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Dinesh Bassi – State of Education in Punjab

State of Education in Punjab

Education plays a crucial part in training the youth to live a successful life in this era of global competition and helps to tackle every challenge that cosmos throws their way. Without education one can barely help themselves or their family make ends meet and the quality of one’s life is significantly affected. So it becomes imperative to ensure that the problems that Punjab’s education sector has been facing since decades are addressed at length. We all are aware of the appalling state of Government run schools and how ill staffed and poorly maintained they are. I recently got my hands on the 10th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) by Pratham, an NGO in the field of education, that unveiled some startling facts. According to it, there is a high percentage (8.4%) of children out of school in the age group 15-16. And private school enrollment is higher for children in the primary grades as opposed to those attending government run schools. Close to 35 % children studying in the fifth standard were not able to read a standard II level textbook. This all points to one shocking revelation- we seem to be building an unequal future.

Millions in Punjab cannot afford the fees of privately owned schools so they look up to the government run schools for their kid’s education. But the government has disappointed us all by taking no concretes steps in the right directions. There is a dearth of trained and motivated teachers, inadequate learning materials and poor support systems. To make it even worse, the ruling government in this year’s proposed budget have slashed the mid day meal by Rs. 167 crores. There is simply no motivation in people living in the lesser developed areas of Punjab to send their kids to school, leave alone thinking about providing them with basic education. This leads to an even bigger problem, that is, the lack of demand and zeal in children. They are forced to take up the family practice of agriculture and remain deprived of the perks that come with the quality education.

However, all hope is not lost. The poor state of Punjab’s education needs to be scrutinized closely. I would like to put forward my two cents to address the problem at its grass roots:

  • Beginning with provincial level, local authorities need to be trained accurately and provided with a basic yet complete framework to be able to operate properly. I am not talking about releasing funds without realizing where they would be going, I am just focusing on introducing a well planned and researched structure to improve the overall quality of elementary education. Without precise planning and proper delivery, we cannot expect any miracle to happen overnight.
  • There is an acute shortage of teaching staff in both public and private schools. Three-fourths of schools are without regular heads and plenty of teaching posts are vacant. Aspiring teachers and educators need to be reminded about the importance of their role in making a generation of Indians efficient and skillful. Negative factors like lack of job security in the education sector, low pay scales and non-academic duties need to be eliminated to motivate more people to take up the roles of educators.
  • Textbooks need to be reformed and a new, thoroughly researched curriculum must be introduced. Nobody understands this better than Punjab Textbook Board that how crucial a role curriculum plays in the learning.
  • Teachers in service need to be aptly trained and closely supervised. We do not have any training program or mechanism in action to assess the competency of in-service teachers. The training programs we do have do not seem to be contributing much to their development. Outside homes, it is the teachers who are responsible for the personality development of a kid. So we need to come up with better teacher recruitment plans, training courses and monitoring mechanisms to keep them in check and on track.

Primary level education is the most important component of the education system and it is the foundation of middle and higher education. I am more than willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that this disadvantageous situation is converted to a positive one and every child in every corner of this state gets his birth right of quality education.

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