TODAY -

Issues On Transforming Quality Of Education (II)

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



On the most fundamental issue of imparting quality teaching in government run schools in particular, one major component of RTE Act, having analyzed the several avatars of the main Act, Louis Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative in India observed, "There has been progress in implementation of the Act in the past three years but children are dropping out, not for labor, but because they are not learning anything in schools".

He was speaking on the occasion of the Media Roundtable on the progress of RTE implementation, in the second week of April, 2013. Three years down the lane, can we claim to have improved even moderately to revamp the lot of the children especially of the lower middle and the Below Poverty Limit (BPL) strata?

The modest target was to achieve universal 5-years of primary schooling by 2007; 8-years of elementary schooling by 2010. Sadly, the target remained elusive as usual. In 2010, the RTE Act was again rescheduled for ensuring universal education compulsorily by 31 March, 2013.

The euphoria among the educationist was one of excitement and hope as quality norms for a wide range of parameters to be in place was pronounced. It was conceived as one vital piece of legislation to ensure access for all children to quality schooling. It is no more a statutory right under the Act, but a constitutional right to quality schooling.

The HRD Ministry complements itself stressing on the 'Revamped Policy' standing on 'three pillars', i) Access, ii) Inclusiveness, and iii) Quality. A look at the third pillar, QUALITY may be worthwhile.

This most important component is asserted to be ensured, inter-alia, by a) quantified qualification of teachers, b) set of infrastructures, c) compulsory assessment. Still another input is the implementation of the 73rd and the 74th amendment of the Constitutions roping in the local Panchayets assigned with the onerous responsibility of managing the schools by comprising 75% of the local community.

The governing factors for administering a system to streamline imparting quality education, at least for the 5-years of primary schooling can be said to be in position. The bigger issue is can the government, the school education authority, the Panchayets ensure implementation, I mean, strict implementation of the laid down sub-programs?

For instance, can the authority ensure appointment of teachers possessing quantified qualification? Since most of the teachers are already in position, that too far in excess of the prescribed number, as it stands today, can the school authority arrange for imparting special training to suit the needs of the identified primary schools?

A more appropriate question should be are most of these existing teachers amenable to training, can they absorb the comprehension of the new syllabus, to appreciate the minimum standards of primary schooling? This question is very relevant without much elaboration, considering the manner in which primary school teachers were recruited in the past, during the nineties and earlier.

Can these set of teachers impart the basic concept, (as different from working out the question and getting the correct answer), of fraction, decimal, percentage, LCM or HCF as prescribed in the primary classes? Are they, I mean some of them, who would be teaching English or Science, would do justice to the subject or to the children; more precisely, are they themselves competent to explain basic grammar?

Yes. In the recent past, under the SSA, many primary and middle school level teachers were inducted in a more transparent manner, though not totally free from grey areas. At least many of the new teachers are exceedingly qualified, some possessing PhD degrees, some having cleared NET examinations or having cleared the JRF and equivalent standards.

I came to know about this excessive qualification of the new SSA recruits in the office of the former Education Minister, Shi M. Oken. As it was, a group of them met the Minister complaining about non-payment of salaries for 8 months in a stretch. How can such a situation come at all? Would under such a scenario, the teachers be motivated, dedicated enough to teach, pour their hearts to the children?

This tribe of this new set of teachers certainly can be groomed to be competent teachers for our purpose. But they need to be motivated by attending to the minimum infrastructure expected of a model school, a model teaching. They additionally need also a surcharged atmosphere, good administration, a motivated ambience in the school, in the class under an able Head Master.

The other teachers, existing or shifted from other schools on rationalization or what is called 'utilized', would be suspect and would remain suspect. How do then the quality imperative out of the project be assured?

We may not forget that for a few million children the primary level schooling would be the last grade even in his or her life time. Many drop out even before reaching the standard III or IV, let alone standard V. An estimate in 2013, nation-wide put 80 lakh children as having never stepped inside a class room with 800 lakh children dropping out without completing basic education. One more reality though shocking, is that 13% of children are not able to transit from primary to upper primary. These 13% would be entering into the job market for an uncertain future.

What the RTE Act can secure a parting gift, a gift for a life time education for these unfortunate, semi-literate would-be pillars of the nation? Apparently, not one in sight. The only lasting gift could be a reasonable knowledge as they leave after standard V or before. Are the states prepared for this inevitable passage in the very beginning of their journey to the rigors of living?

The ASER released by Pratham, 2014 shows that overall, 60% of class III students cannot read class I text and 74% of class V students cannot do simple division. Manipur specific, though the school enrolment rate stood at 98.5%, the proportion of out-of school children was up from 3.3% to 3.5%; it is worse for girls.

The lure for private schools keeps rising for Manipur at 67% in 2011 against 28% at the national level. This drop in learning levels among children in government schools despite pumping crores of rupees under SSA is a reason for parents to opt for commercial schools not only in urban areas but in the rural areas too.

Can't we probe into this worrying situation? Doesn't this cast a shadow on the quality of teaching in government schools, or the accessibility to such schools or the infrastructure available or possibly a combination of the entire lot?

While the news of a sensational 'rank-scam' in the results of the Bihar Board of Secondary School last week shocked the entire school administrators across the country, our sanaleibak's school managers were not far behind though from another angle. While 67 government schools showed blank results in the BSEM's examination, this year, news of a government high school in the Imphal Municipality area, functioned without a single student while 17 duty-full teachers were in attendance, sitting idle.

The school reportedly had a meager total of 16 students in classes VI-X. The distribution of students class wise would be more revealing: class VI-2, VII-3, VIII- 4, IX-2 and X-5. 17 teachers for 16 students; it's simply unimaginable. Lacking reason still is the reported utilization of 4 more teachers from other schools perhaps under rationalization scheme.

Worsening the position is again the fresh posting of 2 more teachers under SSA. How does all this rarest of the rare passage happen? The good part is all the 17 teachers were religiously in attendance on this day when pressmen reached there.

This episode reminds me of, again really rare happening in a Primary School, in the very midst of Imphal. Pettigrew School had its name till the other day as an ideal school for producing good students at primary level. Not anymore, however. This once-reputed school has hardly 10 students in classes I-V with 7 teachers in position.

Worst still the students hardly attend. Tired of sitting idle, the teachers conceived of a novel idea. They contributed Rs 1000 to 1500 pm to generate a corpus fund. Objective, to award stipend as incentive to each student for attending class. The teachers took the trouble to contact the guardians, their wards to ensure attendance and assured stipends of Rs 300 to Rs 150 per student according to classes for being in class. The school works so far.

But, this approach though innovative under desperate conditions cannot be replicated elsewhere for obvious reasons. What then could be the other ways to attract the students? Can Model Primary schools, one in each Assembly constitution ease the strain?


* S Kunjabihari Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
This article was originally written on 08-Aug-2016 ; The writer can be reached at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on August 09 2016.


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