TODAY -

Issues on Ensuring Quality Education to Children in 6-14 Ages (III)

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



In the past two weeks I was attempting to portray the poor quality inherent in the existing schooling system. The quality of imparting learning, to primary and upper primary children especially in the government -run schools is increasingly beset with a latent drawback. Reasons are aplenty which I do not claim to be the creation of the present lot of school administrators.

To be precise, this scenario is the summation of all the deeds or preferably misdeeds let loose in the system, earlier over the decades beginning from the formative stages of the schools. But, we were too in the primary schools, the middle schools and the quality of teaching was reasonably much better. Somehow a kind of mismanagement creeps in and the contents of teaching and perhaps the management of schools slide down irrevocably.

Viewed from this angle, I myself could not be exonerated, for getting myself into the age-old system or my inability to, if not totally rectified, at the least, to initiate corrective measures, however humble during my time as Secretary of schools and higher education. We did try to introduce some what can be claimed 'innovative' measures, to streamline the management in particular in the primary stage. The necessary support from the minister and even the link-bureaucrats were lacking.

Well, that will lead us to another arena. Of course, management of a primary school should not normally call for such a chain of support like. The Head Master should be a man possessing some little bit of organizational capability like in a family or a local institution, able to ensure that the 2 or 3 teachers under him do their job. He also has to ensure the regular attendance of the students. He does not necessarily have to be an S.N. Kaul or a Th. Nilamani.

Without continuing in the passage of ghost-hunting or more specifically, fault-finding, one will accept that the existing system needs relooking at remedial measures, that too urgently. If ASER of the NGO Pratham, points specific fingers to the status that a standard III student cannot read standard I texts, or a standard V student cannot perform simple division and the like, where do these children stand in an era of competition, of need for skilled workers ?

The findings of Pratham may not be taken as misplaced. It should not be anything to be surprised about that accumulation of such products of several schools reaching standard X could not even clear the test.

67 government schools showed up 'BLANK' results in the last Board examination this year. Do not these defaulting schools have an abiding responsibility in ensuring that their students receive proper education at least to clear the tests? So too, are not the teachers responsible for this shocking results? In the same vein, are not the Inspectors of schools, several grades of them, need be held accountable for these dismal performances? The Board results are not the creation of one or two years of nonperformance; they are summation of all the poor teachings and worst still mismanagement in all the 5 years of high school study.

The most critical input in any endeavor be it teaching or learning or even a small enterprise could be quality. Students do not perform let alone excel, the simple reason being poor quality of teaching at home and in school. The issue is how we ensure at the least for the primary level schools, for the children in the age group, 6-14. Primary because, this stage assumes most fundamental concern where the children should be equipped with basic knowledge, kind of a foundation on which the higher knowledge be dependent on.

For another, many of the children in the poorer segment of the society, girls in particular would not afford to step in a school thereafter; in other words, standard II or V could be the last qualification for many of the children in their lifetime. Why should not then these groups be enriched at least with a reasonable standard of learning?

The new Union Minister of HRD, Prakash Javadekar observed, "Teachers are central to our project for bettering the quality of education. Teachers who only teach are not good. Those teachers are good who have dreams in their eyes and transfer them to their students." If this vision of the Union Minister, HRD is to be heeded upon, apply this yard stick to our teachers, my experience shows without a ray of doubt, that majority of the teachers do not teach even, let alone transferring dreams to the students. May be an insignificant proportion of them could fancy with imparting a vision, a dream, an inspiration.

Dr Shyama Chona, President of an NGO 'Tamanna', had to philosophize, "Education is all about learning. Teachers are lifeblood for success of schools, which mentor, stimulate, provoke and engage students." The burgeoning number of commercial schools testifies to the increasing demand for private schools. This also testifies the failure of government schools where they are taught everything except teaching. Not that all government school teachers are substandard. The consistent showing of poor results in public schools could be largely due to poor management and sense of complacency that has set in many of the teachers.

Over and above, the element of neglect in the areas of school infrastructure can be counted for the rot that becomes a trademark of government schools. Infrastructures do not cover only buildings, furniture etc but also toilet conveniences especially for girls. The claim of Rao Inderjit Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Niti Ayog, that a basic requirement on the path of achieving 100% enrolment of girls in schools is 'toilets', appears to be sensible. But his claim that India as a whole has almost done it, can be attributed to be of some element of over patriotism.

There is a backdrop of such a complex that too rigid, atmosphere in the government schools, for which no ready answer is visible. And we know full well that children of poor families across the state, not only in rural or hill areas but also in urban and semi urban areas, cannot afford commercial schools. What then the popular government is expected to do to ease the situation considering that majority of families and their wards are surely missing the bus towards minimum level of education?

Let us also not lose sight of the fact that millions of parents can't afford to admit their wards in commercial private schools and have to rest content with public or government schools. And precisely this is what the NEP Act desire to achieve—to get all school-age children in schools across the state, in the neighborhoods ( the students are not burdened with long distance for a school), for free. Plus all should have access to mid-day meals to enliven the students while at school or more pointedly to attract poor children to schools and therefore to compulsory schooling.

The so-called Head Masters/Mistresses and the concerned AIs or DIs prepare fake documents where the number of students in a primary school is 10 or anything, which practically do not exceed 20 or so, submit documents inflating the number. And in collusion with the Inspectorate, they draw more rice and other supportive materials be they rupee or dals or both and start the whole problem of the mismanagement of schooling. The additional quantity reaches the markets at the expense of government exchequer while the students where they actually attend school suffer.

I remember in the first week of August, news came out of a High School in the suburb of Imphal, at Kakwa, Lilando Lampak High School, had 17 teachers on the roll without a single student in attendance. Surprisingly, 3 teachers were added to the teacher-pool, earlier in the month recruited under SSA. The news report also indicated that 2 o3 teachers were too transferred to this school by way of 'utilization'. It was also reported that the school claimed rice under mid-day meal regularly. Any person not necessarily much educated, wouldn't be able justify this grand scenario. A school without students, 17 teachers in attendance, mid-day meal commodities claimed religiously.

All these inconsistencies happen in the very heart of Singjamei, only 3-4 km from Imphal, the hub of all governance.

Can we infer with a high rate of probability that in the context of this school at least, there appears to be no school administration or worst still management, why management, no schooling at all. What then could be the fate of the few unknown number of students? What could be the level of quality the students could have gained from this government school? What could be the expenses incurred by the government in this school alone? Well the exact amount may not be discernable but an idea can be inferred.

The monthly expenses on salary alone in this school where hardly any student attend school could be a minimum of Rs 10 lakh. If the 67 schools with 'Zero' results are taken at this scale, to be sure, the government loses a minimum of Rs 6,70,00,000 per month. It is the tax-payers' money which goes waste in terms of educational benefit.

Given this broad scenario in the lower school system, especially in government- run ones, what logical step could be attempted? This is a million dollar question. Resources are poor; teacher quality is mostly poor, most of them are not amenable to quality improvement. In addition, infrastructure in schools, the buildings, the class rooms, the other concomitant areas are again hardly available. The worst is there appears to be a total lack of commitment, motivation, and aptitude for most teachers.

Contrasting this many families can't afford the anyway mushrooming commercialized private schools. What does the government do then; do they just maintain status-quo, look around and continue the existing system or are they seriously attempting to do something new, if not novel, other states have initiated?

There should be a solemn pledge to achieve something new, in equipping children with basic education at the least, a sine-qua-non, for every single child, irrespective of caste, religion, color, language etc. This would make them fit for the tasks of citizenship ahead, especially on the aftermath of the 70th Independence Day. Are we prepared?


* S Kunjabihari Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The article was originally written on 15 August 2016. The writer can be reached at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on August 29 2016.


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