Reforming the School Education System in J&K

Ashok Sharma
Education System plays an important role in the development of a nation.An effective Education System is the one which is futuristic,encourages research, ignites spark for gaining knowledge and most importanly, is student centred.It must have well defined aims and objectives and it should clearly specify the ways and means to realise these objectives.
With the implementation of NEP 2020, the role and responsibility of teachers has assumed great significance. In the prevailing situation, a large number of schools, especially, in hilly and far flung areas,are facing the problem of shortage of teaching staff. Recently, there has been a lot of hue and cry over the recent transfers of teaching staff including teachers, masters,lecturers etc as a result of which, some schools were left short-staffed. Even some PRI members too joined the protest demonstrations demanding adequate staff in the schools falling in the regions represented by them. For moulding students into patriotic, law abiding and responsible citizens and enabling them to face life in the coming years effectively,it is imperative that they are educated in holistic manner. First, there is need to fill all posts of teaching staff, especially in the far flung areas. Lecturers and teachers selected on the basis of RBA/ALC category must be compulsorily posted for a minimum of seven years in the RBA /ALC locality on the basis of which they are selected. There ought to be a rational transfer policy, mandating every teacher/ HOI to serve in far flung areas for a minimum period of five-ten years during their service. PRIs must be actively involved in the conduct of educational activities in rural areas. Moreover, Chief Education Officers and Zonal Education Officers must be vested with powers to rationalise teaching staff in the schools under their jurisdiction.
During around four decades of my service in the School Education Department, I have found, to my surprise, that some lecturers who had no student in their subject to teach in the 11th & 12th classes, continued to be posted in those schools for years while students in that particular subject were left untaught in another school where there were quite a large number of students of that particular subject but no lecturer in that subject. So rationalisation of staff is the need of hour and it must be effected every year.Then, It is said that as is the Head, so is the institution. The Head of an institution has an important role to play in running the institution efficiently, providing quality education to the students and ensuring their all round development. So all Heads of institution, on promotion/ appointment,must be imparted rigourous Induction Level training to aquaint them with the latest trends in education and equip them with administrative, academic and leadership skills so as to run the instituition effectively and achieve the set goals. Moreover, to head an institution in an effective manner, is not everybody’s cup of tea. So it is better if an interview is conducted before promotion, to assess whether the official to be promoted as HOI, deserves/desires to be placed as Head of Institution or not. Our students are the future custodions of our nation and we can’t afford to palce their future in the hands of officers who are incompetent, poorly motivated and ill equipped for the said job.
The teachers have the onerous responsibility to achieve the set objectives and minimum learning outcomes. For this purpose, it is imperative that they are highly motivated and properly equipped with necessary skills and adequate knowledge to be imparted to the students.Therefore, they ought to be imparted training periodically to update their knowledge and skills. Moreover, their energy and talent should be properly channelised. It must be made mandatory for every teacher to prepare daily lesson plan, get it approved by the HOI and then implement in the classroom situation.Every teacher, including lecturers, must compulsorily take at least four periods of forty minutes duration every day.
Some lecturers, especially teaching Humanities, take only two periods (one for 11th & the other for 12th) and remain idle for the other four periods( if the school has six periods).They must be actively involved in supervising project work, library work and reading /writing skills etc of the students.Recently the Government has also issued orders mandating the Principal/ Headmaster to take at least two periods of the subject of their choice and that lecturers will have to teach the 9th and the 10th classes too. The Government has also ordered hiring of Cluster Resource Coordinators (CRCs) in various streams in the Hr. Sec. Schools for the current session. It will solve the issue of shortage of staff in the Higher Secondery schools but what about the short staffed Middle and High schools? Again, only rationalisation seems to be the only viable solution to cope up with deficieny of staff in schools. Private tuition, despite being banned for Government teachers, many teachers and lecturers still resort to this practice under the very nose of the Government / law enforcing authorities.This ban needs to be implemented in letter and spirit and defaulters heavily penalised. Attachments of teaching/ non teaching staff in School Education Department and other Departments, if any, should be cancelled forthwith. Similarly, HOI or teaching staff of schools should not be deputed for duties such as conduct of surveys, preparation of electoral rolls and other election related duties. Education should be the first priority of every government and deputation of teaching staff, especially from understaffed schools, adversely affects the teaching learning activities of students.
Cocurricular activities play an important role in sublimating the instincts of students. They do help in channelising their surplus energy. But excess of everything is bad and so is the excessive importance given to cocurricular activities in schools these days.Calender of activities under guidance and counselling cell in the Director School Education, Jammu is issued besides other activities of different nature. Not only this, activities are also ordered to be performed by the District Administration too.The schools are ordered to organise rallies, symposia etc on topics such as Pollution,ill effects of drugs, importance of traffic rules, needfor afforestation etc almost every week at the cost of their studies.All this is done at the cost of academics which surely, is not a wise proposition. Focus on academics, minimum learning outcomes, time devoted in the library, laboratory,etc can help a lot in developing curiosity in the students and ignite quest for learning. The activities extraneous to the main job of a teacher, such as mid day meal, construction of buildings/ toilets under various schemes, conduct of surveys, preparation of electroral rolls etc should not be entrusted to a teacher. A teacher should have sufficient free time to focus on his prime job of providing quality education which is the basis of the future of the students and the future of our country. Transfers of teaching and non teaching employees streamlines the education system and makes it more vibrant and robust. Though online transfers have ushered in an era of transparency, there are still some loopholes.
Rules and norms of transfers are openly flouted by those who frame them. Officials and officers on the verge of retirement and those who or whose dependents are suffering from life consuming disease need to be considered with a compassionate bent of mind and transferred to the institutions near their homes.Teachers must be transferred on the basis of strength and need of the students. It is not uncommon to find schools with only Science teachers or Teachers of Humanities on the staff with the result that students suffer a lot.In the recently issued transfer orders of teachers,masters and lecturers,set norms have been violated in many cases with the result that some transferees serving in Zone 3/4 have been posted in Zone 3/4 while others from Zone1 to Zone 2, or Zone 2 to Zone1.The transfer orders, of many teachers/ masters have been modified and posted in urban or surrounding schools as a result of which many schools in the rural areas have become understaffed.
There should be a complete ban on the use of Mobile phones for the teachers and the students during the working hours in schools,except when necessary. It has been observed that though mobile phones are generally banned for the students in schools, there are teachers who spend hours on watching and posting messages, poems, videos and gossiping on their phones during the working hours This leads to the wastage of precious time that could otherwise be used for useful activities. Complete ban on the use of mobile phones be imposed on the supervisory staff too during the conduct of the examination except the Superintendent to receive and send important information to the exam conducting agency, to check the menace of copying.Mobile phones must be kept in the custody of the HOI and the teacher must be allowed to use it only when it is absolutely necessary.
Our students, especially at the Secondary and Hr. Sec. level need exposure to choose their field of interest and passion. Therefore, it is imperative that guest lectures by serving/ retired officers from various Departments such as Health & Medical Education, Agriculture, Science & Technology, School/ Higher Education, Civil/ Mechanical Engineering/ Tourism / Hospitality, Skill Development, Employment etc are arranged in schools so that the students are aquainted with the basic qualifications and functioning of these Departments and thus,choose their own vocation wisely. Morever, successful industrialists, enterpreuneurs, selfemployed youth too must be invited to motivate the students for self employment.
Education must receive the greatest attention of the Government as it is the greatest asset and investment of every citizen, particularly of the young students who will be called to shoulder the responsibilty of running the country in the years to come. Therefore, it is necessary that the lofty goals formulated are realised by making the School Education Department more robust, goal oriented and accountable.
( The writer is Sr. Lect. ( retd) from SED, Govt. of J&K)