Ashima is a teacher of English at a government school in a village in Jalandhar, but ‘grammere’ proved too ‘difficut’ when she was asked for feedback on the ‘sylabbus’ that she teaches. She was one of 500 teachers of six main subjects called for a meeting by Punjab education minister Daljit Singh Cheema here on Wednesday over the poor performance of their students in Class 10.
“I am unwell, sir,” Ashima told Cheema about why she could not spell correctly. Of the 32 children that she taught last session, eight passed in English.
The teachers were asked to write suggestions to improve results, point out shortcomings in textbooks, and also say if the question paper was out of syllabus. They could write in English, Hindi and Punjabi, but language teachers were to write in the language they teach.
Another English teacher, Hardyal Singh of Barnala, said he could teach all subjects, except mathematics. In service since 1990, he referred to English as ‘english’, not using the mandatory capital letter for a proper noun. Grammar, he spelt as ‘grammer’. He blamed “poor level of the students” for the unimpressive results, but did not care for punctuation while writing the reasons and suggestions. Of the 32 students he taught, 14 got passing marks in the subject.
Ferozepur’s Amit Narang, another English teacher who is also a master resource person (MRP) tasked with training other teachers, made 15 mistakes in the four sentences that he wrote. Of his 28 students, nine could clear the board exam. He referred to passage as ‘massage’.
Cheema, ordering his removal as MRP, said, “A person who cannot write a straight sentence... what he will teach others?”
Not that English was the problem. Many failed to write properly in Punjabi, their mother tongue. Some preferred to leave the suggestion form blank. “We are preparing to celebrate 50 years of ‘Punjabi suba’, and our teachers cannot write straight and errorless sentences,” said Cheema.
Kamlesh Kumari, a teacher of Punjabi from Pathankot, matched Amit Narang’s record — 15 mistakes in four sentences — though she did it in Punjabi. “We speak a mix of Punjabi and Dogri in our region,” she said as an alibi.
Cheema replied, “You can be speaking any language, but, in school, a teacher has to teach the correct language.”
He said a programme for in-service training will be chalked out “soon”. “Annual confidential reports (ACR) of teachers will be directly linked with the students’ exam results.”
What’s to blame for poor results?
As for the explanations for poor results, the teachers listed disinterest and indiscipline among students, the no-detention policy till Class 8, interference of panchayats in the school’s functioning, tussle between teachers and the principal, shortage of staff, students being from economically weaker sections, and tough language used in textbooks.