One year of Punjab govt: Thrust on quality, Amarinder’s govt stirs up education sector
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One year of Punjab govt: Thrust on quality, Amarinder’s govt stirs up education sector

The school education system has been shaken up by the state government in a span of 12 months to try and improve quality.

punjab Updated: Mar 12, 2018 09:26 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab govt,Capt Amarinder govt,education sector
The learning ability of the majority of 22 lakh children enrolled in 19,500-odd government-run schools in the state has been a matter of concern for the education department.(HT File)

Rationalisation of teachers, performance-linked online transfers, separate teacher cadre for border areas, pre-primary classes, English as a medium of instruction and a crackdown on education mafia that promotes mass copying in board exams – all this and more.

The school education system has been shaken up by the state government in a span of 12 months to try and improve quality.

Promise versus Performance
  • Teacher rationalisation: Optimum utilisation of human resources in schools to overcome teacher shortage in many areas, particularly border districts.Status: Cabinet approved the rationalisation policy on March 7 to deal with shortage in higher and senior secondary schools.
  • No non-teaching work for teachers: To relieve teachers from non-teaching duties, 15,000 multipurpose workers will be appointed at a cost of Rs 150 crore a year for carrying out surveys and other similar work.Status: Funds not available.
  • Pre-primary classes: Early childhood care and education at anganwadi centres will be integrated with school education.Status: Pre-primary classes started in government schools and 1.6 lakh children enrolled. However, teacher availability and other facilities are an issue.

A majority of 22 lakh children enrolled in the 19,500-odd government-run schools come from disadvantaged and poor sections of the society. And their learning competencies have been a matter of concern.

A nationwide assessment – the National Achievement Survey conducted by the Union human resource development ministry to evaluate the competency level in elementary classes – reported poor performance by students of classes 3, 5 and 8 in maths and science, putting Punjab among the states in bottom half. To blame are teacher absenteeism, imbalance in deployment, non-availability of books and lack of teaching-learning environment.

“There is a need to stem the rot and streamline the system,” said a department who did not want to be named. While a Learning Enhancement Programme named ‘Padho Punjab Padhao Punjab’ has been launched for primary and middle levels to improve learning levels of the students, teacher rationalisation and transfer policy were approved last week.

“The priority is to implement all these changes and initiatives expeditiously to improve the quality of education,” said school education secretary Krishan Kumar. However, the implementation challenges are huge. There are already rumblings of discontent within the politically well-connected lobbies of teachers and private school owners.

The school education dept has had to defer /drop its moves to close down 800 primary schools having less than 20 students and ban on deployment of teachers above 50 years in girls’ schools following opposition.

Government Teachers’ Union state president Sukhwinder Chahal said the government actions are cosmetic in nature and have nothing to do with quality education. “Proposed closure of 800 schools, shifting of language teachers, transfers all through the year and failure to provide free books to students do not augur well,” he said.

The opposition parties also do not seem to agree with all the changes. Shirmani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Daljit Singh Cheema, who was education minister in previous SAD-BJP regime, said the new government has upset the system. “Changes are being made without proper groundwork or understanding of implications. Pre-primary classes are a positive step, but not without teachers and proper infrastructure. Separate sections for English medium will disrupt things. All this is happening when no books or uniforms were given to children. They need to take care of these things first,” he said.

The school education department has had to defer or drop its moves to close down 800 primary schools having less than 20 students and ban on deployment of teachers above 50 years in girls’ schools following opposition from teachers’ unions and opposition parties. Also, the department does not need to rush with new initiatives.

First Published: Mar 12, 2018 09:25 IST