Special Research on Diagnostic Analysis of Elementary Education Scheme in Rural Punjab by Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies
Amritsar, 18 October (Nirpakh Awaaz Bureau): City based Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies just conducted a research study that has been accepted by the National Institute of Transformation of India ( NITI Aayog) of Government of India, New Delhi. The study is conducted a research team led by its Director Dr Gursharan Singh Kainth. The main objective of the study titled as Diagnostic Analysis of Elementary Education Scheme in Rural Punjab “was to examine the status of elementary education in rural Punjab and what were the shortcomings in the implementations of UEE. The study revealed that education is an important indicator of inclusive growth for an economy and a critical input for investment in human capital. It is indeed a fundamental right of every child to receive at least the basic education. India is in the process of transforming itself into a developed nation. Yet we have 350 million people who need education. The first major International affirmation on Education for All was at World Conference on Education in Jomtien (Thailand) in 1990 where 155 countries including India resolved to Universalize Primary Education and significantly reduce illiteracy by 2000. The conference adopted the vision that all children have the fundamental right to basic education. Later in the World Education Forum at Dakar Senegal (2004) 164 countries including India reaffirmed the goal of Education for All as laid out at Jomtien and other International conferences. It urged Governments to achieve quality basic education for all by 2015 or earlier with emphasis on girl’s education. This was followed by the UN Millennium Development Goal 2000 which binds countries to ensure that all children any/everywhere must complete primary schooling by 2015.
The Right to Basic Education is spelled out explicitly in Article 26 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Struggle to achieve goal of Universal Elementary Education in India began during the colonial period led by the rulers of some of the princely States and National leadership involved in independent movement. Yet planned efforts in real terms with concerted policy of mass education that ensures Elementary Education for all become a reality only after country got independence in 1947. In 1950, the Indian Constitution had resolved in Article 45 under the Directive Principles of State Policy, “Free and Compulsory Education to all Children up to the age of fourteen years”. Since then, every five year Plan including, the National Policy on Education (1968), the revised National Policy on Education (1992) have attempted to refine India’s efforts at Universal Elementary Education. There have been important Constitutional amendments as well to boost Elementary Education. The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1976 brought education into the Concurrent list and made Elementary Education the responsibility of both Central and State governments. In 2002, Government of India took another significant step by making Elementary Education a fundamental right through 86th Constitutional Amendment. In 2009, India further passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2009). Regrettably where we are now? Despite all these significant achievements, the goal of Universal Elementary Education remains elusive and far a distant dream. The learner’s achievement across the country remained unsatisfactory and far below than the expectations.
Punjab is no exception to all this: Punjab government has also taken various steps to improve educational status, but in spite of such efforts, the educational standard of government elementary schools in rural Punjab is not improving as per expectations. Besides affecting academic achievements of the bright students; the standards of education at elementary level are declining fast, apparently due to paraphernalia of constraints which causes lethargy, demotivation, lack of will and personal interests. Although number of primary schools has increased yet the enrollment of primary government schools is decreasing day by day. Study reveals a lack of infrastructure including teachers, lack of teaching aids in rural schools of Punjab and very importantly the indiscipline among the students coupled with very low standard of education.
Parents too have failed to realize the importance of education and least bother about the education of their wards. The teachers of government rural schools did not take interest in teaching due to burden of non-academic work coupled with lack of interest among the parents. Moreover government schools are dominated by socially and economically disadvantaged categories enrollment due to obvious reasons. The general category students prefer to go for private schools due to various constraints prevalent in the government schools. No doubt, overall Pupilteacher ratio in Punjab’s elementary schools has declined indicating improvement in the pupil-teacher ratio – a healthy sign of development, shortage of teachers was noticed in many of the rural schools pointing to rationalizing/redeployment of the teaching staff.
On the other hand, the government rural schools face numerous problems. And one of the constraints under RTE Act is the areas or limits of schools coupled with no detention policy. According to RTE Act, primary schools should be established within a walking distance of one km of the neighbourhood. Moreover, upper-primary schools should be established within a walking distance of 3 km of the neighbourhood. That is why enrollment in primary section has declined in spite of increased primary schools. Moreover, majority of the schools had not sufficient/good infrastructure. Need of the hour is to merge primary and upperprimary schools into Elementary Schools, which should be established within a
walking distance of 3 to 5 km of the neighbourhood. At the same time, government should provide free to and fro transport facility. By this, schools would be able to meet all its necessary requirements. It is an important step that government must take to improve quality of education. In rural government schools, old teaching methods and techniques were used. Teachers still prefer to use only Blackboards – that too restricted to teaching of Mathematics. They do not use CD’s, projectors and computers etc due to lack of knowledge about innovative techniques of teaching. Through innovative educational technology, the students can easily grab the things whatever teacher wants to convey to their students. Need of the hours is to train the exisiting staff in the use of ICT through workshop; refreher courses and seminars.
Academic performance of government rural school students was very dismal. The students were not able to answer even simple questions out of their syllabus taught to them. Moreover the children did not know how to write in Hindi, English or even in Punjabi- their very mother tongue/native language. Their
reading skill was also dull. Their learning achievements have to be improved with the adoption of new innovative ideas and techniques. Getting of first divisions by those who could just manage to pass in subjects as science and maths is a worrying trend. It is hard to digest that the students who could not
get even 5 marks in the theory exam can secure 80 to 90 per cent marks in the continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE). Education department must review the process and come out with a foolproof model. The government employees, right from the IAS officer to the peon, and public representatives get their children enrolled in government schools to improve the quality of public education. There is a lot of political interference in the functioning of our schools, resulting in rewarding of non-deserving and punishing of non-sycophants. The other cause of the deplorable condition of school education is the apathy of the government. A grievous shortage of teachers in schools has done an irreparable harm to the system. Moreover, the teachers are engaged in multifarious non-academic activities, adversely affecting the quality of teaching. We need to strengthen the government schools and lend the required financial support to the privately managed schools as well, not leaving their fate to the market forces. No detention policy just helps the government show literacy figures, without imparting actual literacy. Government school buildings, infrastructure, furniture, cleanliness and sports facilities are poorly maintained. Students coming to these schools belong to poor and illiterate families. Some come just for the mid-day meal and uniform. Since the good and bad teachers are treated on the same scale, how can quality improve? Dereliction of duty in Education Department is hardly a secret. Is not it astonishing that institutions manned by a qualified teaching fraternity and an IAS-ranked dignified administrator, with enormous buildings and provisions, stand nowhere in providing qualitative education in comparison to the not-soqualified private school managements? Sadly, most successful persons today
have had their education from private schools. Today if a teacher applies for a government job, it is only because s/he knows that the work there is less and the salary good. This is the harsh reality. They need to work hard, like the teachers of private schools.
More teachers should be appointed so that the education of students do not effect adversely. Rigorous Pre-service/in-service training should be arranged for the teachers for the adoption of the new teaching technology on the pattern of NCERT. The new teachers should be appointed only after having training about how to teach in class. Moreover the non-academic burden of teachers should be reduced so that they can concentrate on teaching only and improve the student’s academic capabilities. For reducing the teacher’s burden, non-teaching staff should be appointed – may be on a rotational basis. Moreover, sweepers, peons, librarians etc should also be appointed in schools – may be on part-time or voluntary basis. Help of village Panchayats can be taken in the matter. For improving the concentration level of students necessary emphasis should be put on the health of children by giving healthy food in mid day meal programme. Moreover, sports competitions should be arranged. The confidence levels of students can be improved through debates and discussions. Their readingwriting and speaking skills should be improved which is also a part of education. The unfinished task in terms of enrollment and out-of-school children (continuous long absence) is a challenging one. Rigorous efforts are needed to bring and retain them under the umbrella of education system. Disaggregated planning with block as its unit may help to identify disadvantage groups and areas. The community, in this direction, can play a vital role in bringing and retaining unenrolled children to schools. Micro planning exercises in this regard and development of village education plans may be useful. For creating the awareness among parents, help of NGOs can be taken. Some of children come to school only to take benefit of various freebies/schemes and mid day meal. Rather some of the parents’ also demanded/ suggested/proposed pocket money for their wards. Government should take necessary steps for awaking the people about the importance of education in one’s life.
Government should also pay whole-hearted attention to Early Childhood Development to fully develop childhood potential as it could lead to more peaceful societies. Return on investment data show that focusing resources on supporting young children is a “no-brainer”. In addition to the economic argument, a burgeoning field is growing around the effect of early childhood education on social cohesion and peace building. That can boost up the level of education in Punjab. Majority of teachers opined that children should be admitted to elementary schools only after attending government owned Anganwadi centres
or any other play pen schools. Access to primary education was universalized through flagship programmes of Government. However, despite this, a few children are still deprived of elementary education due to inability of their parents to send them to schools because of their poor economical status coupled with educated unemployment in Punjab. For these parents, sending their children to school means not only incurring extra financial burden but also depriving them of some money which their children would have earned otherwise by doing labour. That being the attitude of economically backward parents, need of the hours is to motivate the parents to bring their children to school. Several elementary level students scurried around collecting disposable plates, glasses, spoons and other trash. Numerous eight to thirteen year olds (sometimes in their uniforms in the unmistakable maroon sweaters that are part of the school uniform in Punjab) were working as waste-pickers-cum-waiters in various marriage palaces and other wedding ceremonies. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 in occupations such as the above. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, mandates free and compulsory education for all children between the age of 6 to 14, but there was no voice of protest or concern to check this malpractice. Apparently, the total neglect of the government rural schools by the successive governments by not providing adequate number of teachers as well as infrastructural facilities has led to the collapse of the elementary education in the rural area of Punjab. In order to ensure quality education in government schools, emphasis should be on teacher’s training, motivations and on basic issues related to school management. It is a very serious matter and state must find solution to the problem otherwise state will be Educated Illiterates in reality.