In spite of a good literacy rate, Himachal Pradesh still lacks proper educational infrastructure, resulting in an increasing number of students shifting from government schools to private institutions.
At the school, college and university levels, students are bearing the brunt of inadequate infrastructure, compounded by shortage of teaching staff.
While the schools closed down by the previous Bharatiya Janata Party gover nment due to low enrolment became a rallying point for the Congress in the last assembly elections, there has been not much perceptible change in the situation, even with the Virbhadra Singh-led government assuring free travel for students and skill development allowance for youth swishing to pursue any vocational course.
Recent data available with the education department shows that of the total more than 10,000 primary schools in the state, 153 did not get any admission in the new session, while more than 160 had less than five students. Statistics also revealed that nearly 50 schools have only one or two students, putting unnecessary burden on the state exchequer.
Recently, the dropout rate in Himachal in secondary class was calculated as 8.4% each for boys and girls, while in Class 11, it was 10.31% for boys and 9.02% for girls.
The situation in higher education is also the same as last year, Himachal Pradesh had implemented the Rashtriya Uchhatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), under which students have the liberty to choose the subjects of their choice. In spite of intense opposition, the system was implemented and most students hailed the decision.
However, the shortage of teaching staff in colleges prevented students from choosing what to study, with the government, which was defending the RUSA, unable to explain the shortage.
In Himachal colleges, there is one teacher per 51 students, while according to the University Grants Commission, there should be one teacher for 40 students.
300 POSTS OF COLLEGE TEACHERS VACANT
More than 300 posts of college teachers are lying vacant across the state. Twelve new colleges are expected to start functioning from this session, and the staff shortage may hit them too.
While the education department is blaming the poll code for the vacancies, teacher and student associations are blaming the government and university for implementing the new system in haste.
College teachers’ association president RK Kayastha told HT that basic requirements should have been fulfilled before adopting the new system. “If there is a staff shortage, what use is the credit choice to the student,” he said.
Retired school teacher from Shimla Dharam Singh Chandel, 78, said the gover nment was placing more stress on the availability of schools than on quality education.
“If a school is closed due to fewer admissions, it becomes an issue, while a school without teachers or with only five students fails to draw the attention of people and policy makers,” he alleged.