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Memorandum Submitted to Punjab Government by IOSS, Chandigarh

In a two-day Seminar on the “State of School Education in Rural Punjab” held on October 1-2, 06, at the Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, eminent Sikh scholars put forth their views. Many valuable suggestions along with concrete recommendations were made. The International Sikh Confederation has been mandated in the Conference to take cognizance of these issues and work out an action plan to bring about a distinct improvement in the state of School Education in rural Punjab. We have, therefore, prepared a Memorandum for action by the State Government in this regard.

Education is a State subject and it is the duty of the State to take serious cognizance of the state of Government Schools in rural areas. Only a small percentage of the rural population can afford to send their children to Public/Private Schools. A large percentage of children depend on Government Schools for their basic education, which really lays the foundation for further career prospects. Thus it is vital that our State Government takes serious note of the precarious situation of our primary and secondary education setup in rural areas. We need to act now and catch up with other states as we are today lagging far behind.

Present Scenario in rural Areas of Punjab
The general consensus of the various speakers who presented their papers during our Seminar was that the state of education available to our children in the villages is alarming. There are very few higher secondary schools in the rural areas that have science subjects. Those that have them, have very poor teaching infrastructure. Teachers do not stay in these schools and absenteeism is rampant. Headmasters / Principals lack the will and power to enforce discipline and accountability; hence teachers are just not accountable. As a consequence, students do not opt for science or commerce subjects. Thus, they lack the acumen to compete for professional higher education. Our Agriculture University has almost all students from urban non-farming families. If this is the situation in the subjects of the Agriculture stream, one can well imagine the situation in respect of engineering, medical and other professional subjects.

The data on school results submitted by PHRO report in 2006, mentioned that the results of 79 senior secondary schools for 10th and 10+2 classes was 0%, of 219 similar schools was less than 10%, and of 40 schools 10% for the last 10 years. These results have emerged despite the mass scale copying in these examinations in majority of centers in rural Punjab schools.

The findings of two studies conducted in Patiala Block III by the Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council (Regd.), New Delhi, were also shocking. A carefully selected sample of 384 students in Class VI from rural and urban secondary schools revealed that only 2% boys and 4% girls passed in Mathematics and only 12% boys and 14% girls qualified in Punjabi.

In May 2001, the Punjab Elementary Education Board Project Committee, Patiala, working under the aegis of the Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council, held a District Scholarship Test for all such children who secured 70% or more marks in the SCERT in Class V Annual examination, 2001. They had to select 20 students on merit basis for award of scholarships of the value of Rs.150/- per month for three years covering Classes VI to VIII. The results were dismal, as students who had secured 70% or more marks in their annual examinations through government schools managed to secure, on an average, a mere 4.7% in Punjabi, 2.3% in Hindi, 5% in Mathematics, 8% in Social Science and 2-3% in General Knowledge.

The IOSS and the ISC have been sounding the alarm bell earlier also. During the Seminar on ‘School Education in Rural Punjab’ held on 1st and 2nd Oct, 2006, eminent educationists and public agencies engaged in education were invited. We do hope that their deliberations and practical suggestions for improvement will be taken serious note of by the Government.

A number of suggestions and proposals were put forth during the Seminar. These were debated by a Committee of selected members with Dr S S Johl in the Chair. This Committee’s recommendations are listed below:

A majority of our Schools in rural areas lack the following basic necessities:-
(a) Proper accommodation and furniture
(b) Toilet facilities for both boys and girls.
(c) Well equipped Libraries.
(d) Laboratories for science subjects.
(e) Computer classrooms.
(f) Rudimentary playing grounds and games equipment for even common activities, such as, football, hockey, basketball, volleyball, cricket, etc.

Our present budget allotment of 2% is lower than the national average. Government should target it at 6%.

As a short-term measure, there is an urgent need to allot Rs. 2 lakhs to each rural primary school and Rs. 5 lakhs to each rural high/higher secondary school to meet their basic infrastructure needs. Long term planning and required budget should be allotted in addition to the above, in a differentiated manner with emphasis on developing infrastructure in rural Govt Schools.

Structural Changes
(a) Powers / functions of DPIs, DEOs and BPEOs should be well defined for better enforcement of accountability.
(b) Principals, Headmasters and Head Teachers should have full authority and be totally accountable for results.
(c) Duration of postings should be adequate. We recommend a minimum period of 3 years.
(d) Inspection teams and their procedures should be achievable and well defined. This will enable them to enforce higher standards of teaching, discipline and management. They should also be fully accountable for results.
(e) Panchayats / Local bodies should be involved with defined role only to provide an independent feedback on attendance, dedication of teachers, adequacy of facilities and performance of schools.
(f) PSEB should arrange regular training of teachers to upgrade and modernize their teaching ability. Regional centers should run refresher courses at regular intervals. These centers should lay stress on quality teaching and motivational abilities of teachers.

Removing the deficiency of teachers in rural schools should receive top priority of the Govt. All vacancies should be filled before the next session starting in 2007.

Qualification requirements for each subject should be strictly adhered to by the selection board. Particular care be taken to select quality teachers to teach English and Science subjects.

Tenure should be fixed and strictly adhered to. This is only possible if the powers to transfer are in technical hands and political interference is avoided.

Teachers who have produced results and volunteer to stay on beyond their tenure should be given special consideration by merit.

Voluntary retirement schemes should be formulated to get rid of weak elements.

Curriculum and Examinations
Once again the whole system needs to be re-examined with regard to :-

(a) Including science and commerce subjects in rural schools.

(b) Moral education be made a compulsory subject.

(c) Study of existing models of school education and selection of one or more models to cater to different strata of rural population.

(d) Imparting of Technical and Vocational Education to enable youth to avail of employment opportunities at par with urban youth.

(e) Enhance communication skills, improve teaching of English, Science and Mathematics among students in rural areas.

(f) Achievements/results of schools/teachers should be measured in terms of their students getting admission in high/secondary school, college and university education, specially professional education / administration / defence services and self employment.

It is encouraging to note that the Punjab Government has decided to set up an Education Commission to deal with the problem. All VCs in State Universities have been nominated as its members. Besides, recently the State Education Minister has announced plans to recruit 11,500 teachers, 1600 computer teachers and 700 physical training instructors, on an emergency basis to make up the deficiency of teachers in schools. We do hope that quality of the selected teachers will not be diluted and the selection process will place merit and character qualities foremost during selection. The Education Commission’s scope could be enhanced by including some members with experience of School Education. We want to believe that this is not just a pre-election platitude, and that the recommendations of the Commission will be implemented.

NGOs such as the Akal Academy, Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council, Tughalwal Model of School Education at Riarki (Distt Gurdaspur) and various NRIs have done excellent work to improve education facilities in rural areas of Punjab. Our Government needs to dovetail their efforts into a coordinated rural education plan.




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