Manifesto for primary education: A change not monitored is a change not desired.
Ever since the middle class decided to discard government schools for admitting their children, the quality of education has declined drastically. The salary of government school teachers is several times more than the average salary of private school teachers. It is not just the motivation levels but also the infrastructural level which is low. The whole pedagogy and curriculum is devoid of social, ecological, cultural and institutional connect. Children are not taken to a temple, mosque or monastery and measure its dimensions to learn how to measure. Whenever a district collector or other such officer has admitted their children in government schools, the quality has gone up. It should be obligatory for every employee of education department to send their children only to government schools so that they get first hand input and we have dingle standard of what is good for children of elite is also good for poor. Same thing should apply to all ministers of union and state governments. Otherwise, we will produce two classes of citizen. Let us be unequivocal about how India treats its children. Small incremental changes will not bring about drastic transformation of educational system. We need both surgery and organ transplant. Every political party without any exception has neglected primary education, so much so that even AAP party has not stirred the pot of primary education, though has tried to meddle with the character of the central university in Delhi. Obviously, betraying the trust of children does not cause any pain to the entire political and other ruling classes. Media and other intelligentsia have come to believe that there is no way out. I am not pessimistic and I think solution will come from within the system and in bottom-up manner.
In 1997, the then additional chief secretary, Mr. Ramamoorthy requested us to help develop a management plan for universalization of primary education. I realized that unless you build upon the ideas of those who have done excellently well within the existing constraints, we will not be able to find a breakthrough. I asked him whether he could recount the names of 25 such teachers who had achieved every goal of the policy without any outside help, incentive or even recognition. At that time, there were about 1.6 lacs teachers in Gujarat. He could not recall name of any such teacher because he had never asked such a question. Then, we requested the President of Gujarat School Teachers Federation to help. The next meeting was organized in Teachers’ Federation office. They identified 25 teachers, each one of whom had achieved spectacular results entirely through her/his own efforts. After listening to them, we realized that the management plan can really be crafted only by pooling the aspirations of such outstanding teachers. Prof. Vijaya Sherry Chand, then a Fellow at the RJMCEI compiled a book based on experiences of innovative teachers. An outstanding book, Teachers as Transformers, was subsequently published by SRISTI Innovations. There are similar teachers in every region. And yet despite repeated exhortations, such teachers have not become a point of reference either at center or state level. Can we transform education at any level without relying upon the inclusive spirit of inspired teachers? .
We should ensure that every Chief Minister and Central Education Minister spends at least one day every month listening to the ideas, suggestions and feedback of outstanding primary school teachers. So far CM neither in Gujarat nor elsewhere have paid heed to my request. Some day they will. Without such a direct connect, the bureaucrats will keep pushing the files without any change in the accountability. Unless the ideas of those who have performed despite constraints are taken as the basis for developing transformative solutions, country will not change.
We need to ensure that infrastructure for every primary school including toilets and drinking water supply must be ensured in time bound manner. A government, which can waste thousands of crores for subsiding the food for rich who neither deserve nor demand cheap food will not care about this. Any political party which does not have a blueprint for providing the best possible education to children must be shown the door by the parents of such children. There is nothing more important than this agenda. In many schools, management committees are set up but are not active or are insufficiently active. There should be a weekly update collected from every SMC [School Management Committee] about the results achieved.
This country can really transform the quality of primary education in next two years. People will start withdrawing their children from private school and put them in government school because of better quality of education. The President and Secretary of every teacher federation must be persuaded to sign a contract with the education department and SMCs at local level on delivery of results on qualitative and quantitative indicators. All India Radio must broadcast special news bulletin on primary education every day informing the people about the state of education in various schools. A change not monitored is not the change desired. Unless we start monitoring the right indicators, we are unlikely to get expected results, hopefully the political parties are listening, else the people will stop listening to them.