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FORUM
Q: What should state governments do to promote
school education?

This is the first instalment of readersí response

Policy makers need to learn

Promoting school education is foremost a responsibility of the general public; the governmentís duty comes only second. Itís only when the people press policy makers that action is taken. Since most government servants believe that they are the served, itís stupid to expect a change. They should be made to realise their duties, and teachers should be capable of carrying out their task. Itís the responsibility of the parents to monitor that this is being done. Discipline is imperative and so is the learning environment. New schools should be in green surroundings and the existing campuses should be made lush green. Making the primary education free wonít help; the only thing the government should do is to make the masses realise the importance of basic knowledge in life. The task is easy, but itís often poorly executed. These so-called bearers of power should be told that itís the people who have bestowed this power upon them.

RANJEET SINGH, Chandigarh

Reward teachers serving in backward areas

School education in states is directly linked with poverty, and is the sole weapon against it. In this populous nation, where life is difficult even with education, there is no hope without it. People in the middle income group are able to send their children to English-medium schools, but the poor, especially in villages, still bank upon government schools for educating their children. Only a few government schools have proper basic infrastructure like drinking water, electricity, furniture, toilets and proper buildings. That is why the dropout rate in these schools has gone up, while numbers continue to swell in private schools, to which the poor have no access. There is an urgent need to raise the standard of government schools and check the mushrooming of teaching shops. It's important to infuse social spirit in everyone for quality education. Teachers serving in the backward areas should get some incentive.

RAJESH SHARMA, Jalandhar Cantonment

Raise the standard of govt schools

Ask our educated citizens if they would like to send their kids to a government school, and not a single person would answer in the affirmative. If the state governments want to promote primary education, they better begin with changing this stereotype that government schools are not good. Teachers these days are in this profession for job security and not because they want to contribute towards building a better society. The solution lies in bringing a radical change in the education culture and making teachers and the other staff more accountable. Awareness programmes promoting primary education in remote areas will be a welcome step. For years, there have been debates on this issue, but time has now come for some action. Invite kids to a great learning experience in government schools by offering them elevated education standards and a healthy environment.

SANAM SHARMA, Melbourne, Australia

II

Education should be considered not a money-spinning industry, but a noble cause. We call our schools temples of learning and our most potent weapons in the war on illiteracy. In the past, the main sources of education were government-aided schools, but now the craze is for modern/model schools that are mushrooming only in cities, with villages remaining ignored. The Ministry of Human Resource should renew the old education policy and give the state governments a free hand in framing own dynamic new education policies. The policy should stress on upgrading government schools rather than controversial decisions like shutting schools where there arenít many students. The government should launch awareness drives to restore the faith that the people had in its schools. All government schools need urgent financial assistance for maintaining just the basic infrastructure. Postings under pressure are not helping their cause. Some part of the revenue raised from taxes should go to government schools.

SIMMI MOHINDRU, Jalandhar City

Make target-based plans

The level of development of a nation is directly proportional to its literacy rate. With the percentage of the literates in India being only 60, we have a lot of catching up to do, if we aspire to be among the developed nations by 2020. We should make every effort to achieve 100 per cent literacy. The state governments have before them the gigantic task of promoting primary education; these states should begin by upgrading government schools in rural areas. This is possible only if teachers in these schools are adequately compensated and their performance is regularly assessed. Incentives will have to come with disincentives. The mid-day meal programme should be made more lucrative by offering different items in the meal and the dropout rate should be checked through proper counselling for both students and parents. India will benefit, if her state governments adopt a target-based strategy for implementing policies.

RAJIV BHALLA, Chandigarh

Deal with rural-urban divide

School education has two aspectsórural and urbanócoping with conflicting mediums of instruction. The state government should satiate the urban needs with English-medium education and Punjabi or Hindi can be an effective medium of instruction in rural schools. The idea is to strengthen the strengths and weaken the weaknesses. Investment in the educational sector should be left to private enterprises, but the Education Department should retain powers to deal with incompetent teachers. The image of government schools has to be changed by bringing a new work culture in there. Giving incentives to good teachers will be a good idea. Teachers must be given on-job training for better results. The panchayats should be asked to allocate some self-generated funds to the village schools. Nothing is good, if better is possible. The state government should create a monitoring mechanism and shutting down of schools should be selective.

HARPREET SINGH, HARJEET KAUR, Ludhiana

Spend more for quality education

Promoting only school education will not be sufficient; promoting quality education is more necessary. Education is the first step towards progress and school education forms a strong base for higher education. Without quality school education, there cannot be quality higher studies. To promote quality school education, the state governments should increase expenditure on educational developments; more government schools should be opened and more qualified teachers should be recruited in schools. Schools opened in residential areas will have to be derecognised and eligibility criteria for recognition will have to be toughened. Our politicians will have to realise that education is not business.

ROHIT SHARMA, Amritsar

Take all suggestions seriously

The state governments should take the entire responsibility for promoting quality education up to class VIII. The authorities concerned should take seriously all suggestions for improving the ground situation in schools. The state governments will have to make arrangements for appropriate premises and all basic necessities for running schools. Teachers and non-teaching personnel will be better, if the Staff Selection Commission appoints them. Private institutions may run their schools subject to conditions, but the syllabi should be common. Health education and sport should be incorporated in the curriculum and teaching of one regional language, besides Hindi and English, should be made compulsory. A national-level autonomous body should administer education from the middle standard onwards and the state governments should only ensure that schools have good buildings and all basic facilities, like a regular supply of water and electricity.

ABU ZAFAR, Delhi

Give free books instead of meals

School education is in a mess, especially in Punjab. There are only a few schools where the staff room is full. Nearly 500 schools have just two or three teachers, including the principal, and nearly 150 schools have no teacher at all. The government should foremost recruit teachers in all schools, keeping in view the number of students. Secondly, instead of giving the mid-day meal to the children, it would be better if the government provided them with free books and stationery. There should also be a good number of rooms in schools, besides fresh drinking water and electricity. Stern punishment should be given to teachers whose students fail year after year, and students and their parents should also not be spared for playing foul and cheating during examinations. We need a good base for our children in case India has to compete with the developed nations.

R. D. BHARDWAJ NOORPURI, New Delhi

Hold teachers accountable

Since the formative years of the child are spent there, foremost attention should be given to the quality of education in schools, particularly government schools, where regular inspection will go a long way in improving the situation. All vacant posts of schoolteacher should be filled immediately, after which these teachers should undergo incessant training and be not transferred when the school is in session. More schools should be opened on the lines of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas. Scholarships, free uniform and books should be given to meritorious and poor students right from class I. All incompetent teachers and those above the age of 50 should be retired. School principals and teachers should be held accountable for poor performances in board examinations.

RUPINDERJEET PANDWALA, Dera Bassi

Abolish reservation, restrict fee

Inefficient teachers ushered by the scourge of reservation cannot ignite the minds of our children. They have blocked the avenues of intelligent and deserving teachers. Is it not a folly to spend crores of rupees on improving education system without removing the root of the problem? Is it also not strange to know that successive state governments have never paid any attention to the ever-increasing fees in private schools? These institutions continue to exploit parents. No fee restriction has ever been imposed on private schools.

Dr JAGBIR SINGH KAHLON, Ludhiana

Give real education, not mere literacy

For proper development, our country needs real education and not mere literacy through the 3Rs (read, write, recite) and the 3Ls (look, listen and learn from TV). Grants for education should no more be treated social expenditure, but an important investment, as itís a growth indicator. Under the New Education Policy (1986) there is no justification for increasing the number of years of school education without introducing vocational education. The 10+2+3 system merely reduced the waiting period for the unemployed and the increased schooling has only reduced the working life in India. No one can enter the job market at the age of 18 now. If we take into consideration the waiting period, accidents, diseases and the dropout rate, no one can enter this market even by the age of 30. Cutting down of the retirement age to 58 has further reduced the working life to 28 years, while earlier it was 42 years. This will lead to another long chapter of corruption and nepotism. Framing education policy calls for manpower planning and looking at our employment policy. Education and literacy are different; and commercialisation is another story.

Prof M. M. GOEL, Kurukshetra

Synchronise education, infrastructure

The framers of the Constitution have emphasised the need for quality education for all. There is an Education Ministry at the Centre and in each state. Stalwarts of the Congress party like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Rani Amrit Kaur have been Education Ministers, but there hasnít been any sincere effort for ensuring quality in education. Time has come for education to get as much funds as we allocate for defence. We have a war to fight, a war against illiteracy. Sainik Schools, envisioned to be nurseries for the armed forces, have become far too costly for the common man. Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas that have reached village children have no funds to maintain the infrastructure. The failed experiment of Dashmesh Academy at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab is all well known. The experiment has failed for want of funds. The state government has time till March 31 to save it. The Finance Minister, in his Budget speech, has said that India is not a poor country, but she is poor in many respects, including literacy. Clearly, even our best schools have failed us. Education and infrastructure need to be synchronised in all schools for equal opportunities later.

ONKAR SINGH RIAR, Nevada, USA

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