Forget Quantity- School Education Needs Quality
Prof N.K. Singh
Former Chairman, International Airports Authority of India
Education has been the most important area to focus on development and growth of a state. Himachal has been publicising a lot of self-congratulatory achievement about the state attaining top bracket of nation’s educational standards. The real achievement is in literacy where the state stands in the top bracket of the country. But as far as the quality and standard of education in schools, especially in government sector, is concerned, it is far from satisfactory. In this field there is a lot of interference of politics right from recruitment of teachers to teaching and imparting skills. According to a research, out of three states in India, Himachal is in the bottom. It shows Himachal for poor quality of primary schools teaching. The studies show that 40% students of fifth class cannot do three digit divisions by one digit.
No wonder Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has given it priority by taking up in the Cabinet meeting where it was decided to close 99 primary schools as they had less than five students. Himachal has approximately 10,500 primary schools and 25000 teachers. There is a good teacher student ratio where it is working. But there are 1343 schools that have only one teacher and 6324 have two teachers. There are schools in which father and mother teach one student who is their child. Thousands of posts are lying vacant in entire school sector and qualified teachers are going unemployed.
There should be crash programme to recruit and appoint the teachers. Neglecting primary education can be fatal as the foundation of learning is laid there when child acquires new knowledge. If this remains defective, the later learning too will be seriously jeopardized.
Let us stop the present system of political school gifting in thestate. Normally I have seen that when a top leader of the governmentor Chief Minister comes to a town or village, they prepare a list for demands as they want him to give them something. Easiest thing is to ask for a school or a college. Political leaders too are happy to gift it on the spot without thinking much about it. Experts have accepted that no need bases study or survey is done. Consequently there are schools where there is no need and there are no schools where these are needed. The government too accepts while closing non-functioning schools that these schools were opened without a need survey. What could be the quality of primary education when things are totally messed up and there is no quality check? Take following two examples that show the plight of our schools.
Case I; A primary school has no student and only one teacher. The teacher admits his son and teaches him while mother of the child makes mid day meal. Case II; There are six students in 9th class as two classes 9th and10th were recently gifted in a CM’s meeting in last session. There are no teachers and one peon who is literate and is teaching the students. Students are thinking of migrating to other nearby schools. But question is why such mindless sanctions are done without providing teachers and school facilities? There are too many such cases due to dearth of teachers or irrational transfers of teachers. Teacher are frequently employed on non-teaching jobs like elections or census or similar activities as they are taken to be spare for any government job. The students are not given high priority in terms of class room teaching and grooming of children. I asked a number of school teachers as to how they are transferred, the standard reply is “Jiski koi pahunch hai who apni transfer wahan kara leta hai”. Politicians must understand that teacher is the core of teaching and education. Poor quality of education in primary school education needs to be attended to on priority basis by the government. To close eyes and ears to such disregard of foundational development cannot be justified by referring to available better facilities in private schools. Unless it is planned, the state must give this free education high priority and attention.
There are complex problems of higher education in the state and that need separate treatment and analysis. It is my proposal to constitute a task force of some active education pro-officials from the department, representative of teachers and outside experts to submit an action plan for bringing transformation in primary education in Himachal. Time bound action agenda should be enacted within a targeted framework. Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, being more pro-development and less pro-political as shown in his approach towards caps, should bring more professional handling of education instead of leaving it to babus or simple political wrangling. (concluded)