Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Education: Pride And Prejudice ,By RK Shivachandra

Writing on educational matters requires certain academic backgrounds. I am not an academician who can take part in educational seminars emphasizing as to how the education system in Manipur should be improved. My nature is such that I found pen-pushing completely uninteresting and never endeavored to become an expert in this field. I realized the importance of education at a very later stage. I am also as good as any layman who would wander around without knowing what their son is doing in school. Of course I am one such kind who is happy only when their wards bring the report card home with impressive remarks from the school.

The most shocking side ever since I rose to the position of fatherhood had been my small son carrying a haversack loaded with books slung behind his back stepping out unsteadily every morning to school. Since the day he started chanting ‘Mama’ we had never spared him. The first lesson is ABC then a lot of writing and ‘commit to memory’ works- had him engaged round the clock. It seems we have out rightly deprived his rights to a great extent. Right from dawn he had to open books with a lot of spelling and home works which stormed the small brain like anything. 8.30 in the morning is the turn of the school van driver who honked the horn relentlessly at the doorway and the busy housewife had to push the boy inside the school van where a dozen other kids were already inside and jostle around for space. This is just a glitzy event -the way a child is evacuated when an earthquake suddenly strikes. 4.30 in the afternoon is the time for the boy to come back home with a much tired look and hardly in one hour’s time soon after he peels of the school uniform, had to go back to the desk again to greet ‘good afternoon’ to his tutor.

Gone are the days when the child had to carry a torn mat between armpits to the morning schools and enjoy the pleasant sun-light in the winter morning where the bored teacher made everyone read or recite the 2x2=4 at the top of their voices. Back home none cared to open the books instead they divided into groups and played games at their hearts content, exposed in the Sun and rain- that was the children of just 15 winters before. This is a very short gap of time but the changing pace of time seems to have deprived this rightful leisure from the children of this New-Millennium.

Population in India as a whole has received some of the highest standard of education in the World. In such educational race the children of Japan always claimed to be the best till recent times.

Psychological experts in Japan have however revealed excessive study during tender ages led to increase in psychological problems among children. Hence the educational authorities in Japan have put an immediate ban on children studying at home in the primary level. Children were allowed to study only during the school hours and their books needed to be deposited in the school afterwards. This way children were given ample time to play around at home.

December in Manipur is the month for a swarm of parents rushing to the schools for seeking admission of their wards. Some parents don’t mind bribing certain amount to whosoever had access to the school authorities. Local clubs nearby schools also play a role when the admission seasons come around. But the question in Manipur’s education context is: whether the parents understand what their wards are really doing in the schools? Most of the times children are being sent back home with lot of home tasks and despite hectic school’s work they had to take part in the tuition class again sponsored by the school managing board. Is tuition in the school very necessary? In the lower educational level, the teacher usually taught the children the way parrot is being taught.

Mounting enormous pressure at the beginning of education to learn academic skills-is precisely an oft-cited indictment. Such pressure is not evident during the elementary school years, a time when level of achievements is high. Some 15 years ago all the Government schools in Manipur did an excellent job and we have seen the best teachers during those days. Neither tuition nor special class was adhering to the students at that point of time. Yet they produced the best.

I am confused why this tuition culture becomes ‘a must’ for all the students in the present trends? If this system is at all the rule than what for we pay fees to the school? The worse part evident is some of the private school teacher organized big classrooms in their private houses and conduct classes dividing batches both morning and evening. Some of them opened admission forms counter for the tuition class. The general concept of the students of the tuition goers however reflected that it is abridged to get more acquainted with the teacher so as to receive certain hints of the examination’s question nature and lots more. I wonder whether these teachers are sincere enough in performing their duties in the school hours.

While the gimmick tuition culture of sending their wards on trendy bikes and kinetic Hondas, this has at the same time discouraged many who cannot afford and thereby sapped the vitality of this class of students. This is also true that a school managing board/individual received a sizeable amount of money being collected from the students every month. The establishment fees charging at the time of school admission is simply hefty. Uniforms and other materials are being supplied from the school side on payment, which also begets profits.

Schools, which have around 1,500 students, could easily accumulate huge amount at the beginning of the school session. Parents never ignored the monthly fees. Even the poorest of the poor have to clear the fees of their wards before the examination is a well-known fact. However, the salaries paid to the teachers in the private schools are too low and this tantamount to gross violation of human rights. As a matter of fact, Manipur has now housed to a hordes of qualified degree holders who are loitering around in search of jobs but to no avail.

So the last resort for the frustrated job seekers is to come in the teaching profession. The salaries ranging from Rs 700 to 1800 for the educated people who are the backbones in running the schools is quiet a disgrace on the part of the school managing board compared to what they earned. So the input of the teacher in school might not have lived up to the expectation of the parents and the classic Manipur joke "The Earth is not oval" could be obviously what the teacher practiced.

The money spent on the children's education from commercial point of view is indeed an investment - out of which we expect something with good profit. We don’t mind paying more fees but to carve out ‘a beautiful statue’ out of the clay is the responsibility of the professionals. However let us not encourage any unfair means - the way of earning both from tuition and school fees.

Our parents are paying hefty fees - granted all good things don’t come free. If they failed to do their duty than the public/philanthropic organization have to step in to provide ‘right of education’ to our deprived children. On the part of the parents it is high time for them to be aware whether their ‘investment’ is being properly managed. In this context it is needed to have a threadbare discussion and ask the school authorities what is their work, their role and responsibility in this democratic country. Education plays the greatest part in the democracy. Teachers and school owner have to mould the minds of our young people. Whatever training they give will change the face of the society. Tremendous responsibility rests upon them. A child remains, ought to remain, in school for nearly 15 years starting from the age of 4 years.

At present we have seen many of them dropping out even before completing the lower primary level. I hope a new policy is the need of the hour to prevent this erosion of our precious human resources. The schools in Manipur while striving to maintain its image in the public, they dislodged the student who is found to be weak believing on the logic that rotten potatoes should be singled-out. A good school is not measured in term of the toppers the school produces but it needs to accommodate students who are not handling successfully in other schools too. I am of the view that every child can be developed successfully, if given the right input. Schools are not teaching shops but calls for a totally non-commercial sector.

Parents therefore, have every right to question where these dropouts have to be accommodated. For instance during last 15 years, the children had been a part of the school and its growth and the moment he was found unsatisfactory- he is out of the school. It is not justified. Will the square blame thrust upon the parents alone? Will not the school authority comment something on this? My opinion however could have hurt the pride of some teachers and school authorities that execute the right job and hold moral responsibility in their functions.

The idle men workshop is an apt name of the Government schools in Manipur. Here teachers pass away their time in gossip, knitting and playing ludos. In spite of the fact that teachers are regularly appointed on contract basis or in various mode of selection by the Government. On the other hand the most vulnerable part we experience is the mushrooming of private English schools in every Leikeis. Hardly anyone question the background of the one who initiate such schemes. For them it is a booming business. Teachers needs certain skills possessing either an advance training or class teaching certificate. They are supposed to engage themselves in the ongoing teachers training, which would enrich teaching skill. This however nobody evaluate so far.

Yes - the world is changing in a galloping speed in all spheres. Education is of no exception. The children of today are smarter compared to those children twenty years before. The present statistics in the Employment exchange of the Government of Manipur has revealed around 6 lakhs unemployed youths registered their names. Undoubtedly this will be shot up ten folds in the next decade. The corruption rate will be increasing alarmingly and Government job would belong to those wealthy and famed ones.

This is exactly what we have stored today for the future generation. Parents of today may also wake-up to the reality that the Government alone will not be able to accommodate all the future youths in its job schemes. The hours call for Manipur to be transformed into a major commercial sector unleashing the best effort altogether. Subject expert and intelligentsias in this area may highlight through medias and public platform as to how we can reap the best benefit in the border trade taking maximum’ advantage for we inhibit in the border State.

Organizations working on humanitarian causes may boost up moral to the industrialist and help them install more industrial units. The fear psychosis, which has already developed in their mind due to prevailing, law and order, needs to be reassured. We also shouldn’t deny the fact that there had been an exodus of wealthy class Manipuris from the State. Many experts who could throw light on industrialization have left the State in search of greener pastures in other States for they have no vision in Manipur. This is the loss of everyone.

When Manipur become a state with self - sufficient and economically non-dependable than only we will have a ‘say’ in the India context and the rest of the country will underscore Manipur for its significance. This way we may be able to help hundred of thousands future generation finds their route into a new world. The high aspiration and great dream of this younger generation should be meaningful. The brilliant Japanese and Sweden youth ranks amongst the highest countries in the world in the suicide rate surpassing USA. The youths fell in the jaws of suicide mainly due to the depression and frustration for they become what they never determined and destiny took them another turn.

Our Manipuris youth should study till they become top. But one shouldn’t unnecessarily give a false hope to our young ones. As we all know that Manipur is already a State with a lot of brilliant and educated people and neither Government nor any private industries can accommodate them so far. Unless we geminate our own resources where we can absorb the educated people than the future of Manipur is pessimistically blurred and could be another Sweden or Japan in term of suicidal aspects.
(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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