The State government is set to introduce the Unique Identification number (Aadhaar)-based student count to replace the mandatory sixth day head count in government schools at the start of every academic year.
This may save the situation where the education department officials are often taken for a ride by many government schools. The schools in their desperation to save teachers’ posts bring in students just for the day of inspection.
However, the exodus of students from government and aided schools to unaided schools has not been addressed. Inviting fresh admissions could have deterred the teaching community from fabricating numbers.
V. Karthikeyan, former director of Higher Secondary Education and chairman of the SCERT textbook preparation committee that recommended new social science textbooks for class IX and X a couple of years back, blamed the situation on the loss of trust in the government education sector and poor teaching standards.
“That trust deficit dates back to the emergence of a middle class that held the perception that education bought at a cost was of better quality. This started in the 1970s, as reflected in the State’s first unaided school that was started in 1972,” he said.
The cardinal rule that the quality of education depends on the quality of teachers suffers in the present system where graduates are qualified for teaching at high school level. “While they may be qualified they need not be competent. For instance, the social science textbooks at the high school level deals with subjects, including history, geography, economics, political science, sociology, and Islamic history. The problem is that a teacher graduated in one of these subjects may not have learned the rest of the subjects as subsidiaries but are forced to teach them in a classroom as a result of which the quality suffers,” Mr. Karthikeyan said.
B. Iqbal, former Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University and an academician, vouch for the quality of State syllabus and teachers. It was the perception about government schools among the middle class that needed to be corrected, he said.
“When strikes like the recent one by government employees disrupt the functioning of government schools, the unaided schools function uninterrupted. That only goes on to reaffirm that perception. Teachers and students’ organisations will do well to adopt a stand that effects a change in perception,” he said.
Mr. Iqbal didn’t spare the unaided English medium schools starting from kindergarten, which he regarded as the flag bearers of the concept of self-financing in education, holding them responsible for a generation proficient neither in Malayalam nor English. “Everyone is making a hue and cry over the neglect of Malayalam but the fact is that our English is in an even more pitiable state. Even the Malayali nurses who dominated the nursing sector abroad are beginning to lose out to nurses from Philippines who are more proficient in English,” he said.
Former Education Minister M.A. Baby said there were many government schools across the State that have recorded increase in students’ intake while blaming the average Malayali’s superstition about English speaking skills for the poor state of the public education sector. He cited unchecked allotment of unaided schools, diversion of Sarva Shiksha Abhyan funds, and the government failure in providing timely infrastructure support to government schools. Mr. Baby said it was the previous LDF government that took a policy decision to sanction teacher’s posts in schools registering an increase in student’s intake. Till then posts were not allowed in the name of protected teachers elsewhere who didn’t bother to join these schools. “Ideally there should be a common, quality education system so that students passing out held a common perception about social values. We are creating a class difference by having different education systems,” Mr. Baby said.