Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan is seeking the support of parents to improve the quality of school education in the state and rescue it from the clutches of an “education mafia" – many of them politicians who control prestigious institutions in various fields of study.
In an exclusive interview recently to Hindustan Times, Chavan said he was “very disturbed’’ about the quality of education in Maharashtra and would start a campaign soon to involve parents. Though the state had a large number of educational institutions, the levels of teaching and learning were very poor in schools across Maharashtra. “A secondary school student can barely read a second grade text, an SSC pass teacher is hired to teach even higher secondary levels when there are ample number of PhD degree holders waiting to get such jobs,’’ he pointed out.
This happened mostly because schools were run by vested interests who doled out favours to their own people, Chavan said adding that this also led to corruption in the field of education. “Salaries of teachers today are quite good. But then a particular unqualified person employed in a school will happily dole out half his salary as kickback to the person offering him that job for the rest of his life. No wonder rural and poorer parents are seeking admissions to English medium private schools by the hundreds and that adds to the premium on such quality education.’’
Chavan said that very soon, perhaps from the next academic year, the Maharashtra government would insist on a basic level of qualification for all school teachers.
“They will either have to be PhDs or they will have to compulsorily clear the NET-SET exams.’’ NET- SET are the national and state eligibility tests for teachers. At the moment there was hardly a teacher at the primary and secondary school levels who had passed these tests, the chief minister said.
“We have won the battle of quantity in education but quality is abysmally low. We have to train our rural children to be able to compete at IIT and IFS/IAS levels. Salaries of teachers are very high in the state. So why should merit be compromised?’’
Chavan said providing quality education was “among the most difficult challenges’’ for the government. “I would like to do it all in a day but it is a battle that has to be won gradually.’’
Educational institutions in the state are largely controlled by politicians both in the government and the opposition. So any reformist measures run up against these education barons.