Pronouncements on new initiatives in education generate only a limited confidence among the people and the functionaries alike. Over the years, practically everyone has observed how the plans and programmes launched with the best of intentions and prepared after considerable deliberations get reduced to mere ‘another failed one of the numerous schemes’. Exceptions like SSA or the Navodaya Schools may be there but the existing situation certainly requires far more extra efforts to invigorate the system than should normally be needed.
The concern is indeed relevant as so many changes have been proposed after the new government came to power in May 2009. A vigorous campaign is required to let the system understand that the exercise to seek Parliament’s approval for the enactment on the ‘Right to Education’ is indeed a sincere effort. The conditions in elementary schools across the country tell the same old story of continuous neglect, deficiencies and deprivations. Unless people are convinced that the existing system shall be improved upon, they would be fully justified in their apprehensions about the Act meeting the same fate as of the constitutional mandate of 1950 that enjoins upon the state to endeavour to provide free and compulsory education to all children till they attain 14 years of age.
People would still be willing to ignore the delay of six decades if only they are convinced that the necessary resources have been organised, the requisite political will is in evidence and the system effectively geared up. The existing scenario is certainly daunting when one picks up the prime factor, availability of an adequate number of suitable teachers and other professional functionaries in the system. Teacher absenteeism is a chronic problem in educational expansion.
Appointment of locally available persons to teach in places where qualified teachers are unwilling to go is certainly acceptable as a short-term arrangement and the same has been put to practice. Unfortunately, several States found it a resource-saving proposition and began indiscriminate recruitment of teachers everywhere on low emoluments. It is estimated that there could be around 7.72 lack untrained teachers. In addition, the vacant positions of teachers are over 12 lakhs.
The recruitment procedures generate little confidence and the system suffers the vacancy syndrome right from the primary schools to the highest professional institutions.
The situation replicates itself in the States as well. the Right to education in the real sense suffers at every stage. This is one reform that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) can initiate in its own functioning and set an example for the State governments.
In an overall climate of expansion with an alarming decline in the quality of education at practically every level, it is naturally essential to look towards instances in which the positioning of one suitable, competent, committed and honest individual at the helm of affairs makes the difference and rejuvenates the organization. The MHRD could launch a scheme of recognising institutions and individuals successful in making an effective change in spite of difficult situations and environment.
Standing monitoring mechanism could indeed be put in place to assess replicable innovations and encourage institutions and genuine and voluntary initiatives that have earned acceptance and credibility through honest efforts.
The elementary education system in general suffers from loss of credibility, systemic and societal neglect and a feeling that ‘it would just deteriorate further’ as no one is interested in bringing about any change for the better!
Educational planning often presumes that every school or college that is part of the statistics is doing its job and has the necessary support systems in place.
Things have changed drastically during the last decade. Could one have even imagined some three years ago recognised teacher preparation institutions giving degrees without any faculty, equipment, laboratory or actual training? It is happening now and everyone knows about it, except those who are responsible to ‘regulate’ the system!