The Education department is weakening the foundation of Indian education
Macaulay knew that he only had to produce clerks from colonial India, people who could write in English and Hindi. Today’s education department can’t achieve even that. Where teachers themselves lack in skills such as good handwriting and diction, it is unlikely for them to inculcate these in their students
Dr SB Misra 23 Sep 2019 7:28 AM GMT
Primary education is the foundation of our education system, but it lacks a solid policy of education. If the foundation is wobbly, one can well imagine the future of the edifice erected upon it.
Colours of a school building and uniforms, curriculum, holidays, mid-day meal supplier, scholarship eligibility, teachers' eligibility and selection criteria—all fluctuate rapidly with changes in governments.
Annual school term used to end on May 31 with summer vacations beginning thereafter. Textbooks and notebook were easily arranged during the vacation and students used to begin the new session from very well equipped with the study material. Now one term ending on March 31, the new term begins from April 1 without any preparation or textbook.
School timings are sometimes 7 AM-11 AM or 8 AM-12 PM giving four hours for education, however in winter, school timings of 9 AM-3 PM allow six hours of teaching. Preparation of results and declaration makes the term even shorter. Summer vacations remain for June and schools reopen on July 1. It is difficult to know why the academic session so was fragmented, shortened and school timings reduced.
It seems that the education department is ignoring rural concerns. It may not know that the illiterate parents cannot assist their children with the homework and that the children have to work in fields too. A teacher today takes home a good salary between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh, so he must be asked to stay within the school precinct or the school timing must be increased so that the homework is done within these extended hours.
Village schools take a lot of time for the admission and procurement of books, especially books funded by the government. Had the titles or the publisher of the textbooks been given to the parents they could have procured them. The education department neither disburses the textbooks nor gives students a chance to buy them.
Several teachers retire annually from village schools and many such posts, lying vacant, are waiting to be filled but when exactly will the selection board be instituted no one knows. The process of teacher recruitment adopted by the recruitment board has also been put on hold. Teacher aides' (Shiksha Mitr) appointment was also a formality which lies pending since ages. These were appointed without meeting the eligibility criterion and in absence of any notification or competition and were further tried to be regularized as teachers. Teachers and teacher aides compete with each other in their respective protests regarding various demands.
The quality of education in village schools is deplorable. Macaulay knew that he only had to produce clerks from colonial India, people who could write in English and Hindi. Today's education department can't achieve even that. Where teachers themselves lack in skills such as good handwriting and diction, it is unlikely for them to inculcate these in their students.
To overcome the shortage of the teaching staff, the legal issues must be resolved and National Livelihood Guarantee Act should be linked with the Right to Education Act 2005. This would enable the livelihood guarantee scheme to produce teachers at the local level just like menial jobs that it creates presently. Such youths appointed by the gram pradhan would, under his supervision, be able to fill up the immediate need for teachers in the primary school.
No one counts the actual academic days available out of 365 given days. Birthdays and death anniversaries of great people are observed as holidays but the parameters for the greatness vary with the changes in the government. Sometimes Kanshiram's birth and death anniversaries are both observed as holidays sometimes none. Suddenly the holidays pop up commemorating the birth of Parashuram and Hazrat Ali, sometimes Nag Panchami holiday is withheld for a couple of years and then resumed. Previously there were a total of 30 holidays, now there are 54. Not even half of days are available for academic activity.
Sometimes it is said that classes V and VIII will have board exams sometimes exams are dropped altogether for these classes. It was once informed that nobody would be failed; now it is being told that students can be failed. It was also said once that the teachers will fetch students from their homes, bathe them and drop them off at home after school. Mid-day meal is sometimes prepared within the school, somewhere else it is sourced from some external agency, sometimes it is talked that dry-fruits and milk would be distributed while many schools end up feeding salt and roti to the kids. How the funds from the World Bank can be appropriated in the name of Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan –is the sole concern.
For the educational reform it is necessary that at each level district school inspector, deputy inspector must function like before to provide intense scrutiny. Currently, we have officials at each level like basic education officer, block education officer, but not inspectors. No reform is possible without the dissolution of the post of Basic Education Officer. This post has become a trading hub for transfers and postings besides of course appointments. The failure to institute a board for teachers' recruitment is also a doing of this racket.
There is one solution -- decentralization of the primary education till the level of panchayat and statutory responsibility to be vested with the pradhans. In order to do this, the pradhans would have to be compulsorily literate. Another option would be for the government to accept that it cannot provide high-end primary education to everyone. The government simply may opt-out of primary education leaving it in private hands because after all even today the parents wish their children to go to private schools.
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