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E-Pao! Education - Manipur as a centre of learning

Quality education in Manipur ó Whether realistic to achieve it ó

By: R Yangsorang *


As the examinations of Class X and XII are underway, some thoughts on the problems and prospects of achieving quality education in Manipur may be constructed. Every educator will say that improvement in the quality of education is a continuous process beginning from bottom to top by strengthening the very base of education i.e. elementary education which is the foundation.

Quality education and all for it is not confined to individual merit or excellence, but it has to be judged in the context of the development in the true sense of the term. By mere quantitative expression of educational facilities without qualitative interventions, the quality cannot be achieved. The struggle for universalisation of elementary education is the most important factor to achieve the aim for quality education. The stage is the grass-root of meaningful education. All children should have accessibility of education within easy reach.

There should be at least minimum facilities in schools like toilets, adequate classrooms, furniture, drinking water and teaching aids. Without which, what is to expect from the schools? A Government school must have teachers of requisite qualifications and disposition, that is the quality, and they should have the necessary motivation, outlook to cater to the needs of the students. Teaching-learning process is supposed to contribute to high performances in academic and other activities. Adequate financial resources are to be mobilized for various schemes and projects of academic improvement and efficient management of education which is the core area.

Quality improvement in the context of school education involves inter alia relevance to socio-economic needs by linking education to environment; achievement of a certain level of learning at various stages of education; developing basic qualities like discipline, leadership, creativity, co-operation, self-learning etc. for raising the quality of life amongst the younger generation; programmes for continuous and comprehensive evaluation to improve the teaching-learning process; and measures for improving the competencies of the teacher.

The programmes are manifold and the scope is endless. But one thing is unavoidable. It is competency. Will it be possible to get all these schemes executed with the existing Government school teachers who need to upgrade their teaching expertise? In the subsequent part of this essay, their qualifications will figure.

And again, there is English school mania in Manipur where pseudo English schools are flowering here and there: the word English is loosely used when medium of instruction cannot be imparted through it practically. English may be in our idea, thought and brain to some extent but it isnít in our blood and vein. Thatís why even many university professors canít speak it easily though some of them write the British way.

Some of the schools run by catholic fathers and sisters at Imphal with their type of education christening it Don Bosco type of education worldwide may have produced brilliant students. But out of so many students, only some of them are picked up and the rest are thrown away. Poor parents whose incomes are negligible and uncertain to sustain schooling fees of their children have suffered miserably for the best hunt.

Here is a story which may be of some interest that in a silver jubilee congregation of a baptist church at the foothill held in the last week of February, 2006, two speakers of outstanding entities cheered and enthralled baptist Christians with their apocalyptic and mellifluous voices. In a Reverendís words, there are some persons who never read in English schools have become I.A.S. officers and they have forgotten their churches.

The other lady speaker in her angelic voice said she had never studied in English school. Are their remarks truly relevant? Such remarks require further scrutiny. A message for them and alike is that students who were brought up from Government schools of early 70s and before are much better in writing; and in speaking correct English too.

Another story is that the most conservative tribal village of a foothill whose chief and deputy chief were irremovable and unyielding to the call of the Lord as formidable distrust against western religion was widespread in the village. The old folks were greatly alarmed at the activities of the youngsters who were accused of corrupting the minds of the villagers.

Nevertheless, the more forward looking among them were convinced that Christianity was not the Devilís religion but a God-send. So enthusiastic were mainly the youngsters in their curiosity to learn the Bible. With the tide running so strongly in favour of the new religion and undaunted, a church had come up in the village in 1970. Afterwards, illiterates and partly literates tried to give their children education with English teaching background by shifting them to the so called English schools, and all of them came back home bringing with them another variety of English not understood by educated circles.

The mania should be forsaken once. The exercise doesnít contribute a single output for achievement of quality education. It is a futile attempt on the parts of parents. We must come to a purely rationale level to identify schools. The mass awakening is now a must for reshaping and rebuilding of Government schools where children can get proper education without troubling their parents as in the egalitarian society of our dream.

It is unfortunate that the number of children in Government school is decreasing due to mismanagement and too much of political interference during the last two decades. It is crystal clear. The education system is plagued by regional imbalance. Unless more effective measures are taken on priority basis for proper planning of schooling facilities, elimination of regional disparities and equalization of educational opportunities among all sections of the population will not be feasible.

For implementation of the various programmes for qualitative improvement of school education, it is necessary to note the present position in respect of enrolment indicating inter-district disparities, accessibility of schools to children, infrastructural deficiencies, non-availability of qualified teachers in village schools, attendance and drop-out rates.

The enrolment ratio for girls in Manipur has improved very much in comparison with that of the past decades. Yet, in rural and hill areas, the enrolment of girls and children of poor and illiterate families is still not encouraging. In fact, one of the main hurdles holding up progress in the universal enrolment is the presence of a number of illiterate persons. Although the literacy rate as per 1991 Census is 60.96% as against all India literacy rate of 52.16%, in real terms the number of illiterate is on the increase due to high rate of growth of population. Teaching profession has become the last resort in the job market for the competent and well qualified persons.

Quite a few people who have neither the competence nor the aptitude for teaching have come into the profession over the last decades making mockery of school education in Manipur. Sufficient number of high quality teachers is generally not available at the time of recruitment for various reasons. This is another set-back for school education in Manipur.

On the other hand, there is little or no opportunity for the new recruits to attain the best possible professional preparation. There is no continuous orientation of in-service teachers. The conditions in which they are working are also less than satisfactory. In the circumstances, there is low motivation and low quality of teachers working in the schools.

Needless to say, teachers are to interpret and implement whatever policies and programmes that are laid down by the department. Their role is the key element in qualitative improvement of education. Without the requisite qualitative improvement in teachers, universalisation of elementary education will be worthless. The non-availability of well qualified and trained teachers at the primary stage especially in rural and hill areas is a serious problem.

Even though the size of rural and hill areas population is much bigger than that of urban population, the rural and hill areas are getting much less in respect of allocation of essential infrastructures including qualified teachers. According to the report of the Comprehensive Survey of Education in Manipur (NCERT) 1972, about half of the teachers working in Lower Primary Schools in Manipur were only middle school class pass during the year 1972-73. Some of them had not even passed middle school examination. Those teachers are still working in the schools. Of the total number of middle pass teachers, 94% were teaching in the schools of rural and backward areas.

Further, the report revealed that under-matric teachers working in Government primary schools constituted 58.79% as against 33.31 % in aided schools and 47.30% in purely private schools, and about 53% of the under-matric teachers were untrained. Even today, the number of under-matric teachers working in primary schools is about 40% of the total primary teachers.

The percentage of untrained teachers at primary, junior high and high school stages are still not satisfactory including schools under autonomous district councils. There were many incidence in which students eclipsed teachers in classroom teaching. Funny scenes used to occur anywhere. In ultimate analysis, it is the teacher who is the kingpin of the teaching-learning process. It is his or her quality, motivation and relationship that he or she establishes with the students and the innovative ways that he or she adopts in his or her teaching which would influence the quality of education.

The teacher input may actually more than compensate various inadequacies and deficiencies such as lack of attention by parents, their illiteracy, and absence of some physical facilities in the school. Indeed, there is positive relationship between teacher behaviour and pupil achievement. This would require professional development of the teachers. Orientation course of short duration for all in-service teachers would be essential to enable the teachers to perform their duties effectively.

It is necessary to review the existing staffing norms for teachers in the light of the fact that the schools should be equally staffed. While doing so, it may be kept in mind that the norms are not based only on the workload and teacher-pupil ratio but also on the basis of class structure, stage-wise, subjects to be taught etc. This would ensure optimum utilization of teachers and would help to do away with the problem of surplus and shortage of teachers in schools.

In that atmosphere, Minimum Level of Learning (MLL) can be ensured. The major concern for bringing quality education lies in recruitment rules which should be reviewed to recruit in future more competent teachers and their qualifications raised. The selection procedure should be streamlined. The teacher education facilities should also be upgraded with improved service conditions. Short orientation courses subject wise are indispensable to upgrade their competence both in content and methodology. Such course should be conducted as a regular feature or as often as practicable to ascertain the competence of the in-service teachers of different grades.

Curiously enough, in spite of his or her innate gifts, however, someoneís life is one of failure until it wins recognition through publicity or political backing. Not quite seldomly, exposure serves the purpose. There are thousands of graduates and postgraduates with good background and they will certainly become teachers of the quickest fame and disposition if they are really given the chances to teach in Government schools.

For such appointment process, UPSC or the recent MPSC type of examination can be introduced in the state of Manipur so that the deserving candidates can be appointed as teachers. Of course, the paucity of excellence is painfully evident in those government schools for the last 25 years or so. Everyone is weary of it. Who is to blame?

Something miraculous is yet to take place to produce anything very decisive, great or all successful to achieve what is called Quality Education in the millennium.


R Yangsorang wrote this article for The Sangai Express.
This article was webcasted on March 17th, 2006

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