QAZI SYED SAJAD
It was a great experience to be part of three days workshop on ‘Quality education: challenges and way forward’ held in Srinagar from 28 to 30th May 2015 . The workshop was part of the measures being taken by the Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar. The Minster in his inaugural address threw light on the issues confronted by the department and the possibilities of betterment in a brief. Although the workshop did not address the problem of quality education in toto but it did an introspection of the curriculum and the textbooks being used in our schools. A lot of discussion took place in this respect. Professor Anita Rampal of Delhi University who was the pivot of the workshop aptly underscored the need for child centric curriculum and storytelling method of textbook writing. I personally got too much impressed with her presentation wherein she beautifully presented the idea of story telling method in mathematics textbooks. At the outset the story of a fish which she narrated seem to be a topic of an English textbook but at the end it interestingly turned into a mathematical lesson. How the concepts like shapes, calculation, etc evolved from the story was superb. She impressed upon all the participants that if such a methodology be applied by our textbook writers and teachers especially at elementary level the Mathophobia which has engulfed us all will wither away. The workshop was a success because it triggered a debate on curriculum framing and teaching methodology in our schools. However the issue with our education sector is too big a problem to be solved or even discussed in three days workshops or months of close room conferences. Our government education sector is plagued due to our faulty policies and shortsighted decisions from decades. How it will be set right is a herculean task. But all of us should be thankful to present Education Minister who has generated a fresh hope for the betterment of this ailing sector. It is for the first time that we are witnessing that any Govt is serious on this front. There are lot of people working in this department who want to see government schools prosper in every aspect and respect. True there are people who have done great disservice to the noble profession of teaching but they can be counted on fingers. The department demands serious attention from all be it political class (both sides of the divide), civil society, intellectuals, NGOs, trade unions,teachers, parents, students so on and so forth. Those who blame a particular class of people for the poor performance of government schools need to ponder. And ponder deeply. Even Mirza Galib in one of his excellent couplet while addressing himself says “Hum Ne Majnoon Pe Ladakpan Mein Asad…….. Sang Uthaya Tha Ki Sar Yaad Aaya.” ( I was about to Stone Majnoon for his madness but suddenly I thought about my wrongdoings and I dropped the stone. emphasis mine ) We all have to come forward to do something for the overhauling of our government schools. These are the schools where our children are admitted without any discrimination of class and status. Most of us are products of these schools. But what has made us to ridicule the same schools today need a serious thinking. There are varied reasons for this metamorphosis. We have become too self centric to think about the poor brethren of our society. We are too comfortable with the admission of our own children in costly private schools to give even a second thought towards a Govt school where poorest of poor are being taught.
We are living in an interdependent social system. No part of this system succeeds or fails without the involvement of other parts.The enthusiasm which present Education Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Nayeem Akhtar has generated is good omen for all of us .It is opportune time for all and sundry to look into some issues of Govt Education Department requiring immediate attention. Firstly accountability should be ensured at each level.From Commissioner Secretary to peon everyone must be made accountable for his or her duties. There should be checks and balances applied in this regard. Proper mechanism should be put in place to ensure better performance at each level. Secondly govt school buildings should be made as attractive as possible. Unfortunately the buildings of Govt schools are constructed in haphazard manner. There is no symmetry. Let these schools be reconstructed with a touch of aesthetic taste. Let all our schools be properly fenced. Let all our schools have a laboratory, library and a playground. Thirdly rationalisation of teaching staff should be taken up seriously. Although department took some initiatives in this regard but nothing happened on ground. How come we expect miracles from one or two teachers who have to teach all the subjects in a primary school. Why should some influential teacher be a burden on our State exchequer while refusing to work in such schools. What is government afraid of? Fourthly employment and promotion should be done through proper process. The biggest mistake committed by the present dispensation was the announcement of new recruitment policy wherein PSC and SSRB were supposed to be sidelined. God forbid if this policy is implemented then merit will be the first causality. We need merit based work force instead of district based blue eyed persons. Moreover promotion should be based on performance. If in other departments one is required to qualify PSC to get promoted to next level why not in this department too? Fifthly Govt schools must be given some autonomy with regard to admission and detention. Why should a Govt school be forced to admit every child, no matter whether he is mentally sound or not, no matter whether he wants to study or not, no matter whether his parents want him to study or not. Moreover why can’t a Govt school be allowed to disqualify a student who always abuses, fights or diesn’t come to school at all. Further why can’t we have a proper examination system in place of novel CCE which stops a Govt school to fail a student upto class 10th. Even they can’t be detained in class 10th Board Exams.
Then if they fail the helpless teacher is put to task. Sixthly there should be regular refresher courses for our teachers and lecturers. They should not be trained by a selected lot who are there only on Safarish basis and not on merit basis. Teachers should be trained regularly at Govt College of Education Srinagar and lecturers should be given refresher trainings in their respective subjects by JNU and DU faculty members. After all proper training and knowledge of modern pedagogy is need of the hour. Seventhly and finally there should be no fresh opening and upgrading of Govt schools. Vote bank politics has already done much harm to infrastructural and employment side of this ailing department. Let the existing schools flourish first before we go for further construction of so called schools in riverbanks and graveyards.Let’s hope all these points are addressed by the humble soft spoken Nayeem. True he can’t do everything of his own.We all have to come forward to contribute our bit to infuse fresh vigour in this most vital subsystem of our society. Let’s honestly accept the reality that our children pass the exams not only due to a particular school but also due to our utmost attention, our child’s hard-work and our huge investment . Let’s at least invest some attention towards our nearby Govt school.