By Farooq Ahmad
The student –teacher ratio (or the inverse) in Government run schools has been a constant topic for discussion by professionals and civil society. Last week, one of the schools in downtown area became a hot topic for the media fraternity after Director School Education inspected the school premises and found the alarming position of the student-teacher ratio. Since then the school remained in news for quite some time and the conditions in government run schools once again hit the headlines of print and electronic media.
The downtown school visited by the director was a Government High School Rangtang in Nawakadal area. The school has a wonderful building housing two more Middle schools, Government Middle School Aali Kadal and Government Middle School Rehbab Sahib that fall under the jurisdiction of Zonal Education Officer, Zaldagar.
In GHS Rangtang, only two classes, 9th and 10th, are being taught; it has eight students on roll with twelve teachers and one In charge Headmaster. Middle School, Aalikadal has three teachers for twenty one students whereas Middle School Rehbab Sahab has five teachers for fifteen students. The total enrollment in three schools housed in the same premises has forty four students with a teaching staff of twenty one
During his visit, DSEK has placed all the staff members under suspension and this time, the reason was not the absenteeism of the staff but “poor performance in academics”. The Director has said that despite the fact that the school has run for the whole month, teachers have not checked or signed a note book of even a single student. “When asked teachers said that they check the note books at the end of the month, which is unheard of”, Director G N Itoo said to newsmen.
Itoo has recently taken over the charge of the department which is believed to be one of the largest departments and second only to the police department in terms of the number of employees and the vast network spread over the whole state. The said Director is constantly monitoring the ‘health’ of the department and going out for surprise inspections and constantly putting teachers, headmasters and principles of the schools under suspension for dereliction of their duties. During the past visits, the main reason for such suspensions have been ‘absent from duties’ whereas in the Rangtang case it has been different, that is, “poor performance in academics”.
The action by the HOD cannot be challenged and if the stress is laid on the performance of the schools, it, in the first place, can send many heads rolling and, in the second place, can also help in the improvement of educational environment in the schools. The previous visits by the director to the other schools suggest that the academic performance there was better.
In order to set a basic standard of the ‘academic performance’ in the schools, the directorate has to come out with certain guidelines to be followed by the teaching staff and their immediate bosses that include Zonal Education Officers, Headmasters, Principals and Chief Education Officers. Previously, only the performance of High and Higher Secondary Schools was being assessed on the basis of their results achieved in 10th and 12th class. The Primary and the Middle department had always being enjoying the liberty of National school policy whereby all the students upto 8th class had to be promoted to next class. Although it can be safely said that the 10th standard JKBOSE examination results are a litmus test for the High School teachers but in other ways it should have been a reflection of the academic excellence of the concerned primary and middle schools as well.
Most of the qualified teachers posted in High Schools avoid teaching 9th and 10th standard students and prefer to guide students at primary level thus escape the scrutiny of his/her performance at the appropriate level as per the present arrangements.
Coming back to teacher- student ratio, the conditions in Government schools, especially in district Srinagar is alarming. In GHS, Nowhatta, twenty teachers for forty one students, in GBHS, Zoonimar, fifteen teachers for thirteen students, in GBHS, Zadiba, forty nine teachers for seventeen students, in GHS, Gassi Mohla, sixteen teachers for five students, in GHS, Hazratbal, thirty teachers for thirty nine students and the worst position is in GBHS Rehlone. There are twenty one teachers are for three students, and the list goes on. This is the position of High Schools only. The position in Primary and Middle Schools is even more pathetic.
Although the ideal teacher- student ratio is 1:30, there is hardly any Government school in district Srinagar having a reasonably fair teacher- student ratio. All the schools are over staffed and the rationalization of schools carried out during the incumbency of the previous Education Minister has complicated the problem instead of solving it. Rationalization has been carried out to the extent of shifting of schools to a nearby school but the teacher- student ratio has not been taken care of properly. Even administrative problems of these amalgamated schools have propped up in the shape of ‘dual control’ of primary and middle level schools as they are administratively looked after by the concerned Zonal Education Officers (ZEO) but Headmasters of the schools, say parent schools, have also been advised to look after the day to day administration of these lower level schools. This sort of dual control has resulted in the tussle between the staff at these schools and the headmaster and between the ZEO and the headmaster. The headmaster of GBHS, Rangtang, has also expressed her views to a News Channel. She stated that she has already discussed the issue of duel control with the concerned authorities and had suggested for merger of these schools instead of amalgamation.
Although the schools in district Srinagar are over staffed, the deputation of additional teaching staff to these schools speak volumes about the mismanagement at the apex level. DSEK’s Itoo, has said that the above referred three schools have twenty teachers of their own but two more teachers have been adjusted on deployment basis there. Now, it is clear that these teachers are deployed not on actual requirement basis but on some other conditions which even the Director could not explain. The Directorate of School Education has been issuing orders for the detachment of the teaching staff but these orders are being constantly ignored and a least number of such teachers have resumed their duties at the place of their original postings. It is but obvious that these deployments are being carried out at the behest of some influential persons, and for the convenience of the teachers and not the students, the non compliance of these orders are not being followed in letter and spirit as nobody is ready to “bell the cat”.
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