By M.M. Tali
Once upon a time, among many rare things which existed in Kashmir, were also private schools. But , presently one witnesses them at every nook and corner of the region, fully blooming and flourishing while as government schools are struggling to attract children, especially of educated masses. The government schools that would once cater the needs of all, irrespective of the economic background of the students have been reduced now just to cater the “poor and marginalized” section of the society.
The Education Department, though prioritizing their policies to increase the access, equity and quality in government schools, is succeeding, but very little. A lot needs to be done. The scope for improvement is wide open. The department using various measures/ schemes to achieve the goals of upholding quality and enrolment of students in government schools, may surely not be achieved until the support of general public is not taken especially that of the better educated class. The further degradation of quality in such schools means exacerbating the concerns of the common masses. There needs to be a joint effort from all – authorities, teachers, society and parents at the grass root level to make a positive “quality change” in “government schools”; and among many such possible joint efforts (means and approaches), I am highlighting a few:
Involvement of Teachers and Parents: This is the core issue where the thrust needs to be given. Involvement of teacher starts with – teachers accepting their students as they are, without comparing them with the students of the creamy layer, enrolled in private schools. Denying existence of differences between the two will definitely be wrong to say. As pointed out often by our respected teachers, how is it possible to bring a change cum revolution in government education system when most of the enrolled students in such schools are usually dull, weak, slow learners, unwilling to learn and mainly coming from illiterate back grounds (with no value for education) as compared to those who are in private schools? With such an approach of unnecessary comparison, starts vulnerability of future of many such students who have no one to guide them, except such teachers.
There is a need to realize that all private school students are not extraordinarily smart, able and dedicated ones; many among them too are dull, weak and unwilling to study. Go and check. An approach is making all the difference. We hardly come to know about private school teachers saying we can’t bring quality change as many of our students are also weak, dull, rough and tough. They approach by keeping one thing in mind that among all such kind of students there will also be many willing, interested and dedicated ones, waiting for someone’s guidance. They identify them, take them into confidence and then try to take the whole class in confidence. Such an approach is paying them back and to their schools in various forms.
It is true that almost all students enrolled in government school come from the most “marginalized and downtrodden” sections of the society (where they hardly have a sense of education), but what is not true is calling all of them dull and slow learners. The government school teachers (being highly qualified than most of the private school teachers) need to take this responsibility, to identify willing and able students from each batch. They need to try to take them into confidence the same way private schools teachers do. They may surely succeed in finding out many precious pearls.
Once such able and willing students are identified, their parents need to be gotten involved with their children’s education by inviting them to schools and providing proper guidance, encouragement and suggestions. Such a class of our society is not so disrespectful with the teachers counsel/ suggestions that they will disavow them. The teachers should treat it as a part of duty to create this link of parent getting involved with his child’s education. If teachers fail in bridging this link, no one else can?
Upholding self esteem of teachers: First, teaching is not considered as one of the most “sought after career” in our state; its status needs to be raised as a “career choice”. The perception of the people that anybody can become a teacher as it requires a “minimal skill” needs to be changed. Second, in order to entice teachers into work, they need to be offered generous pay packages. But, teachers here, whom we call nation builders, have to throng streets for getting even their due monthly salary. Doesn’t it indicate the sorry state of our education sector? How can such teachers (feeling crestfallen and despaired due to economic miseries) make positive contributions in their domain? In such a situation, the claim of imparting quality education in schools is like a bubble formed during rain, the life of which is not more than few seconds.
Offering of appreciation to exceptional teachers in the form of financial incentives serves no meaning when they are thronging streets for their due monthly salaries. Here again is a need to learn from private schools, which offer specific fixed salaries to their teachers, but nurture them by upholding their self confidence as well as their self esteem.
Infrastructure: Many of you will have observed how the space around the schools constructed years ago is shrinking. Where has all that free space gone? Nowhere, it has just been occupied under the continuous unplanned and unsymmetrical construction of new classrooms, build after every 10-20 feet gap. Such a shambolic infrastructural setup of school buildings makes them look more like an infantry camp than that of a school building. It needs to be addressed because it is hurting the “providing of quality infrastructure”, in many ways – first, puts at stake various activities like morning gatherings, games, annual functions etc meant for students personality development and for maintaining their physical well being. Second, it fails to attract children of economically stable and educated families. Third, it restricts implementation of schemes like herbal gardens, serving multiple purposes. Fourth, it hurts future development of such schools (once upgraded) as availability of land in itself is a necessary component for infrastructural development.
Instead of creating four walls at every nook and corner and then giving a name school, there is a need to learn how private schools, on small areas of land, are creating huge bulky school buildings, attracting and accommodating hundreds.
Along with it the continuous failure to fight geographical factors even in this age of science and technology needs some attention. For how long will we consider vacations for months an option to overcome infrastructural failure? Besides, the glimpses of the innumerable lacunae existing in our schools infrastructure were provided by the recently held 10th and 12th examinations, which need to be considered in future.
Involvement of society: The locals know far better about the functioning of the government schools in their vicinity. Accordingly, they can play more effective role in bringing a quality change there. Local elders, but educated ones, and not uneducated political ones, need to be empowered to keep a track on the working of school functioning, by making surprise visits on monthly basis. Enrollment of students of educated masses (whose progress is being tracked on a daily basis at home) in such schools, can keep the school authorities on toes to contribute better, thus may be a reason of help even for those who have no one to look after them at home.
Teachers need to realize that they are blessed enough, of getting a chance to serve the society directly at the grass root level, by contributing to the most downtrodden section of the society, by making their kids becoming educated ones, thereby with them changing lives of their generations to come. There is a simple “visibility parameter” for measuring quality change in the sector and that is, when government servants/ employees in general and government teachers in particular will start enrolling their kids in such schools.
(P.S: I have met with some great government school students, who were actually fortunate enough of not getting caught in a category of weak and slow learners in their respective schools rather some erudite teachers there identified and then nurtured their talent, till they learned how to make a quality progress)
The author works at the J&K Civil Secretariat and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org