DECCAN HERALD

Friday, September 14, 2001

Focus on quality

The Task Force on Education in its second report has cited posting of personnel
 who may not be academically inclined, lack of necessary linkages between 
the administrative and academic wings as the main reasons for a drop 
in quality of elementary education, reports Vijesh Kamath

There are more than 43,000 primary schools in the state set up by the government alone, catering to the educational needs of nearly one crore students. While the enrolment rate in the state is among the highest in the country, what is of primary concern today is the quality of education being imparted especially in government schools. The whopping drop-out rate of 34 per cent in primary schools is an indication that everything is not well.

A majority of the government schools especially in the rural sector are devoid of even basic infrastructure. Only 18 per cent of schools have girls' toilet and only 64 per cent of schools have drinking water facilities. As many as 11,000 classrooms are in an incomplete state. These are just conservative estimates. Even the report on Human Development in Karnataka brought out by the State Planning Department places the literacy rates in Raichur, Gulbarga, Bidar, Bellary, Mandya, Mysore, Kolar and Bangalore Rural districts lower than the literacy rates of sub-Saharan African countries. 

It is in this context that the Task Force on Education headed by eminent nuclear scientist Raja Ramanna recently submitted its second report ‘’Quality improvement in elementary education’’, to the government. The report focuses on ‘’areas of ensuring quality in elementary education so that all children attain the specified learning levels when they leave elementary school (class 8)’’. 

The first (interim) report of the task force submitted last year had covered the broad area of providing all children upto the age of 14 with access to elementary education and ensuring the full participation of children, teachers, parents and the community in elementary schools. In its report on quality in education, the task force felt that the evidence regarding the quality of elementary education is largely anecdotal or impressionistic. ‘’The seventh standard exam results provide us some evidence that quality is improving, though not much can be said about the level of achievement because of the design of the exam. The District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) assessment surveys of achievement level though confined to the educationally backward districts show that mean average of correct answers provided is not very satisfactory in most districts’’, the executive summary of the report substantiates.

The startling facts brought out following an independent study by a group of teachers working both in government and aided schools is still fresh in the minds of the people. The survey initiated in 1998 by Prof B K Chandrashekar, who is presently the Minister of State for Information Technology, found that 68 per cent of students of seventh standard studying in Kannada medium in Bangalore South zone could not write the alphabets properly either in Kannada or English. The survey included 55 schools in Bangalore South zone. Also, about 2,631 students of 7th standard (Kannada medium) of government and aided schools came under scrutiny. Interestingly, the pass percentage in the 7th standard public examination in these schools is more than 80 per cent every year!

Meanwhile, the State education department has already implemented as many as 20 recommendations of the interim report of the task force and is gearing up to implement the recommendations of the report on quality in education, points out Commissioner of Public Instruction T M Vijaybhaskar. The government has sought a loan of Rs 100 crore from NABARD for construction of school building, toilets, and providing drinking water supply. It has also decided to lift the ban on recruitment in primary schools by approving the recruitment of 15,000 teachers. Keeping in tune with the national policy it has extended primary education to include class five.

Then, over the last one year the government has initiated programmes like ‘Chinara Angala’’ for out of school children, launched the “Chaitanya” programme wherein 65,000 primary school teachers were provided with refresher training and constituted School Development and Monitoring Committees at the gram panchayat level. 

With infrastructure in place, what then can actually ensure improvement in the quality of education that is imparted in government schools ? To find out the efficacy of the entire educational efforts, the task force in its report on quality education suggested that regular assessment of school’s effectiveness be carried out by an independent team.  In this direction, Mr Vijaybhaskar said that retired teachers will be appointed as assessors and the process of inviting applications for the same has already been completed. The modalities of assessment and the terms of reference for the assessors is being worked out, he said.

Meanwhile, the education department is also working on the other recommendations of the task force like provision of autonomy to the text book directorate and also support institutions like the District Institutes of Education and Training (DIET) and the Department of State Education Research and Training (DSERT) so that they have flexibility in academic, administrative and financial matters to achieve their objective of improving learning levels of children.

‘’We have already sent a team to Maharashtra to study the model that is being implemented in that state’’, Mr Vijaybhaskar said. The task force had felt that many of the support institutions and also the text book directorate has not fully delivered the results expected of them. Posting of personnel who may not be academically inclined, lack of necessary linkages between the administrative and academic wings were cited as the main reasons.

To overcome these anomalies the task force has recommended regular resource provision for in-service programmes from the state budget (Rs 15 crore per annum) for these institutions and setting up academic structures like DIET in Block Resource Centres and Cluster Resource Centres in all educational districts. It has also recommended setting up a separate text book society to provide flexibility in functioning with the objective of providing quality textbooks in time, regular assessment of school effectiveness and recruitment of graduate teachers for the higher primary schools. Will the recommendations of the task force and the initiatives of the education department in implementing them usher in the much need efficiency in the education sector remains to be seen.


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