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School Education in Punjab

Sadhu Singh

I congratulate you all for participating in this historic gathering for formulating plans for the uplift of the community. According to me, it is possible only through Education.

ftfdnk thukoh sK goT[gekoh

If one dwells on the essence of Knowledge, one becomes a Benefactor of all. This is the best and the highest purpose of Education given to us by Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji. One wonders why, the Sikhs having such a grand philosophy of Education, do not bother about Education at all. Since they tend to think with Lord Browning, the incorrigible optimist that:

“God is in His heaven
All is well with the world.”

Ladies and Gentlemen:
The Sikhs have come into existence with the blessings and sacrifices made by the Sikh Gurus. For Charhdi Kala, the Sikhs must have sterling qualities of head and heart. So, there is a great need for imparting Quality Education to the students. Modern scientific education given to the Sikh children alone can ensure a bright future for the Sikhs.

There is a need for change and adapt to the challenging socio-political situation of a rapidly modernising society. Education should have its aim at both the development of society and the realisation of man’s potentialities. So, the future of the Sikh community depends to a great extent upon the levels of education of the Sikh children. Men of vision and imagination realised this fact at the time of Vishav Sikh Sammelan in 1995. It was resolved that Quality Education should be imparted in all Sikh institutions.

The power of education as a tool for social transformation, social mobility and cultural strength has been recognised all over the world. The future of any country depends on the quality of its future citizens, namely, the youth. Thus, education is the most important factor. As Alexander Pope says,

“Tis education that forms the common mind
Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined.”

I may remind this august gathering that 80% of the Sikhs live in the Punjab and about 70% out of this number of them live in the villages. Upper and middle class families, which are very few, have rejected the mainstream Government Schools and they send their children to privately run schools, which are affiliated to CBSE or ICSF. The main impact of falling standard of education has been felt in the rural areas. Majority of the rural students are unable to come up to the “Break Through Level” from where they could start their academic career and compete for admissions in Engineering, Medicine, Army and Institutions of higher learning. Thus, the rural students are willfully ignored and deprived to achieve their “Possible Level of excellence” in the main national stream. We all know that a rural school graduate is unable to qualify even for a lower level entry test for police and army recruitment. Emphasis on spoken and written English in the competitive examinations is making things all the more difficult for rural students.

In his addresses at Modern Public School, Patiala on Jan 8, 2006, Dr Harbans Singh Sidhu, Chairman of the Punjab School Education Board, remarked that despite being a prosperous state, Punjab had slipped from 6th to 16th position in Education over the past 15 years. From Nehru to Dr Manmohan Singh, all Prime Ministers have promised at least 6 per cent GDP allotment for education, but it was never implemented. The State of Punjab is not spending even the national average of 3.5 per cent of its GDP on education. Besides the 30,000 posts of teachers lying vacant, there is a shortage of 5,000 rural teachers due to the preference for urban posting.

Punjab Poorer than the Poor
The education scenario in the Punjab is pitiable. Thousands of schools lack teachers, classrooms, furniture or even drinking water. As per the annual report of the Union Ministry of HRD for 2004-05 only 71.21 per cent of the age group of 6 to 11 years were enrolled for primary education in Punjab, whereas poorer states like UP and Bihar enrolled 91.25 per cent and 72.52 percent. The Punjab Government’s own figures point to a very dismal picture. Out of the total 12972 primary schools 4448 are short of classrooms, 8577 lack proper mats for students; 9760 schools require dual desks; 4444 primary schools are without power; 1727 are without drinking water; 3371 do not have toilets and 3891 schools have no boundary wall.

A few days ago the appalling state of education came to light when the state’s education secretary visited the Schools. Class XII students could not tell the meaning of simple words from the text prescribed.

Dr T R Sharma, an eminent educationist and a member of the Sub-committee for reforms in education system in Punjab, points out that “as per World Bank surveys, the state of supervision in classrooms by teachers is the worst in Punjab. Up to 36 percent of the teachers in govt schools remain absent, while half of those who attend schools do not teach. All over the world the trend is towards a better teacher pupil ratio, whereas in Punjab the education ministry has ordered to increase the number of students per teacher from 35 to 54 in primary schools, 40 to 55 in secondary schools and to 60 in Senior Secondary schools. A bureaucratic system, habitually estranged from life, finds it hard to entertain the idea that schools are made for children, instead of children being made for schools. To top this all, the callous bureaucracy has been toying with the idea of privatising education. This idea, whenever put into practice, would deny the poor sections of society even the elementary education which is their fundamental constitutional right.

Education is the key to the new world; indeed, the essence of a vibrant democracy lies in a long term, well conceived and coherent educational policy.

To strengthen its knowledge economy, Punjab needs to do a lot on education, remarked on 4th Feb, 2006, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. He said Science as a subject should be popularised in rural areas for full exploitation of the knowledge economy.

According to a survey, the three state universities and one at Chandigarh have less than 900 students out of 22,360 enrolled for the session 2005-06. This is a very disturbing state and brings out Rural-Urban divide to fore.

According to Kanwar Sandhu, the well-known columnist, the state of Punjab can learn from Himachal Pardesh. All the H.P. CMS realised that basic education was the most critical tool for speedy social development. Compulsory Primary Education Act in 1997 was implemented in letter and spirit. The initiative has been appreciated by very eminent people like Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze. The educationists feel that HP has done better in education than even Socialist countries like China.

Dr S S Johal, an eminent agro-economist, points out the reason that the education system in the countryside in the state has totally collapsed. This is due to a faulty model planning where growing economy leaves 85 pc of the people untouched.

We may have ultra-modern cities in the Punjab, but the march of civilization has to pass through the countryside. I fully agree with Gray, a famous English poet, who made the observation in his poem Elegy, written in a Country Church Yard:

Fully many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear.
Fully many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

The countryside has rough diamonds in the form of the youth living in the villages. They have to be polished by providing modern educational facilities.

Twentyfirst century is known as the century of science and knowledge. In this century, health services and education have been given top priority for the progress of a country. The world famous economist, a Nobel laureate, Amrita Sen has also time and again emphasized the importance of these two services – Health and Education. What has been done for these services by the successive governments in the Punjab, is very well known to the august and enlightened gathering here.

What should be done to improve the condition of education in the Punjab, especially for the Schools in rural areas?

I would suggest that following measures may be taken to come out of the woods:-

a) To follow the Akal Akademy system of education.
b) Each Gurdwara with a substantial income should start a School for imparting quality education or sponsor some students from their area to join such a School.
c) Appealing to the NRIs of the area for sponsoring educational Projects or giving Scholarships.
d) Starting Sikh Education Fund.
e) Appeal to NGOs to contribute liberally to education.

Akal Academy System
The fountainhead of this system was Sant Attar Singh ji (1866-1927) of Mastauna. He was a great Sikh missionary and a man of great vision. He made Mastuana Sahib the centre for imparting temporal education tempered with spiritual education. In order to spread this system far and wide, Sant ji inspired Sant Teja Singh (1877-1965) who got his high quality scientific education from English and American Universities. Sant Teja Singh ji founded the Kalgidhar Trust in 1965 in order to spread the message of universal brotherhood by combining spirituality with modern scientific education:

“We believe it is possible to impart quality education to the students of rural areas. We wish to see their mind informed, disciplined, strengthened – infact, trained in some what the same way as per the teachings of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji Maharaj”

Baba Iqbal Singh ji (former Director of Agriculture, HP) is the Chairman of Kalgidhar Trust. Dr Khem Singh Gill (former VC of PAU) is the Director of Akal Akademies. There are more than 20 Academies and on the request of the people many more are likely to come up in the near future. These are affiliated to CBSE except one school. More than 20 thousand students are studying in these Academies situated in the remote villages of the Punjab, UP and HP. Akal Academies have been equipped with modern science labs, Maths labs, Language labs, EV labs, well stocked libraries, playing fields and Computer rooms.

Akal Academy system is becoming popular because in this system character and intelligence training are harmonized. Private tuition is not needed because of the Day-boarding School system. Just average committed staff under the supervision of an imaginative head are producing excellent results in Academics as well as in co-curricular activities.

Many enlightened managements of gurdwaras have started schools for imparting quality education. We have the laudable examples of Gurdwaras of Sectors 34 & 22. Even in some villages, where the panchayats and retired people have felt the need for quality education, schools have been started. We should propagate this idea and, instead of marblising the gurdwaras, improve the villages with quality education. It should become mandatory for each gurdwara to allocate some money for education.

Punjab has a natural resource in its NRIs who have already shown great interest to help their brethren. NRIs are of great help in the field of education and they are doing a lot in improving the quality of life in their native villages. They contribute very generously for the religious and humanitarian causes. The inspiring instances of Dhaliwal (Rakhra) brothers and Dhot brothers are there to follow. This big source could be tapped by the ISC.

After World War II, the wise heads of the Jews pondered over their abject poverty and great humiliation of centuries. They started a Jewish Education Fund. With the help of this JEF, the whole community became highly educated after a few years. The result is that the great scientists, bankers, educationists and many prominent persons in other fields are all Jews. Now they control the economy and technology of the world. Taking a cue from the Jews, we may also start Sikh Education Fund and utilize it for the uplift of the community.

Many NGOs like Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council Delhi, and Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, Ludhiana, have been doing a commendable work in the field of education. The ISC may tap more such organisations and co-ordinate their activities. This would go a long way in improving the quality of education in the rural Punjab.
Mr Chairman, I would request you that the Blueprint may be sent to all the parties who are going to fight the elections in the very near future in the Punjab. They must give top priority to Health and Education in their manifestoes. Thus the people in the rural areas would be made aware of the dire necessity for ‘Quality Education’

The above mentioned measures to up-date and overhaul the education system in the Punjab are only illustrative and by no means exhaustive. I am very hopeful that the Advisory Council for Education would rise to the expectations of the people of Punjab. May the Guru Panth achieve its destined glory through the efforts of the sewadars. I quote an Urdu couplet.

pjko w/I wZNh Gh T[rb d/sh j? c{b ,
wod j? s' f]}k w/I pjko g?dk eo ..




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