After spending a day deliberating on the crisis in our education system with those working at the grassroots – the teachers and professionals from different fields, a basic root cause analysis reveals one key underlying problem which has resulted in a chaotic mismanagement of the Nagaland Government school education sector in general starting from issues of political & bureaucratic interference in education, backdoor appointments, proxy teachers, salary issues, transfers, attendance and other operational challenges which is leading up to a dangerous trend of creating a generation of poorly educated future Nagas.
The reason why private schools in Nagaland generally outperform Govt schools lie in a very basic management concept called ‘Autonomy’ or ‘Self Management’ classified into Structural Autonomy and Professional Autonomy which has been widely researched by world renowned education reformers such as Professor Emeritus Brian J. Caldwell with focus on public/state/government schools but also relevant to private/non-government schools. These management principles have been used as a guide for undertaking national level educational reforms by governments of several countries and succeeded in bringing great reforms to their education system and helped in transforming their societies.
Installation of biometric attendance is a disciplinary measure to tackle the problem of teacher attendance at an operational level but will not eliminate the problem and cannot be considered a structural reform but only a deterrence mechanism. Private schools do not have biometric yet they thrive. Instead of trying to tackle the bees, it is wiser to go for the root cause and tackle the bee hive. Instead of trying to put the blame on the teachers and principals and trying to crucify them, we must understand that there is a loophole in the system which requires a simple reform, not at a bureaucratic level but at a policy making level. The solution lies in the secret strategy of ‘AUTONOMY IN MANAGEMENT’ which can be achieved through a process of legislative reform in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly for de-provincialisation or decentralization.
Example, consider Finland with one of the best education system in the entire world. Teachers are not hired by the Directorate of School Education or the Politician unlike Nagaland, where this hallowed education system has been turned into a vote bank.
In the Finnish system, teachers are hired and fired by individual schools. If a school director asks a teacher to leave – and it does happen – the teacher alone is responsible for finding a new position elsewhere.
Similarly, private schools in Nagaland generally thrive because the school owner/headmaster enjoys autonomy in managing the school like his/her own including hiring/firing of teachers with little or no political/bureaucratic interference, since the results directly affect their credibility. This form of autonomy in management and ownership is not there in Govt schools of Nagaland.
In Nagaland, we have a totally flawed business management system wherein politicians and bureaucrats in addition to another stakeholder in the management in the form of a SMC (School Management Committee) are together struggling to micro-manage all the schools and the thousands of employees, down to the level of appointments, transfers, checking teacher attendance etc which is illogical, impractical and will lead to total chaos like we see around us today. At present, the entire HR (Human Resource) management in hiring and posting of thousands of teachers is controlled centrally at the Directorate level and mostly under political influence which naturally triggers the corrupt practices of putting one’s selfish interests over the need to impart quality education to our future generation and build a better Nagaland.
Today, even if a teacher (with political backing) doesn’t attend work and is running a business elsewhere, the Govt school principal/headmaster has no power to fire him/her and to transfer the corrupt teacher will take forever because the transfer process has to be managed at the Directorate under political influence thus making this one of the most inefficient management system in the world.
“Schools micro managed by politicians & bureaucrats will generally end up in ruins. Schools managed by educators will generally thrive!”
Politicians should stick to policy making and not get into business management! School management should be taken care by the educators completely with autonomy and responsibility to manage their respective schools wherein both fame and blame will go to the board, principal and teachers of each school.
The bifurcation of education and bureaucracy should be made wherein the structural and professional management to impart education should be done by the educators with complete autonomy at the school level and the financial management of teacher salary, student fees, infrastructure, meals, books etc can be done at the Directorate level with effectiveness and transparency. The financial management structure will need to be studied and re-engineered by a specialized financial consultant whether the most feasible mode would be either through DBT (‘Direct Beneficiary Transfer’ wherein beneficiary in the school management) or using a HR MIS (Management Information System) mechanism.
The reform in our education system should start from giving autonomy to the educators (School management) without the interference of the directorate or the politician in managing the school operations including hiring/firing of teachers who have completed the eligibility tests and exams from a common pool of Government employment exchange (Those fired go back into the pool). Unless this management system is rectified and the issue addressed urgently, the teachers’ grievances are already exploding beyond control and the upcoming generation will be in a huge mess with the poorest levels of education imparted on our future generation thereby leading to further backwardness and deterioration of our society.
Govt must understand that the root cause of this massive problem lies in the management system, not the human resource & restructure the system without getting confused by mixing ‘School management’ with ‘Policy making’ & ‘Bureaucracy’. After such a systematic reform in achieved, Govt would also need to work on improving quality by engaging teachers and experts in upgrading the syllabus, infrastructure and status of teachers as well as work towards improving the pedagogy(teaching techniques) through SCERT by stressing more on enabling our kids to learn and think instead of simply memorizing.
If our leaders can achieve this great education reform today and work towards revamping our education sector, then they can retire with pride. Our future generation instead of cursing them will celebrate their wisdom and will power.
(Yanpvuo Kikon worked as a Senior Consultant in the Government Transaction Advisory Services practice at the global consultancy firm Ernst & Young with the Governments of Uttarakhand and Goa)
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