Will Government sector ever achieve excellence?

Last week of April, the principal secretary school education department Asgar Samoom made it public that the government teachers produce poor results as compared to the teachers in private schools despite getting ten times better wages than latter.

Here I am sharing the tweet: “Govt teachers get 10 times better wages/ incentives/infrastructure but isn’t it true that teaching-learning outcomes are better in 3000 elementary private schools vis-a-vis 29000 Govt Schools; teachers & Govt need to work together to improve QUALITY of school education in JKUT.”

It was not a revelation but coming from the administrator of the school education department took everybody by asurprise as he revealed the shortcomings of the department on his micro blogging website- Twitter.

He not only revealed the shortcomings but hinted that excellence can be achieved if department and the teachers work together.

His tweet was flooded with responses from the teachers, masters and lecturers but none came up with the solution; only highlighted the mistakes done in past by the policy makers. The debate on twitter lasted for hours only to end with blame game. The blame was finally put on the department as it failed to upgrade the infrastructure and revise the curriculum in schools.

The tweet also exposed the infighting between the teaching communities as General Line Teachers attributed the poor performance of the government schools to the SSA teachers appointed in the department under a centrally sponsored scheme. However, for me it was a vague argument because the SSA teachers revived the education sector in far off areas where the schools were at the verge of closure. Even these days also, the department is deploying the SSA teachers in higher secondary schools to take classes of secondary and senior secondary level students. You can blame the policy makers for using the scheme for their personal interests but not the teachers who are working in toughest terrains.

The debate on twitter ended after a long thread of verbal brawls and blame game from different associations of teachers but there was no solution from either side. It has been an ever going process that no one has got the solution to the problem that ails the education sector, all resort to buck passing.

I was taken aback by the blame game of teachers who tried to save their skin and wanted the department to first rectify the past mistakes which according to them can reform the sector. The teachers (SSA, General Line, Lecturers) who were vocal on twitter in highlighting the past mistakes, have been seen hitting streets for every now and then in past to press for their demands. Ironically, not a single slogan was ever raised for demanding proper infrastructure, adequate teaching faculty or updated curriculum in schools. The protest was always for promotions, salary, arrears and related issues which we can relate to their career progression.

I have seen the education department very closely for last almost eight years now and have come across through various challenges faced by department in reforming the sector. From transfers to up gradation of infrastructure and from decreasing enrollment in schools to increasing number of concrete school buildings. One of the unique challenges in the department is to decrease number of teacher deficient schools, at a time when the number of in-service in the department is more than what is actually required. There are schools where teachers outnumber students and also those schools which never get the required faculty. Here the schools in rural areas are worst hit.

Given my experience, I have come to believe that this issue is not as simple as it seems to be. There is more to it than meets the eye. Several attempts were made in past to bring reforms but those reform measures were never taken to logical end. For example, the department wanted to create a database of all teachers, masters and lectures and decided to reshuffle the staff as per the demand and requirement in schools. But due to infighting in the department, the initiative never materialised. Also, authorities had also decided to keep certain conditions for the staff to be posted in DIETs and SIE but the decision was never implemented only because of the infighting and the non-cooperation from the teaching community. With the result these research institutes (DIETs and SIEs) are labeled as dumping sites.

There are dozens of such reform initiatives which were put under the carpet due to non-cooperation of the teaching community, particularly the influential lot.

One of the major reasons for blame game in the department is that the attempts made by any administrator are linked to his personal likings not as a policy matter. With the result the administrators see their association with the education department brief because they all know once it hits the collective ego of influential Babus in the government, he will be shifted to other department leaving his initiatives incomplete. It goes like this, and the new administrator comes with his own ideas which again fades away with his shifting to the other department.

Anyone who was appointed as head of the department has never dared to take any such initiative that will disturb the vested interests. If he does so, he is shown the door. In this way, everyone contributed in getting our government education sector deteriorated.

Now what can help the department in achieving the excellence is the joint effort from the policy makers, and the teachers who are the foot soldiers of the department. The way teachers are working amid this pandemic is an eye opener. They don’t find any excuse (lack of infrastructure, outdated curriculum) to stop from rendering their services. But it is just their will power to deliver. Similarly, regretting the past mistakes is not a solution to the problem but positivity for making a better tomorrow can flourish the department. Create sense of belonging than being merely an employee from 10am to 4pm.