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April 3, 2009

School education

Though much is being said about the improvement of school education in recent times, especially after the launching of the Sarva Shiksha Abhijan Mission, the real picture continues to be one in stark contrast. The statistics revealed by the annual Assessment, Survey, Evolution and Research (ASER) are extremely disturbing, and they put a serious question mark over the manner in which education is being imparted to our schoolchildren. As much as 50 per cent of the Class-II students in Assam do not know the numbers between 10 and 99, while over 60 per cent of the Class-III students cannot solve simple arithmetic problems like subtraction. The findings of the survey, however, are not totally unexpected, given that all along our thrust has been on increasing the enrolment level rather than on qualitative aspects of education like improving the quality of teaching. Even on the enrolment front, there has been only a marginal increase of one per cent in the students in the age group 6-14, with government schools recording a drop of two per cent. It is a fact that various educational projects, including Sarva Shiksha, are primarily content with enrolling more students to meet their targets and devote little towards ensuring that the enrolled students get quality education. Unless we recognise the fact that greater enrolment does not necessarily lead to qualitative improvements, the prevailing situation is unlikely to change for the better.

While the deterioration of the higher educational scenario in the State invariably attracts a lot of attention, the sphere of school education, too, needs to be treated as a high-priority area. The ills afflicting our school education are far from one-dimensional, and there is an urgent need for adopting an integrated approach. Motivating students from poor and unprivileged sections, and also their parents to send their wards to school is always a tough proposition. If properly implemented, the Mid-Day Meal scheme could have turned out to be a big motivator for poor children to attend school but its progress has been throttled by mismanagement and some inherent defects in planning. Then, the all-important issue of ensuring quality education to the students must be treated in the urgency it deserves. The complacent and lackadaisical attitude of our government teachers is largely responsible for this abysmal level of learning that the students are subjected to. Teachers’ training apart, we also need a mechanism that fixes some sort of responsibility and accountability on the school authorities for poor performance of students. ASSAM TRIBUNE

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