Questions are often raised as to why a teacher in a government school is a parent in a private school. An impression is being created that only the teacher is responsible for the decline in standards and the enrolment in government-run schools. Government school teachers who campaign for enrolment in private schools come across as hypocrites. They should have started charity from their own homes, it is said, before preaching to others what needs to be done.
It is a fact that over the years our society has lost faith in government education and parents prefer a private school, even if they have to pay hefty amounts as fees and donations. It cannot also be denied that free books, free uniforms, free mid-day meals, and well-qualified staff together are not able to lure parents towards government schools. Enrolment in government schools has been decreasing and these schools have become the last option for parents who cannot afford the expenses of private schools. Our government schools have children of a lesser god who come from economically backward families. There are a number of reasons that are responsible for this poor state of government schools.
Let us start from infrastructure. Private schools have well-furnished classrooms, seating arrangements, laboratories, toilets, electricity and drinking water facilities. In stark contrast, government schools in many places have been housed in rented accommodations where livestock of the landlord and the students are not far from each other. Government schools are lagging far behind in facilities of electricity, drinking water, seating arrangements, toilets, etc.
Then there is the matter of the teaching staff. In private schools there are sufficient teachers and at least one teacher for one class. A private school teacher has set goals and fixed assignments. They have sufficient time to pay individual attention to every student. In government schools, at primary level for teaching five classes there are two or three teachers, while in middle schools, for teaching eight classes, we have 5 or 6 teachers. Each teacher has to teach 12-14 classes in five hours and the justice they would be able to do with their assignments is not difficult to work out. In addition, government teachers have to prove their mettle as managers of mid-day meals, as polling officers/ presiding officers in elections, as enumerators/supervisors in census, health audits, examination duties, and the latest one, Covid-19 management duties. The private school teacher does not have to perform any of the above mentioned duties and can devote all one’s time to one’s profession.
Add to it, a good number of posts of Chief Education Officers, Principals of Higher Secondary Schools, Headmasters of High Schools, Head Teachers of Middle Schools, ZEOs of Education Zones, and Lecturer posts are vacant across the length and breadth of the Union Territory, affecting the smooth functioning of government schools.
Most principals, headmasters, administrative officers, etc, presently managing key positions of the education department are working in “in-charge” capacities and have not being confirmed for several years despite creation of many committees, submission of documents, SAC and cabinet directives. If higher authorities are not able to instil confidence in their officers and workforce, the motivation and confidence of the personnel will naturally be jeopardised.
If we look at the syllabus, despite requests from teachers and other stakeholders, the powers that be have not changed the outdated syllabus taught in government schools. Kindergarten classes have still not been started due to unknown reasons and whosoever is admitted to government schools is directly put into Class 1st. This is despite the well-known fact that classes of nursery, LKG, UKG play a pivotal role in grooming a child for Class 1st.
The shortcomings that have been mentioned above are not in control of a government teacher. The solutions to these problems falls in the domain of higher echelons of power, of decision makers who have over the years failed to adapt the system to the changing times. The ministers and the officers heading the school education department over the decades are responsible for the declining enrolment in government schools. Putting the blame squarely on a teacher who is lowest in the hierarchy is not justifiable. Although we teachers cannot be totally exonerated and we have to ponder on why a parent does not trust us, why parents do not feel the career of their children safe in our hands. We have many government schools which are giving stiff competition to private schools in their areas. We have to extract much more from the available resources. We cannot keep harping on lack of this and lack of that. We will have to redouble our efforts so that the stereotype of government schools in the society changes, the stigma associated with government schools ends for good.
Let the higher echelons of power also take steps to address issues that are plaguing the system. We will then regain our lost pride as teachers. We will be able to call ourselves successful teachers only when rich and poor parents alike would enrol their words in government schools. But blaming the poor teacher alone will not serve that end.
—The writer is an ‘in-charge’ Lecturer of Political Science at HSS DH Pora Kulgam. [email protected]