Reform Manipur's Education System

Chingakham Dina, Arambam Karamjit & Khwairakpam Sunita *

Students appearing for Class X Exam (High School Leaving Certificate) :: 24 February 2018
Students appearing for Class X Exam on 24 February 2018 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

The success of an education system is parallel to the success in the job market and applicability of the knowledge in real life. Education is poorly designed in Manipur and it fails in the job market. Knowledge learned should be used in the practical, real-life situation. The main issue is the wrong focus and lack of life skill focus in education.

Our system has not focused on self-sufficiency economy with full intention that should be encouraged in the education system. The present education is not enough in this modern era. Kids don't want to go to school as most children don't feel a school is an interesting place. In Thailand, the dropout rate is lower compared to India. Schools are socializing and fun place for them. In Finland, all students are feeling safe and sound with a win-win feeling for all, on the other hand, we are in the dream of producing topper in class 10 and 12 standards. Schools should encourage children to come out of the family, learn and enjoy in the school that is free from the threatening environment from failing in the exams. Schooling system that focuses on examination is the wrong approach of education planner.

Unable to fits himself in any profession is a failure of the education system. We see many mistakes in our system that encourages learning on theory only, copy to pass in the exam, not to be used in practical aspect. Many European and American students come under the exchange program. We see this in Thailand. After one year, these students' bio-data profile is stronger as they spent one-year volunteer service in fieldwork. Colleges and universities appreciate their fieldwork experience during admission time. In our system, this will be just wasting time and losing an academic break. This mental difference is stopper from doing getting practical experience in our present system. It is necessary for system change and perception change.

Unnecessary competitions

Indian system puts unnecessary heavy pressure on students. Focusing only on the exam is the main focus of education. Learning is just for examination in our present system. There is hearsay that schools are buying top students to showcase the businesslike model in education in Manipur. There is less focus on a practical aspect of the learning to be used in real life world. Such a situation leads to unnecessary and unhealthy competitions that yields negative impacts.

Finland, the world's best education system does not let students put under unnecessary stressful competition. For them, all students feel that they all are a winner in the classroom. But in Manipur, people think toppers are the winners. In such a competition, many government schools fail in many aspects. So, government schools fail to attract students. Parents opt for expensive private instead of free education in a government school.

If all the government schools are equally good as private schools, there is no reason for parents not to send kids to government schools. Teachers are paid more in government schools but the learning output fails to attract students. There is no strict action if teachers are absent. This hollow effect is due to a failure in the system.

Grading system

Mark-grading system causes stress to students and parents. Most educators and policymakers don't see the harmful impact of the topper selection based on marking system. This leads to tough competition just to see the score percentage. In Thailand, students are grouped only under four bands of a mark such as -grade4,grade 3, grade2, grade1. Grade 4 is the highest score band. There could be thousands of students in grade-4. All are within the range 1-4. There is not any single case of the fight for the position of rank holders. Our topper selection method rendered mostly bad taste and only a few students come out as the winner which is very opposite to Finland's win-win learning situation for all students.

Because of this system, we see conflict account of like who will be higher rank even after the exam results came out already. This conflict wasted lots of resources, money and time, and unnecessary but avoidable pressures on both sides-students and authorities. We have not seen such conflict in our teaching career spent more than a decade in Thailand. The exam is just a simple thing. Learning matters, not testing the kids. All level including class 10, and 12 is in the hand of class teachers for the exam. There is no issue with the topper, grading etc. Thai government conducts a common test to ascertain the quality to help planning. There is no fail or pass in such common examination.

Another mistake is giving a failing score to students. We should remove the failed marking system. Many disagree on this point and they cannot see the importance of the logic. Students lives do not depend only on physics, chemistry, math etc. If the kid is good at physical stamina, let him do sport even if he doesn't do well in math, science or whatever. If her voice is excellent, send her to music class. Chemistry will not be this kid's career. Don't label kids failure but promote the kids in higher level by identifying his strength that will be suitable for his future career such as farming skill, carpentry skill, mechanical skill as examples.

Here comes the role of the vocational school. In this way, basically there no students failed in Thai schools. They see the importance of it. If a student is thrown out from the school, this will result worse so the school system will keep the kid in the school and when the kid finishes high school, he can read-write-so basic maths for his farming skill, to become a mechanic and also these kids will never steal the jobs of first-class students. Everyone has his own space. It is the basic thought for keeping them to be able to read and write instead of becoming a drug user if he is kicked out from the school.

In Germany, kids are categorized from early stage into different skill areas that he/she will be suitable in their career. In our present system, those who failed in the school will become a farmer. Even though kids fail in the classroom, their careers are most likely to be a farmer. Then, why don't schools send those kids to vocational schools that they will learn and live as a successful farmer rather than declaring failed in the school?

Education related to farming, carpenter, or any vocational schools will be good for them, not just throw out as useless trash. This is what Thai education is doing and it proves successful in real life. It will do good for our society. The thought is applicable everywhere. So, planners need to look into different perspective. Grade them as level 4,3,2,1 whatever that each label might suitable for particular skills rather than throwing like in the garbage as a useless human to become a dropout kid.

So the point is, remove the failing mark system at school and exam. Try to bring them to different skills by opening more vocational training schools that will boost productivity for the society. If the failed marking system is removed, the dropout issue will be solved to a greater extent. We need to encourage everyone to be happy and fun learning at school. Schools are mental torturing place for many kids for now. On the other hand, Thai children enjoy so much at school and school is the recreational place, a socializing place for them. The problem in Manipur's education system is fear of failure, poor mark and negative feedback from schools and parents.

School licensing

Education should focus on mass education. Producing two-three IAS officers from a state shouldn't be counted as a success for the whole state. Success should come when achievement from the grassroots to the top-level structure in a society success is done. That will bring overall peace and stability in a society. We need more schools, different approaches to educate all kids with different skills.

Present school policy and licensing restricted producing more numbers of educated people. In the USA, homeschool is allowed. The online course is accepted in many places. Education doesn't mean that knowledge should be gained only from formal education. Allow the role of informal education, and give them appreciation. The government needs to encourage individuals, organizations or institutions to educate kids in many different ways. We need to accept homeschool, weekend school, evening school, night school etc. Weekend school is not inferior; homeschooling is not less.

We see such approaches outside India. Thailand took these approaches to achieve 96% literacy rate. In developed and busy cities, people started different methods and schedule timing not to lose busy day's regular work and earn a degree at the same time. In Cambodia, many taxi driver and laborers join evening class to earn their degree. Numbers of learning hour matters, not what day of the week. This flexible learning time is very critical to encourage individuals who work and learn.

Working people join the class on Saturdays and Sundays in Thailand. The government needs to approve different schooling systems to produce more educated people. Indian system does not appreciate these different learning way. As a planner, you need to change your perception. Please change now.

More institutions needed

To educate a society, we need more schools and institutions to fulfill education for all. More schools will reduce the student-teacher ratio. In Finland, the pre-primary pupil-teacher ratio was 11.53 (the year2014). India's pupil-teacher ratio was 23:1 for primary schools in 2015-16, at primary level 30:1 and upper primary level 35:1 (Source: Economic Survey published in times of india, January 29, 2018)

There was a time in the last decade that grew more B.Ed. institutions in Manipur and people started saying that there are too many B.Ed. institutions in Manipur. If we look at the population size, we need more institutions. United Nations experts expressed that India needs double the number of higher institutions to access education for a large number of population. In 2017, India has 789 universities for a population of 1324 million. During the same time, the UK has 130 universities for a population of 65.6 million; Australia has 43 universities for a population of 24.13 million. A simple mathematics shows the number of people in million per university.

India - 1.67 million/university
UK - 0.50 million/university
Australia - 0.56 million/university

Modern technology

Classrooms are outdated. We don't see the modern classroom. Modern education is very far dream from reality. We heard a smart classroom, computer, Internet etc. This is just for namesake, just on the planner's paper as a record. Just to highlight an example, Andro junior high school received some computers. How could students use it when there is not power connectivity? Leaders need to put real practical and applicable thought. In Hong Kong, learning a computer language and programming code were introduced at primary school levels years ago, and the same will be followed in Indiana, the USA in a decision taken by authorities, June 2018.Still, we don't see a computer for basic learning in our schools.

So, planners need more insight investigation to achieve meaningful and practical changes to fit in modern time. Otherwise, will not able to catch up with the changing world. In my last visit to Manipur, I have not seen any major change from the those I have seen 30 years back. As a planer, please change your perception and try to bring changes in a real sense in Manipur's education.

And please consider the following points:

1. Use grading band such as grade 1-4.
2. Remove failed marking system. Send poor students to suitable vocational skill.
3. Allow different schooling system such as homeschool, evening, weekend etc.
4. Modernize the classroom.

* Chingakham Dina, Arambam Karamjit & Khwairakpam Sunita wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was posted on 10 August, 2018 .

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