Quality Education: Between Stakeholders

Two recent media reports about the performances of the students and the teachers of Indian school systems were nothing but shocking.

Let us start with the performances of the teachers. In a recent teachers’ eligibility test, conducted by the Tamil Nadu Recruitment Board, as many as 42,000 out of 6.5 lakh teachers who took the test did not know how to fill the application forms and committed a variety of mistakes, including omission to fill their names in the allotted column. Even if this could be excused, when the answer sheets were evaluated, only 2,448 could be declared to have passed.

According to the Central Board of Secondary Education, last year, 795,000 candidates took the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET). More than 99% of these candidates failed to pass the test. CTET certification is mandatory to become a teacher for grades one to eight in central government schools.

It is unfortunate that the teachers, quite a large percentage of them, besides being poorly qualified are also not motivated and focused enough to improve their own performance and, in turns, that of their students. It is they who are, without any excuses, to find the ways and means for their students to learn rather than passing examinations. By self study and a little devotion to the task, all the employed teachers can improve their knowledge to teach better. If necessary, they themselves can take tuition from the senior and dedicated teachers. There might have been certain erosion in the values regarding the traditional respectability for the teachers’ community, but it is for them to build it up. Teaching must be apolitical profession and the teachers must be kept out of the extra-academic assignments for the election or census.

The second report is about the deteriorating standards of learning in the primary schools as per the latest one by Pratham, a Mumbai-based NGO, ASER 2012:

“According to the report, around 13% of children in grades one to five could not read at all and around 11% were not able recognize numbers from one to nine. Only 46.8% of all children in grade five were able to read a grade two level text. This number, in fact, has been declining over the past two years from 53.7% in 2010 and 48.2% in 2011. In mathematics, too, there has been a significant drop. In 2010, 70.9% of the children enrolled in grade five were able to solve simple two-digit subtraction problems with borrowing. This proportion declined to 61% in 2011 and 53.5% in 2012.”

It is shameful for the teachers’ community. However, as the majority of the teachers are teaching only up to class V in a primary school and that can be improved only if the teachers work hard and honestly with a mission, if necessary for extra hours of teaching. Only the respective teachers can innovate the ways and means to get over all the problems. Teachers must impress on the children the need of education and success that it brings. Teachers must be made accountable and the black sheep must be weeded out, if they do not show interest in taking their responsibility on their own.

I shall like to give some tips below for the teachers working for the children of deprived class in the country.

1. Use motivating stories, be it of Arjuna about the need of focusing on the task, or of Eklavya emphasizing the importance of self-study, or of Bopdev for the need of practising again and again.
2. Create and activity centres with locally available materials and cheap equipment such screw drivers, pliers, mud, bricks, and whatever, you get. Reserve few hours of the week to allow the children to show their creativity. Allocate an hour or less every day for sports, music and games.
3. Set up a library with donation and fix a library hour for every child. Encourage the child to report or at least talk about what he learns by reading. Have multiple copies of books such as Bharat ke Baigyanik, History of scientists of ancient India.
4. Call the parents of the child and appeal them to learn from their wards as that can further the learning of the child.
5. Encourage the children to form informal groups and learn collectively while helping each other.
6. Convince them with stories that they can get over all the hurdles if they sincerely try to find a way out, and sky is the limit of attaining what they aspire and if they work hard without any godfather or wealth of the parents.

I wish the educationists would have agreed for the change in curricula for up to secondary class VIII as suggested below:
A. Teach the vernacular and English together. Emphasise on increasing the vocabulary of the, grammar, writing, speaking and reading. Abandon the Traditional way of teaching a lesson and expect the children to answer question on the subject by rote learning. Drop all subjects such as history, geography, hygiene, science as separate subject and incorporate the stories in the content of the language gradually. Ensure that after eight years of teaching of the vernacular, every child attains the proficiency in writing and speaking the languages well. Use digital aids both audio and video for the language.

B. The second subject must be mathematics starting with arithmetic and tables, where the learning must based on real life applications.

The government and the private entrepreneurs entering education sector must focus on the primary schools, more so in rural India. The quality education at the primary level will only ensure the quality at all level of higher education.

Even today with improved enrolment in schools, there are around 4 percent children out of the schools and that is huge number in absolute sense.

One more suggestion from my side is for the government. As there is hardly any supervision on the working of the rural schools and their working, every panchayat must elect a member specifically for education. This member preferable may be a retired senior teacher, or some from defence forces or someone really interested and committed about improving the education of the community.

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