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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Upgraded to mediocrity?

Monday, 07 August 2017 12:09
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Excessive investment in the higher education sector without any dividends should by now have prompted the state government to review its policy of upgrading many schools, not necessarily aimed at promoting education but inspired more by vote bank politics, without improving and consolidating the basic school education. It was during Neiphiu Rio led government that the process of upgrading schools to higher levels started. The policy not only remains unquestioned, it is further being endorsed and pursued without a fair assessment of the benefits. A slew of high schools have been upgraded to higher secondary schools, as well as middle schools to high schools and primary schools to middle schools and many more are in the pipeline, with demands pouring in from every corners and it is likely that vote bank politics may necessitate the nod for some more, particularly with state general election due early next year, even as the existing ones are in shambles in terms of infrastructure, staff and quality of education imparted. Leave alone the freshly upgraded schools, the staff, particularly teaching staff, remain inadequate and untrained even in the schools already established for decades. As far as the infrastructure goes, many of the recently upgraded schools do not even have proper space and buildings and many are sharing the buildings with existing schools in the area, thus also adversely affecting the school education, which is already in a pitiable state and difficult to revive even as higher pay scales in recent years have enabled recruitment of better qualified and trained staff. Edifices of higher education cannot be built on poor standard of education in schools that churn out matriculates and higher secondary pass outs by the hordes every year, majority of whom cannot even write a correct or perform simple mathematics like addition and multiplication. This is true of not just the government schools but also the mushrooming small private academies turned into commercial ventures without even providing good quality education. School education mostly remains the privilege of those who can afford it and those who are fortunate enough to bag admissions in the handful of prestigious educational institutions. This percentage is too small and that is why colleges and other higher seats of learning are left to deal with not just incompetent teachers but also students whose basic education is not quite at par. In the education sector, the state government functions with this complete inability to consolidate school education and improve the quality of education imparted but sketches rosy pictures of higher education with a mushrooming growth of colleges, where quality of learning is impossible without first improving the school education. As for the up-gradation of schools, they have simply become vehicles of politics. The education field has been virtually left free for political beings to resort to cheap gimmicks in upgrading hordes of schools, primarily with an eye on the vote bank. An impressive number of higher educational institutions, many of which are operating in shabby and congested buildings without the requisite infrastructure and equipment, can never produce good education for many, which has to be ensured at the school level. This cannot be done by opening up more and more institutions to boast of statistics that look impressive only in the files. The need of the time is to focus on quality, not quantity. The government should first begin to consolidate existing educational institutions, starting from the primary schools and then move up, rather than contemplating to upgrade more schools to higher levels, sketch dreams of more colleges and upgrade schools that don't even qualify for it in the practical sense of the word.


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