This is the fifth and final article in the form of a letter to all the stakeholders in the Education sector. The author is Director-Principal of Billabong High International School, Thane.
Dear Minister, I write this letter to you with much hope and expectation. I hope you will give me a patient hearing. Your position is one of both power and responsibility. Gen Z looks up to you as THE person who can get them out of this morass of mediocrity that education has become. All of us here connected with education in some capacity or the other look to you for some positive change in the academic arena. I am at this point of time speaking strictly about school education.
Sir, you have the opportunity to shape the destiny of the entire youth of our state. Education, as we all know is a concurrent subject and the many private players in the field are in reality sharing the state’s responsibility. We are your partners in education. Kindly treat us as such.
Government schools are usually built on state land and are run by the state while private schools are owned by private individuals or trusts and run totally without state finance or aid. We need to bear this in mind when forms and other data is being collected. You cannot apply the same yardstick for the two sets of schools. True, there should be accountability and rules to ensure smooth and effective functioning. If rules are thoughtfully framed then implementation becomes easy. Do reprimand the schools if they are guilty of misdemeanour.
Teachers, irrespective of whichever Board they may prepare students for, or whatever type of school they work in(private or government aided),are concerned about the future of their students. They take pride in their pupils ‘achievements, and are not always concerned about their income. True income is important, but more than that it is the respect and dignity that is connected with being a GURU. Please give them back that dignity. We constantly hear of teachers in government schools not getting their salaries for several months. How can people survive under such circumstances? They, then resort to giving private tuitions and some teachers may indulge in other malpractices. I am not condoning these acts but they need to survive.
Teachers should be made responsible for academic functions and kept out of clerical duties. They should not be enlisted for Census duties, election duties and other such jobs that can be done by an unskilled person. How does one handle a class of 30 or more students when the teacher is away on some duty or the other? When asked to do these sort of duties often and sometimes after school hours you are belittling their capability as knowledge facilitators and eating into their personal and family time. This is even more important because the bulk of the teaching force comprises women; who, whether we accept it or not still continue to be the prime caregivers in their families. This then paves the way for court cases filed by the private schools against these non-academic duties thrust on them. This portrays the government in a poor light.
Teaching is an academic transaction and must involve intellectual and emotional elements. We must attract the best brains into this field. Unfortunately, things do not seem to be working that way. Why can we not have an Indian Education Service at the state and national levels? Let candidates appear for an examination, on the lines of the IAS/IFS and get selected to the post. These examinations should be of two kinds— a paper test to measure their content knowledge and another that tests communication skills and methodology of teaching. This will ensure that the right candidate is selected for the job. I know it is easy for me to talk, and you face a lot of pressure from all quarters. But Sir, we need to start somewhere if we must clean the Augean stables.
Only that state whose youth are gainfully employed and whose brains are challenged to better themselves, can succeed. Young people have great ideas and a lot of energy. We need to make sure that they are kept occupied in creative pursuits. This can only be done by teachers who are motivated to challenge themselves every day. And again only such teachers are respected by the students. When handled by mediocre teachers the students have neither respect for the teacher nor do they develop interest in the subject. They go through the motion of coming to school but do not work. This is a waste of national resource. Can you imagine a future filled with aimless youth who want to earn money, but possess no skill or know-how to take up a specific job. This leads to frustration and often causes them to go astray. There is so much more I can say but for a start I think this will suffice. You have an entire army of teachers who are with you to work for the betterment of education .
Set up a Think Tank of qualified and experienced people who are forward-looking. Let them, under your expert guidance, set up a blueprint for the way forward and see how it goes. If it does not work, we can always go back to the method being followed. I am sure that with a futuristic style of thinking you will give it some thought. Let us at least try before giving up.
Yours in Education,Ranjini Krishnaswamy
Author: Dr. Ranjini Krishnaswamy
This Article was published in the DNA Newspaper (Mumbai Edition) on 15th January 2017. You can read it here.