Monday, September 20, 2021

Bring change

We often hear a lot of noise about the falling educational standards in our government schools. This decline in standards is mostly blamed on the teachers. Analyzing the problem objectively, however, we would find that the government educational institutions and the teachers are not performing as poorly as it is made out to be. Sure there are some delinquent teachers in such institutions but the fact remains that there is also a good number of efficient, honest and dedicated teachers. We cannot deny in our state the academic performance of the student community is measured in terms of their performance in Board /University examinations. This is more acutely felt in respect of the students at the school level pursuing their education in government-run institutions whose performance always remains somewhat unsavory vis-à-vis their counter parts in the private sector. The fact is that there is nothing intrinsically better about the private institutions wherein the burden of teaching is passed on to the parents who readily do it either themselves or engage an army of private tutors for the purpose. The only good thing about these private institutions, however, is that they prepare their students for the annual examination by vigorously conducting weekly/monthly tests. Consequently their performance remains good. On the contrary the government institutions have to shoulder the burden of teaching on their own because the parents of their students are poor, mostly illiterate and also cannot afford private coaching for their wards. These students remain disconnected from studies throughout the academic session, leaving no scope for any organized preparatory drill for the annual examination. The insufficient staff and accommodation in such schools are the added disadvantages. Without any worthwhile preparatory training these students are asked to sit in the annual examination beside their counterparts from private institutions, who are thoroughly trained for the task. All this amounts to pitting a trained solider against a raw one and how foolish it is to expect any kind of compatibility between the performance of the two. The bad performance of these students, for reasons beyond their control, thus alienates them from their studies as well. In the language of Marx this is tantamount to the worker getting “alienated from the product of his labour” and in the absence of any worthwhile corrective measures this alienation between the student and his own work is growing and once it reaches a critical mass it will result in a social upheaval. In this backdrop, it is quite encouraging to hear positive response for the new National Education Policy in the state. It is being hailed as transformative, and revolutionary in many respects. In our state we have seen academics praise the policy, and also highlight its various segments that deal with different layers of education. One such part of education, and of the new education policy, is the schooling system. It is expected that the new policy will make some long pending changes in the schooling system; though at the same there have been opinions to the contrary on certain ingredients of the policy. But regardless of all this, if we have a look at the schooling system here, there is much to be done. It defeats common sense to see the present fate of government run schools despite having huge infrastructure, qualified and trained teachers, and all other facilities available. Why our government schools fail to become a choice for those who take education of their kids seriously? This question should be taken up by the administration very seriously. There should be internal discussions on this in which teachers are involved to get inputs from the ground zero. The problem with our bureaucratic mindset is that they seldom listen. The first change required within this department is at this level of interaction. The high level officials managing this department should respectfully listen to teachers and make them leaders in the changes that must happen. Besides making these discussions teacher-centric, the officials in the department should also seek opinion from the civil society. There are people amongst us who know society well and can be fruitfully engaged in bringing changes in the department. If the process of bringing changes starts by adopting bottom-up approach, it can have a positive impact.