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city THURSDAY, JANUARY 24, 2013

SPECIAL REPORT

Long way to go for govt schools The Annual Status of Education report (ASER) 2012, which reveals the abysmal reading and arithmetic skills of government school children, puts the spotlight back on the people with the answers — the teachers. PADMINI C padmini.c@postnoon.com

he can’t be compared with a child from a private school with unlimited resources. Different students come into class with different standards and we do the best that we can, given what we have. That’s not to say, there’s nothing more to be done. Of course there is. I think the biggest change will come if we can provide residential facilities for the extremely underprivileged and we make all government schools English medium, which will make our children more confident and employable and also make recruitment into government teaching of a higher standard,” sayss Annapurna Devi, English teacher at Gandhi Bhavan.

C

onsider this number. ASER 2012 found that 53.2 per cent of all children enrolled in class V of government schools cannot even read a class II text book, while an equal percentage cannot even solve a simple two-digit subtraction problem. The report, which came out earlier in the week, has proved what we had feared all along: The learning outcomes of government school children across the nation are not improving and are also on a gaining decline. While Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are not among the states which have contributed significantly to this decline, learning levels of children are still alarmingly low and remain largely unchanged. Hyderabad, in particular, is a cause for concern, having recorded in the past year the lowest pass percentage than any other district in the State. The success or failure of the educational machinery of a state, at its core, is as much about its teachers as it is about its policies and frameworks. The AP story is no different. In the wake of the report, the teaching fraternity and educationists here reveal that the current state of affairs is dismal, with noticeable understaffing, rampant confusion in the ranks, a challenging student body and the jarring contrasts between educational ideals set in conference rooms and the practical realities of the classroom.

900 POSITIONS VACANT

The Right To Education Act 2009 stipulates that the ideal teacher pupil ratio be no more than 1:40. But that is far from reality, allege teachers’ unions. “In many schools, there are anywhere between 60 and 90 students per teacher. There are the Vidya volunteers, appointed by the Rajiv Vidya Mission, but they can only control a class, not teach. In such a scenario, how much attention can we give each one?” asks a primary school teacher, Rukmini R. To compound the problem, a long standing intra-department dispute currently still in the Supreme Court means that there have been no promotions to the upper echelons in the past five to six years. Add retirements and there are estimated to be as many as 900 supervisory positions currently vacant.

‘MINDSET HAS TO CHANGE’

School enrolment and out of school children Percentage of children in different types of schools (2012) Age Govt Private Not in Other school 6-14 60.3 36.5 2.6 0.6 7-10 57.6 40.9 0.4 1.2 11-14 65.3 29.3 0.8 4.5 15-16 51.5 31.3 0.4 16.8

“Head Masters are functioning as Dy DEOs, deputy head masters as head masters, senior teachers are deputy HMs and so on. It has affected the whole system,” says M Ravindar, general secretary of Andhra Pradesh Teaching Federation.

TRAINING FAILS, CONFUSION PREVAILS In 2009, with RTE, a new initiative known as the Continuos and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) was introduced, which was implemented fully across government schools in the 2012 academic year. The programme was designed to identify a child’s learning difficulties from the beginning of the academic year and at regular time intervals, employ suitable remedial measures to enhance his/her learning performance. “CCE means that there are only grades, no marks. But we received the instructions only after the half yearly examinations, which meant that we had to manually convert each student’s marks into grade points

and then grades. There was no training, no awareness. There is just no clarity,” rues Ramanandiah, headmaster of a government high school, Devaljamsingh. “There are no clear cut instructions on deliverables. So we don’t know when to send what. Additionally, they demanded that it be done online. Many of us don’t have computer facilities, not to mention knowledge on how to use the software!” says Gautami Naidu, a primary teacher in the government high school, Langar House. “We had little to no training when this system was introduced. Even after the switch, we still received the question papers with so-and-so marks attached to each section, while we had to mark the answer papers in grade points. Do you see our confusion? We spent most of our teaching time worrying over these things,” remarks a frustrated headmaster, Jayachander, of Govt St Peters High School.

CHALLENGING STUDENT BODY First generation learning, parent disinterest, socio-economic conditions, child labour are all issues that affect a child’s productivity, say teachers. “Government school teachers are capable, committed, experienced and well qualified. But even we can do only so much. Our access to the child is only for a few hours a day. He receives no help at home. He drops out of school whenever his parents move. So naturally,

“It’s true that there are vacancies. The numbers are important, obviously. But that said, it’s not like schools which have more number of teachers are doing better. However, government schools in many places are doing better than private schools. Even in challenging conditions and no infrastructure to speak of, some teachers are showing great results while others are just not motivated enough. Their mindset has to change. They are looking to the top for instructions instead of just concentrating on doing their jobs well, which is to teach and ensure that the learning outcome of the students is optimal,” says Sushinder Rao, project officer from Rajiv Vidya Mission, responding to the teachers’ allegations. Speaking about the ASER, he adds, “The biggest challenge for us is socio-economic conditions of the students. But we are working to rectify that. So we are very hopeful we will get better results this year.”

THE LAST WORD

There are no immediate or absolute solutions. But as Madhav Chavan of Pratham, the foundation behind the ASER report writes, “big changes are happening in education and they are happening rapidly. Any long term plans of building or strengthening institutions must take these changes into account or else we will end up creating more dysfunctional white elephants all over the country that are not suitable for the next half a century and longer. There is a need to keep a close watch and have a vision of the future with feet firmly planted on the ground today.”

THE AP STORY

75.5%

children enrolled in class I-V

78.0%

enrolled in class VI-VIII

84.8%

teachers present in class I-V

79.6%

teachers present in class VI-VIII

56.4%

of schools with teacher:pupil ratio 1:40

66.3%

of schools with drinking water

98.3%

of schools with mid-day meal

67.7%

of schools with playground

47.7%

have toilets available and usable

38.2% have girls’ toilet

20.3% have a library

4.3%

have a computer Lab

649

schools were visited

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