Reforming Education Sector

Every year, as the results for class 10th and 12th examination are declared, same story is repeated – year after year. The students of private schools conquer the field. Most of the top positions and major share in pass percentage goes to the students of private educational institutions. On the other hand government schools present a dismal performance. Schools with zero pass percentage is a common phenomenon and it will be a miracle if a government school student attains top position. It seems the government schools use every method to drag down the overall pass percentage.

There is a dichotomy in performance of private and government schools. The former has minimal infrastructure with small financial backing while as the later has a huge infrastructure and equally large financial backing of the government. Still private schools fare better than their government counterparts.

When it comes to taking action against poorly performing government schools, education department initiates a cosmetic measure of penalising certain teachers. It is time these so called remedial actions are given a shake up. Instead of targeting the lower rung employees, initiate some change at the top leadership. Blaming teachers won’t lead us anywhere.

The system needs an overhaul with adoption of top-down approach in which the higher officials of education department are made accountable, and the effects trickle down automatically to lowest level.

One of the biggest problems with education department is that it is run by a single Director, who is overburdened with work and has a limited tenure. He is single handedly responsible for management of thousands of private and government schools, infrastructure development in government schools, service issues of teachers, and what not. It is not humanely possible for a single director to perform all these duties. Till the time he learns how to dodge a transfer, weed out teacher cum clerk or get sense of shortcomings of teaching learning process, his tenure ends. The result is that no Director is able to contribute any positive change.

There is an urgent need for devolution of powers to at least four new directors. That way a director with strong subject knowledge can focus on his domain, and deliver the results.

The first Director should be the director of education for Primary level and Kindergarten (KG). A major problem with government education sector is that it doesn’t have KG level classes. KG and primary schools are formative years, but there is a major lacunae in government sector in this regard. Ask a higher secondary teacher why his students are faring bad and he will say that he got bad students from middle schools, and when questioning a middle school teacher he will blame the product coming from primary schools. The Primary school teachers will blame lack of KG classes. Though that is no excuse, but experts are of the opinion that reform at KG level is necessary for government schools in order to compete with private schools.

The Director Education Primary Level will also help in establishing regulation mechanism for creches and other toddler institutes, which are currently outside the purview of administrative control. The age of admission for all private and government schools should be uniform, and this Director can strictly implement that.

The second Director should be specific for handling elementary education upto class 8th . This is one of the most important stages of a student’s life. If he gets quality education and mentorship at this stage, it can do wonders. There are geniuses in every society, unfortunately here such geniuses and high calibre students are lost to the system. Such jewels can be unearthed if only we have a robust elementary level education. Here high IQ level students can be identified, nurtured and mentored properly. They can bring laurels at various olympiads organised for this level.

Elementary education has different dimensions and requirements from primary or higher level. So a subject specific director in this sector can do wonders.

Third Director should be for secondary and higher secondary classes. If lower classes form the foundation, these classes constitute a base for all entrance examinations. Here qualifying students get to choose different professional courses to advance their career.

All over the world there are various avenues of free education at professional level. Scholarships are in abundance at global level, but students are not aware of such opportunities. By bringing professional team of counsellors and initiating other career shaping plans, a good Director for Secondary and Higher secondary Classes can be bring a real change for the society.

A major part of education sector is in private hands. Nobody can deny their contribution. Hate it or love it, they are bound to stay here. But there are vague laws, ill defined rules to regulate these private schools. There are issues of both parents as well as private school owners, which need to be addressed. There should be a separate director which should be mandated with the work of regulating private schools.

As of now the government doesn’t have oversight on private schools, or their regulation is weak. From private schools too, there are many complaints particularly regarding harassment by government officials and usual corruption and red-tape in government offices. Such things should be tackled by Director Private Schools.

The indifferent attitude of the government towards private schools impinges heavily on the students. Not all students in private schools come from rich families and any government support to them is welcome. But whenever there is such a provision like providing of free uniforms, midday meal or scholarship, the students of private schools are ignored. They are given step-motherly treatment, which must stop.

Despite being poor, if a parent sends his ward to private school he is excluded from such government incentives. On the other hand if a rich family sends a child to a government school he gets all benefits. Treating all students equally wherever they are studying, needs to be the first step towards achieving the dream of inclusive education. A Director can recommend and regulate such changes.

People may find it absurd for having so many Directors and would vouch for relegating such duties to Joint Directors (JD). But JDs will have to send files to Director, overburdening him and slowing the work. Until JDs are given Director level powers and file stops there, status quo will not change.

The requirements for primary, elementary, secondary and private schools are different, and the duties need to be segregated to make the system efficient and accountable.

Currently if a primary level student fails, one cannot hold a Director responsible for it. Similarly bad performance in Class 12 examination won’t be sole responsibility of school teachers. But when there are separate directors things will change. They can be held accountable, as they had only a specific job to do.

A single Director can’t address problems of education sector during his tenure which can be anywhere from few months to two years. Most of the time he is occupied with the transfer of teachers, which in itself seems to be the only work of education department.

Former Advisors Khurshid Ganai, and DSEK Shah Faesal were also of the view of initiating radical changes in education sector. They also vouched for devolution of powers, however, their plans never materialised due to the changing situation.

Hope the current dispensation gives a serious thought to the problems plaguing the education sector, and seriously receives the suggestion that how major changes in administration vis-a-vis creation of new director posts can become a game changer.G N Var is President Private Schools’ Association J&K