TODAY -

Why Model Schools ?

S. Kunjabihari Singh *

Board of Secondary Education, Manipur Building



The year was 1996. I was Secretary to the Government in charge of Education. I never liked to be in this Department for the simple reason that this was the most politicalised among government institutions, with perhaps with a teacher or so in the alternate house in any part of the state, and the concomitant pulls and pressure that would emanate from the power mongers. I tried desperately to get some other Department, met the Congress President, a couple of Ministers to help me out. To no avail.

0n the 6th 0f January, 2005, the government issued orders and I took over the charge the next day. And that day I worked till 8 pm in the CM's office to sort out the strike called by MUSU, (Manipur University Students Union). The first day of taking charge of a Department, and had to stay till 8 pm in the office! That was the humble beginning and I was sure, many more were lying in wait for sure.

First few months I couldn’t think of anything novel, something like a fresh breath, continued with the house keeping exercise along the beaten tract. In the beginning of 1996, I happened to be in a relative's house and in the course of a talk; I came to know that my niece was teaching mathematics in the primary school. I knew for certain that she was never good in maths, to be more appropriate; she had no skill for the subject. She felt humble, but tried to justify that she still could solve the sums and her answers were right.

I told her and those around those merely getting correct answers to a problem was not enough; one should be able to explain the concept, the basics. In effect what should have happened in the school were, as I could visualize, the several teachers mostly ladies should be going for subjects like Manipuri, or English with no one for mathematics (choosing English to teach not because they comprehend the subject, but can manage with primary pupils, rather to avoid brushing with mathematics abhorrent to their heart).

In the result this poor girl was left with no alternative or face reposting. In effect, in the primary classes, a minimum level of learning in the subjects should be attemted.In mathematics, the emphasis is, according to Dr RH Dave Committee,"... to enable children to solve speedily and accurately the mathematical and spatial problems which they encounter at home, in the school and in the community, develop understanding of key mathematical concepts at each level through appropriate experiences with things from the physical world and the immediate environment, …develop understanding, from the concrete to the abstract, from the specific to the general."

In a few weeks from this encounter with this stark reality, I had no hesitation from the urgent necessity to organize a few Primary Schools where the minimum levels of learning at least in two subjects- Mathematics and English, in some select schools are available. A school in each constituency, in the valley would be reasonable to start with. We discussed the issue with colleagues, agreed to constitute a Working Group consisting of retired teachers who had a name in the field of education. The recommendation was ready in about 6 months. The executive recommendations were (only for primary Schools, though the exercise included Middle Schools):-

i) One Primary School in each assembly constituency, in Imphal West and Imphal East would be identified to start with;

ii) The schools should be centrally located so that students from across the constituency would find it accessible;

iii) One select Head Master/Head mistress, kind of a hard task master, would be posted from a nearby school;

iv) An additional teacher to teach Mathematics would also be posted in this school; this teacher and the Head could take care of English and Science as well.

The recommendation would not seriously affect the remaining schools, as a minimum number of teachers were to be transferred. The exercise would also not call for any additional facility, no extra class room, and not an extra piece of chalk. There was no need for the proposal to be referred to the Finance Department, we contended. The then CS, however, advised to refer to the FD. The reason is understandable-they have no committed sense of belongingness and therefore were not much bothered about the impact of the proposal. We stood ground and agreed to name such schools –Model Schools and went ahead with it.

The objective was to have in position, at least one school under the government where students belonging to lower income group from the surrounding leikais, could get a minimum level of learning at least in the three subjects. Knowing fully well the quality of teachers in the primary stage and appreciating the inescapable need for children from poor families, (who can't afford private schools), the Model schools were attempted.

The Group felt that Primary Schools could be the last and final qualifications for a sizeable chunk of students. Those who pass out from the Primary schools should therefore possess a minimum level of knowledge at least in language and mathematics, to merge in the society and to smoothly join the higher classes with competence and therefore confidence.

Any student completing the Primary level should have understanding of whole numbers and numerals, the normal skill for addition division etc,unitary method,averages,simple money problems profit &loss, simple daily life problems on lengths,breaths,,weights and volumes,fractions,percentages,geometrical shapes and figures. Similarly for language and science minimum levels are prescribed. These basics are not imparted in most of the government schools where there is shortage of teachers with such background and commitment.

In the private schools, some semblance of the system can be seen. The children from poor families cannot afford to go to these elite schools. There is thus an area where two divides are increasingly wider in the society. It is this area that calls for some intervention by the government to provide for, Model Schools in specified area on selective basis. Those above- average in the lot would gain more while even the less bright would end up getting some knowledge to manage through to the higher classes.

The Centre plans for 6000 model schools, 3500 under the government, 2500 under PPP (public private partnership). We can forget PPP in this part of the country, but can take maximum advantage considering the plight of the common families. The major impediment would come from shortage of quality teachers. Its time that select teachers are imparted intensive training, exposed to the new system, knowledge and technique, in batches.

Manipur had already attempted some Model Schools; the benefits are visible too, why then are the delay? Brighter students, who cannot join better schools, can be encouraged to go to these Model Schools. That way some semblance of quality learning would be achieved, rather than leave everything to rot.


* S. Kunjabihari Singh wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
This article was posted on September 02 2012



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