to be in the interest of the students. It is quite natural that the vacuum of lack of administration by the state government is being filled up by CSOs and Student bodies. The present management structure and management, if left unaltered, will do more harm than good.

It is high time to learn from private schools and erstwhile grant-in-aid schools, which have proved to be much better managed than the present government schools. Ram Lal Paul High School at Keishamthong is always given an example of an excellent grant-in-aid school till it was converted into a fully funded and government managed school. Even my school, Ningthoukhong High School in Bishenpur District was a grant-in-aid school, which was managed very well by the local leaders with a lot of dedication and commitment.

It had the distinction of having students like Prof.(Dr.) G.S. Moirangthem, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Manipur, who secured 2nd position in Manipur in the High School Leaving Certificate Examination, 1969 of Board of Secondary Education, Assam, and I myself , who secured 1st position in the High School Leaving Certificate Examination, 1975 of Board of Secondary Education, Manipur.

The reasons behind our success has a lot to do with competent teachers recruited by the School Management Committee from the local community and their supervision in every respect of such grant-in-aid school. All of us know that the successful private schools are run mainly by a dedicated management Committee with responsibility being taken by the promoters whole-heartedly.

2) Proposed new Management Structure for Government Schools.

73rd and 74th Amendments of Constitution of India, which are incorporated in the Acts of urban local bodies and Panchayat Raj Institutions, mandated that primary education is to be devolved upon these bodies. Except for primary schools set up by the Autonomous District Councils in the hills, most of the primary schools are in the government sector. There are still some grant-in-aid schools, which are also demanding for absorption in the government fold. What do we have to do if we want improvement in the management of government schools.

As mentioned above, we have to adopt some of the best practices of private schools if we are to compete with them. Incidentally, I was Commissioner of NavodayaVidyalayaSamiti, an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Human Resource Development of Government of India. Residential schools, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, set up in each district of the country except in Tamil Nadu, has been doing very well in the CBSE examinations of secondary and higher secondary consistently every year since they were set up in 1986.

We can take a few managerial lessons from Navodaya Vidyalaya and Kendriya Vidyalaya, which are the most successful school system run by the Government. One of the factors for success of these two organizations is the autonomy in management of Schools. The officers, namely, Commissioner at the apex level, Deputy Commissioners at the Regional levels have complete independence and responsibility in management of the schools. At the Vidyalaya level, the Principals have been delegated powers to manage the school in the best possible manner. The teachers of these Vidyalayas work with full dedication to achieve the goals.

Now in respect of government schools, common refrain is interference from politicians in management of schools. How to create a system, where such interference is not allowed. One reason for success of grant-in-aid school is the financial and administrative power of the School Management Committee. The present School Management and Development Committee set up under SarvaSikshaAbhiyan has no financial powers. Can we think of giving financial power, especially, disbursement of salary to teachers as per attendance and performance to such Committee?

Can we make the teachers of government schools accountable to the local school management committee as ZEOs, Deputy Inspector and Assistant Inspectors of schools have failed to perform the works of supervision. The new system can be tsted in a few schools to begin with. If it is successful, we can replicate it.

(3) Cadre of Government School Teachers.

One of the reasons for failure of government schools is non-availability of adequate number of teachers in remote schools. Teachers, being powerful group, use all means to get posted at the school of their choice, preferably as close to home as possible. We hear that there many schools in cities like Imphal, where the number of teachers is more than the number of students. Such arrangement is at the cost of schools in rural areas.

In the hills, absenteeism of school teachers is learnt to be quite rampant. Substitute untrained local teachers are arranged by the regular teacher. This problem of absenteeism and lop-sided distribution can be taken care by having a school based cadre of teachers so that the question of transfer should not arise. While applying for recruitment, the candidate should be fully aware that he or she shall have to serve the entire career at that particular school in the event of recruitment.

If this is implemented the pressure on the politicians to transfer the teacher will be negligible, although other means like "utilization", "transfer with post", etc. could still be used. When I was Commissioner of Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, we had similar problem in retaining teachers in the North East. Teachers from other States, who are posted in the North East will always try to get transfer to states closer to their home.

It is a natural tendency. I introduced a new system, wherein it was made clear at the advertisement stage that the teachers recruited through special recruitment for North East are required to serve in the Vidyalayas there for at least ten years. An agreement was signed right at the time of joining. We were able to achieve some stability of having teachers in the North East.

It is high time that the policy makers and academicians put their head together to address the weaknesses in government schools. Changes have to be brought about across the State. The role of local community in school management needs to be enhanced. Preference of local teachers in recruitment should be given. It is quite likely to get qualified local candidates for appointment as teachers.

Once appointed, he or she will not have any issues related to transport and movement, accommodation, etc. He, being a local person, will be always answerable to the local community for failure or success. If private sector can manage their schools, why not the state government do so. I believe it is not rocket science. What is required is introspection and rectification of the mistakes.

Views expressed here are personal.

* Oinam Nabakishore Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer may be contacted at oinamsingh(AT)gmail(DOT)com for any queries/comments
This article was posted on 19 June , 2018 .

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