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Issue No.: 561 | March 2014
 

The Way Ahead: Norms for Recognition

Suresh C. Sharma
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Norms for Recognition

Recognition is essential to ensure reasonable and uniform standards. The norms should be based on results and not on inputs. It is a good idea to have the facilities mentioned in the Act but not feasible. Instead of improving the state of learning in Government schools, the Government has come out with transferring the responsibility to private schools which are managed by public spirited citizens and NGOs. The norms are utopian when 65% of the rural houses do not have toilet facilities. Drinking water is unheard of in villages and even in cities the quality is questionable. The rivers are heavily polluted. The sad part is that before Independence, water from wells was safe. Open space for playing fields is just not available in metro cities.  

If these schools are to comply with the regulations, the fees will have to be increased putting education beyond the reach of a large section of people who have low income and high ambitions. If the Government is still serious about the norms, adequate number of government schools with laid down norms must be ensured.

State of Learning  

The RTE Act lays down that "no child shall be required to pass any board examination till the completion of elementary education.” The annual report of NGO Pratham has revealed that class 3 students could not read books of class 1 and the knowledge of arithmetic was poor. The Programme for International Students Assessment [PISA] which tests the mathematics, science and English attainments of 15 year old students placed India 73rd out of 74 countries. The reaction of the Government was not to take part in the PISA for the next ten years. This is like breaking a thermometer instead of curing the fever. Measurement of learning is essential to judge the ability of students and the performance of teachers. The reason for abolishing the tests is said to be to remove any stress and is based on recommendation of teachers. No surprise that the teachers want to avoid the work of setting up papers and examining the answer sheets. Tests are a help to students to know their strength and weakness. Presently, the RTE Act will become an act for compulsory schooling and not for education. It helps teachers and not students. The students may or may not be detained in the class for poor performance in tests but they must be made aware of their learning ability at the end of the term.  

Government Control

It is obviously important that the Government agencies ensure correct utilization of grants. They should not interfere in admissions. It has been the lesson in UK also that official interference is an obstacle to good education. Recruitment and promotion of teachers should be done on the basis of merit. The stake holders in education are teachers, students and parents. The management of schools should largely be left to them. In cases where bureaucrats try to obtain favours for their friends or relations, exemplary punishments should be imposed on them. 

Medium of Instruction 

The political leaders and Leftists are themselves proficient in English and send their children to foreign universities for studies. They have a different prescription for the ordinary people. The choice of medium of instruction should be left to the parents and no compulsion should be exercised to encourage views of local politicians. 

Private Tuition

The Act lays down that no teacher should engage himself in private tuitions or private teaching. This is all well but misses the point as to why do children need private tuitions. Parents who desire their children to undertake medical or engineering degree invariably arrange tuitions. We can see these kids going for private tuitions after school hours. It is a reflection on the standard of teaching and learning. The correct approach should be to enhance the quality of teaching.  

Higher Studies             

Admission to class IX should be based on the result of test. Higher education, particularly in technical and medical subjects, is vital for the prosperity of the society and steps must be taken to ensure high quality of teaching from class IX onwards so as to be competitive in the world.  
    
BRIG. SURESH C. SHARMA (retd) is adviser to the telecom industry, and a
 member of the Advisory Board of Freedom First. 
Email: brigscs@gmail.com

 
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