Radical reforms needed

Representational Photo

Education is a long term investment. Hard work brings achievement only when coupled with efficient and appropriate study techniques and proper strategy. Our curriculum and syllabus teaches us what to study, but less focus on how to study. Students, parents and teachers, all of us have to keep learning new ideas and secrets about world class education system. Policy of Jammu and Kashmir government to impart education according to Right to Education Act is that a child should get a primary school, upper primary school, high school and higher secondary school within 1km, 3km, 5km, and 7km radii respectively. Beside this, free uniform, free text books up to 8th standard, free meals, and a number of scholarships are provided to the children studying in these schools. Still government run schools are lagging behind in terms of enrolment and pass percentage as compared to private schools in Jammu and Kashmir; something to ponder upon. The irony is that even the government teachers hesitate to admit their wards in government schools.

Parents’ Perspective:

Every parent dreams of better future for his/her ward and leaves no stone unturned in achieving the same, money least matters for a parent. Although parents clearly visualize that some private schools have turned into money minting machines, still admit their wards in private schools because of the presumption that their future is bleak in government schools. The survey reports reveal that government school kids are more competitive than those studying in private schools. Primary school kids have to travel a lot of distance in buses or vans to reach the school. These kids get exhausted physically and over reactive mentally- a concern of child rights, but still people prefer these schools to the government run schools that fall in the vicinity. Why?

Work culture and accountability:

Government teachers are highly qualified and well paid, but are least accountable to their bosses, and the chain leads up to top hierarchical post in the union territory. Private school teachers attend school by compulsion as their future is at the stack of their bosses. Last year government ordered biometric system of attendance but that lasted for some months only, as biometric machines were not connected to higher authorities, but were institution specific. Though at the submission of pay bills a print out was necessary but unfortunately in most cases that too was tampered with. Majority of the government teachers excel in coaching / tuition centres but not in government institutions where they work, the reasons are known to everyone. Biometric system of attendance should be made more effective, and even compulsory for the students.

Pupil teacher ratio:

The New Education Policy 2020 recommends a pupil teacher ratio of under 30:1 but in J&K only 43% schools are in accordance with that which means 57% of schools have disproportionate pupil teacher ratio; the study reveals that 14:1 and 11:1 at secondary and middle level respectively. There is further disparity between districts and within the districts. Srinagar district has shocking pupil teacher ratio of 5:1, in other districts clear disparity exists in pupil teacher ratio between town and rural schools, so far rationalization of staff has remained a distant dream.

Some suggestions:

In J&K it should be made mandatory for ministers, bureaucrats and all government employees to admit their children in government schools. This action will be a moral boost and also change negative perception of government schools among general masses. We have to make our schools and society inclusive and also adapt credit based system of promotions for the staff. Pass percentage should not be an instrument of measurement of teacher’s performance /calibre. For those teachers availing leave like maternity leave, paternity leave, child care leave, medical leave etc., more than 15 days a prior alternative should be kept in place to minimize loss in studies of student community. Those teachers/lecturers who got higher qualification (regular mode degrees) during the service period should be brought to book. In order to bring education to every doorstep and increase enrolment of children, different government schemes got implemented and a number of elementary schools were opened, most of which are non functional or clubbed now. Those responsible for favouring blue eyed persons and looting state exchequer should face the music. Academic calendar, examination reforms, transfer policy should be followed in letter and spirit. The cases of overstay at a particular place on flimsy grounds of health and security should be reviewed. The task to transform government schools must be started in every district picking up almost 2 to 3 schools in every education zone on priority basis, developing them on modern lines, refurbishing the entire school buildings, equipping them with modern infrastructure to improve the learning outcomes.

Researchers believe that home work is an outdated concept, a child should get 10 to 15 minute break after every 45 minutes, and 3 to 4 hour daily schooling is enough because a happy student is a good student. It is better to provide kids opportunities to grow rather than to keep them busy. The way to teach should improve, like, in teaching of mathematics children should work for one hour in school tuck shops/canteens and understand profit and loss. This is the way to teach maths in real life and then make students apply in examination. Our focus should be on morals and ethics of children to make their foundation strong by placing real life dilemmas in front of children, and observe how they react to that. This can also be done by storey telling. Provide vocational training to those children who are not interested in class room teaching. Last, but not the least, improve infra structure, replace outdated syllabus so that our government schools can prove that they we are second to none.

Final word:

Education sector is carving for government attention for basic structure and planning. Revamping elementary education, which continues to be a liability and where private sector takes the lead, is a must. The government of Jammu and Kashmir should take pragmatic measures and radical decisions to ensure quality, equality, accessibility, accountability and affordability in the system. Besides improving teaching and learning standards in schools. If Delhi Government can do it why can’t we……?.

The author teaches Botany at Government Higher Secondary School Pakhar Pora Budgam