Teaching-Learning scenario Edu Department: A Fact Check


Kashmir Magazine

TANVEER HUSSAIN WANI

 

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. It is the first step for people to gain knowledge, critical thinking, empowerment and skills they need to make the world a better place. The existence, survival and development of civilization mainly depend on education. The destiny of a nation is built and shaped in a classroom.

 

The prosperity and development of all other fields of a nation are dependent on its education system. The government of India and the government of UT of Jammu and Kashmir have taken many positive and concrete steps for the betterment of the education sector. Improvement in infrastructure, facilities like better school buildings, better water facilities, toilet facilities, ICT labs are some important steps taken by the government.

 

The government has also taken important steps to make the employees of all the departments including school education department accountable and answerable. The administrative department issued circulars and orders about removal of corrupt officials and dead wood from all departments of the union territory.

 

As such these orders are bound to be applicable to the department of school education as well. The recent communication of the Principal Secretary Department of School Education to the director school education Kashmir regarding the removal of deadwood from the department has become a topic of discussion and deliberations in the entire society right from the streets to the employees of the department, from the journalists to the corridors of power.

 

The most debatable points are the parameters that would determine and identify deadwood in the department. If the parameters are removal of corrupt officials and habitual offenders, running a personal business at the cost of their primary duty is a welcome initiative though opinions defer about the involvement of government teachers in coaching students especially during vacations. However, the enrollment and pupil-teacher ratio being set as a parameter to identify dead wood among the teaching community has resulted in lot of confusions and apprehensions in the teaching community. It needs to be discussed as well as clarified.

 

It is a fact that pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) in UT of Jammu and Kashmir is 1:10 and at a lower side in comparison to overall PTR at the national level but this low enrollment and PTR in the government schools of Jammu and Kashmir has many reasons most of which are beyond the discretion of the teaching community, so to blame only the teaching community for this and make them scapegoats is unfair as well as injustice with them.

 

The primary and the most important reason responsible for the low enrollment in government schools is the curriculum, syllabus and books being taught in government schools at the elementary level especially up to class sixth. Over the years the books prescribed by JKBOSE now SCERT are being taught at the elementary level in government schools. These books are outdated, ungraded, have poor content and quality and are a big hurdle not only in imparting quality education to the students but also in convincing the parents to admit their wards in government schools.

 

When knowledgeable parents make a comparison between these books and the books taught in private schools at the elementary level(as private institutions choose the books of their choice and also the best series available ) they straightaway come to the conclusion that the books taught in government schools are the prime and main factor responsible for the poor learning outcomes of students of government schools at the elementary level which ultimately leads to a poor result in board examinations, so they decide not to admit their wards in government schools despite the realization that these schools have highly qualified and dedicated teachers.

 

It is pertinent to mention here that the lack of kindergarten classes in government schools too is one of the reasons for the reluctance of parents to admit their wards in government schools.

 

The second important reason is the poor infrastructure of government schools. Despite the fact that the government has taken many steps to improve infrastructure and basic facilities in the schools the ground reality is that there is a large number of schools which have very poor infrastructure and in fact, in many schools poor students are taught under a naked and clear sky.

 

Most of the primary schools have two rooms and two teachers and it is practically not only impossible to accommodate or adjust students of five classes in two rooms but also for two teachers to teach five classes. The result is academic loss of students and failure to impart quality education which obviously leads to poor learning outcomes. When these two visible disadvantages are analyzed by the parents they prefer not to admit their wards in government schools

 

The third very important reason responsible for the low pupil-teacher ratio in Jammu and Kashmir is the manipulation of centrally sponsored and other schemes which have been badly manipulated by politicians, bureaucrats and officers for their vote bank, political and other selfish gains. Thousands of schools were opened by violating the prescribed feasibility and enrollment instructions from the ministry of human resource development.

 

The department was turned into an employment factory without keeping in mind the consequences of these illegal manipulations. The result was the breakdown of the system and the closure of these schools just a few years after their opening and establishment as the enrollment in most of these schools came down to zero and in many others to below ten. These schools were closed, clubbed or merged with other schools but ironically at the time of calculation of PTR, these facts are ignored and neglected.

 

The teachers engaged in these schools are not the only ones to be blamed as despite their best efforts it was practically impossible for them to maintain a healthy PTR when the schools are hardly five hundred meters apart from each other. At the same time mushrooming of private schools too was allowed by the authorities making things uglier.

 

The fourth reason is the blue-eyed culture that has remained dominant in the department. There are hundreds of schools having more than twenty or thirty teachers for just ten to fifteen students and on the other hand just 3 or 4 teachers for schools having a role of 150-200 students. There has been such a political and official grip in the department that has not allowed the department to do proper rationalization of the staff despite many orders and circulars.

 

There are scores of teachers working in offices from decades doing non-teaching jobs right from the Secretariat to zonal offices and despite an uncountable number of orders from the highest officials of the department these blue-eyed officials have never been detached from the offices but at the time of calculation of PTR, these teachers too are counted with the teachers teaching in schools at the ground level. These also include the resource group personals or teachers working at different levels like in SCERT, DIETS, as DRG’S, ZRP'S, CRP'S etc.

 

Despite the clear-cut norms of the department that the maximum tenure of these resource persons is three years. It is a bitter reality that they have been enjoying their stint for decades. An important discussion on a valid debatable point that always goes on in the teaching community is that for teachers teaching in schools result statements of previous years enrollment, leave statements are verified at the time of in-situ and other promotions but for these blue-eyed teachers working in offices such documents are not required at all.

 

If enrollment and contribution in enrollment is a parameter for identifying the deadwood then this category of teachers should be the first ones to be shown the door but as someone has rightly said, "The cat will manage but I am worried about the others" These blue-eyed and privileged teachers will be exempted as usual and may have the upper hand as well.

 

Having highlighted all these loopholes in the system, as a ground-level teacher one has to look for the measures and steps of correction as well. The steps that need to be taken by the authorities are as under

 

1) Implementation of a common uniform curriculum, syllabus and books in all government and private schools as per the recommendations of NEP 2020 to provide a fair chance of competition to the teachers as well as students of government schools in the present day competitive world.

 

2) Improvement in infrastructure and other basic facilities in government schools

 

3) Merging and clubbing of schools in such a way that will ensure that a school has a spacious building, a primary school minimum of 5 teachers and a middle school with 10 teachers. This ratio is easily achievable by the utilization of staff of merged, clubbed schools and schools with zero enrollment.

 

4) Detachment of all teachers from all offices

 

5) Proper rationalization of staff as per the need and roll of students

 

6) Replacement and rotation of resource persons at all levels

 

After taking these corrective measures the government must fix the responsibility of deliverance, imparting of quality education, improvement in roll, learning outcomes, results in board classes on the teaching community and the teachers of schools that have been closed or merged due to zero or very low enrollment should be given the chance and responsibility to improve the roll.

 

The government should make another survey after a fixed time after these steps have been taken at the ground level and then appropriate action should be taken against the non-performing ones. We as teachers too have to ensure that we continue to work with zeal, dedication and devotion to ensure that quality education is important to our students and justice is done with our prophetic profession. Let us all remember that when steps are taken in a perfectly coordinated and systematic way the distance hardly matters.

 

If the teaching community and the authorities work together with perfect coordination and understanding of the scenario in near future will be totally different

 

(The author is a teacher and president of Jammu and Kashmir General Line teacher’s forum)