How did deadwood creep into our school education?

How did deadwood creep into our school education?

There was a time when the teaching profession was the most revered and respected. A teacher was like an awe-inspiring figure in every neighbourhood, and master ji was used as an honorific address for him. People used to pave way for teachers and students used to adopt good manners in respect of their teacher. Fast forward to the 21st century, teachers have become the most stereotyped class in our society, labelled as penny pinchers in household financial matters, indolent in teaching matters, and deadwood in official matters.
What are the factors that have led to this severe dent in the image of teachers in such a short span of time? Why the sword of the authorities is always dangling over the neck of teachers and how has deadwood crept into the system that authorities are planning to identify and weed out?
My quest for answers to these queries led me to someone who has spent more than thirty-five summers of his life in the education department as a teacher and has still one year left in his long-chequered career before he calls it a day. On the eve of new year, I dialled his number to wish him greetings and to discuss the past, present and future of teachers in the education department. I am going to produce verbatim here what I heard from him during a long one-hour conversation on phone.
In crisp Urdu he started his tale: Look, dear, when I was appointed as a teacher, I was just a matriculate then, but those days passing the matric exam was not a cakewalk like it is today. It used to be a herculean task, like conquering Everest, for rural people. The subject reappear evaluation method that we are seeing today was not in vogue then; you were only declared qualified if you had passed all subjects, and if someone had failed in one subject and passed all other subjects, still one had to reappear again in exams to pass all subjects in a single attempt, no matter how many marks one had acquired in subjects already passed. The advantage of this strict evaluation was that the cream used to come to the fore and the trash was side-lined. This evaluation method also ruled out passing the exam through dubious means like cheating; one could have succeeded in deceiving examiners by cheating in one paper but that wasn’t possible in every paper.
He continued: Those were the days when a Class 8 pass-out was considered eligible to be appointed as tehsildar. I started my teaching stunt on a monthly salary of 428 rupees in a local primary school. Before joining, I had to go for a one-month training at DIE (District Institute of Education), the current-day DIET. In those days, government schools used to be the sole option for education for the majority of students, so enrolment was never the issue that today’s government schools are facing. Everything was going hunky-dory till 1989 arrived. The 90’s were the beginning of the downfall of government schools. Education became weaponised as cheating was institutionalised at the behest of the gun. Mass cheating become the norm, with cheating being reported from every nook and cranny of the valley. The authorities could only watch silently then.
People say that during the 90’s, candidates who had spent years failing to pass board exams qualified with good percentage through cheating. This carnage of education was not only confined to schools but to colleges and universities too. Over the next few years, the infamous 90’s graduates started landing in different government departments, including the education department. Such was the level of mediocrity in some appointed teachers that a newly recruited teacher couldn’t properly write a joining letter, before my very eyes. Today the same teacher has climbed the promotion hierarchy to master grade.
The next big thing that maligned the image of our education system was the manner in which RET teachers were appointed through SSA scheme. Recruitment was done at the Mohalla level, where people got appointed as teachers who had given up their education long back and couldn’t have even dreamed of being a teacher. Many ZEOs made an empire out of this scheme as the business of allocating the schools was done under the table, with ZEOs enjoyed discretionary powers in allocating schools. Today the same teachers have been regularised and they are enjoying the same perks and privileges given to those teachers who had to pass JKSSB exam to get into the system. Many people know that the appointment of RET teachers was a political stunt for electoral gains by the then party at the helm. The same party’s education minster tried to re-examine these teachers in 2016 but he had to back down from taking the right step at the wrong time. The worst thing the regularisation of these teachers did was the freezing of teaching posts for the next decade. That literally spoiled the career of aspiring teachers.
My caller ended this conversation on the pessimistic note that he was happy at retiring next year, as this deadwood was only going to swell over the next years. I hope the government treats the disease instead of the symptoms.
—malikjavid86@gmail.com

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