J&K ‘shelves’ centrally-funded program to improve quality of education
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J&K ‘shelves’ centrally-funded program to improve quality of education

While SCERT is already functional in other states, J&K hasn’t made any progress despite receiving funds from MHRD

A centrally funded program meant for training teachers and upgrading infrastructure of different training institutes in J&K hasn't seen any progress for past two years with officials revealing that funds worth crores of rupees sanctioned by ministry of human resource development (MHRD) under the program have remained unspent.

"The government was supposed to set up SCERT last year and enable education department to bring DIETS under its umbrella," an official said.

While the MHRD in the project approval board (PAB) meeting convened in New Delhi in 2018, had sanctioned Rs 30 crore under teacher education scheme, Rs 1.20 crore was released for strengthening of physical infrastructure in DIET institutes as per the requirement of SCERT besides an Rs 58 lakhs were sanctioned for technological intervention in these training institutes.

"But the entire funding has remained unutilized and is likely to get lapsed in June as MHRD may convene new PAB meeting to review and approve new financial year plan under Samagra," the official said. To make SCERT functional, the state doesn't need to build new infrastructure but had to upgrade existing infrastructure in DIETs and SIE. "Government has zero financial implication for establishing SCERT.

It has to only upgrade its existing SIE to SCERT and appoint a separate director for it through internal arrangement," the official said. At present, DIETs are out of the ambit of the directorate of school education given other administrative engagements in the department. "Basically, there is no objective about what DIETs are supposed to do.

Once SCERT starts functioning as an independent institution all these DIETs will be made accountable," the official said. After SCERT is made functional all the DIETs will be linked with it for over all control and academic monitoring in the schools.

"SCERT will be exercising full control over academic activities and framing of curriculum for educational institutions in other states," the official said. He said lot of funds under various components is not released to J&K by the MHRD given the failure of the government to establish SCERT. "Making SCERT functional will open up opportunities for students to get scholarships," he said.

The SCERT will be an autonomous body, recognized by National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE), for admission, curriculum construction, course conduct, guidance, examination and certification of pre-service training program in the area of pre-primary teacher education and elementary education.

The basic objective of SCERT is to match the quality of education and academic standards with private schools. It will also be prescribing curricula and textbooks for the school and teacher training institutions besides producing instructional materials for the use of teacher-educators.

Over the years, the national and departmental surveys have presented a grim picture of the academic standards and learning levels of the students in government schools.

With the establishment of SCERT, the academic scenario was expected to get overhauled with some positive changes. Given its mandate to frame and print curriculum for the schools, SCERT would also reduce lot of work load on JKBOSE and allow it to concentrate on conduct of exams.

"But the inordinate delay adopted by the government indicates that it doesn't want to take away the control of JKBOSE to prepare and print the text books for the schools," the official said. He said establishment of SCERT will pave way for promoting research work in DIETs. While the government was delaying establishment of SCERT, the basic role of DIETs, which includes focus on Pedagogy, learning outcomes, reviewing teacher performance and their monitoring has taken a back seat. "DIETs are literally defunct as of now due to which the quality of education gets affected.

We can't blame anyone for this but our own department for its failure to take initiatives," the official said. The issue was discussed number of times during meeting convened by the advisor Khurshid Ahmad Ganai but it is still lingering on, said the official.

"J&K has already de-linked salary of SSA teachers by absorbing them in state budget. So, we are expecting to get major share of funds for improving learning outcomes in the schools," the official said. But the flow of funds will begin only if SCERT is made functional in the state. An official in directorate said the proposal was lying with the administrative department. Secretary school education department, Sarita Chauhan and advisor Khursheed Ahmad Ganai didn't respond to calls from this newspaper.

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