Take off the wrong spectacles

  •      The ownership of government schools and the role of teachers has been a matter of discussion for a long time and this article has again sparked the same debate.
  • Rizwan writes, “Over the past few weeks, the government school teachers are creating an impression that the government schools are getting ownership from society and parents are enrolling their kids in government schools”. Here I would like to differ with him. Yes, we have started enrollment drives but as teachers we have never equated it with the acceptance from society. Society has never owned the govt. schools due to pre-conceived notions and set perceptions. Time and again we have tried to change these perceptions but all our efforts have gone in-vain. We have village education committees for every govt. school but they are hardly visible on ground. The filtration process at the time of admissions has been a major challenge for us. The bitter truth is that admitting the children in private school has now become a matter of prestige in our society. The society has set certain benchmarks for the school, which a govt. school can’t meet. Such is the level of competition that even among the private schools only the elite ones are flourishing. Mostly, only those who fail to secure a seat in any private school or those coming from most backward and poor sections are parents in a government school. Leave aside the ownership of govt. schools, the parents whose children are studying in Govt. schools have washed their hands off from their parental and educational duties towards their wards. 
  • I have been a private school teacher and have observed the system very closely. If we look at private schools; what makes the difference between the two? The answer lies in the point that these private schools have been very successful in making parents equal stakeholders in the education of their children. They have been successful in making parents realize their roles by arranging frequent parent-teacher meetings and involving them actively in the education of their children. There are no political interferences at all as is seen in govt. schools. The private schools charge huge fee but they equally provide best possible facilities.  

    Now let there be similar colorful buildings and busses for all government schools. Let there be a similar filtration process at the time of admissions, and let there be a similar level of responsibilities and parental cooperation. And then make the comparison between the two. We will surely see a change in the government schools. 

  • Further the write up says, “The teachers are trying their best to instill confidence among the parents to prefer government schools over private schools. But such initiatives are unlikely to prove fruitful for the government as the teachers motivating other parents to own government schools have their own children in private schools”. 
  • First of all, let’s not generalize it. There are govt. teachers whose children are enrolled in govt. schools and believe me, there is a very good percentage of such teachers. But my question is, why should we target Govt. teachers only? Let’s start from top hierarchy. From Education Minster/Advisor to Secretary, from Director to CEOs, and all other stakeholders, have we ever dared to question them? Where are their children studying?  Why don’t we ask the same question to them? Though in, the last sentence the writer has tried to balance it, but that is not enough. Sooner or later, we have to get all the stakeholders on board.
  • It also says that “the government teachers lack confidence because they do not believe in their own education sector and are not confident of the competence of government school teachers employed in government schools”. Going by the same logic, should not it be mandatory for government doctors and other officials to get their family members treated in govt. hospitals only. Here I would draw your attention towards an interesting fact that when Home Minster of this country had tested positive for covid-19, he was admitted in a private hospital. Drawing an analogy and going with your logic, Can we conclude that he was not having faith and confidence in government owned healthcare system?

    The writes has also focussed on the salaries of the teachers to make it look more government v/s private teachers, giving an impression that all the quality education is in private schools only. My question is simple; If all the quality education is in private schools, then why do we need coaching centers? Why is this new business flourishing day by day? Just visit any reputed coaching centers anywhere, you will hardly find any government school kid there. Have we ever thought, why is it so?

    In my one and half years experience, I have seen government teachers performing various non-academic duties on the directions from higher offices. There is dearth of subject-specific teachers. Let me cite an example, where a govt. high school was functioning without a math teacher for more than two years. Despite repeated requests and reminders, it took department almost three years to depute a math teacher to the said school. Imagine the plight! While this time, our fellows in private schools are busy in decorating the grade cards of their students, the government teachers, while putting their lives at stake, are performing election duties and related trainings. 

    To conclude it, we cannot deny that there are certain issues with the government schools at various levels, which is one of the reasons for the wrong perceptions in society but how is it right to blame teacher community only. The wrong public perceptions must change and people must realize that these government teachers alone can’t change everything overnight but it is a symbiotic relationship of many stakeholders that can yield us the desired results. When it comes to profession, one may be labeled differently as a “Government Teacher” but when the label is of a “parent”, we are all on same page with same responsibilities. Remember, we are all the stakeholders, so it’s high time to take off the wrong spectacles for clear vision.

The writer is a Science Teacher in J&K School Education Department.