Sunday, July 10, 2011

Education - The Policies and Politics!

A friend of mine (Saravana Kumar) had mailed me asking, "Why don't you write something about our education system... the policies and politics around it?". Good thought. Should surely do that. But, when I sat back and thought about how qualified I was to talk about it, these are the qualifications I have... I have got an education, which is higher than the average education level of this nation. I have a lot of educated people around me. I have a lot of uneducated people also around me almost in the same number. So, I know the importance of education. I have thought many times about what would have happened if I hadn't studied like  the latter. As an extension, I have imagined myself in the roles of, say, starting from shop keeper to daily wage laborer.

I have been attracted to different professions in different times. It is a huge list! One of them is the teaching profession. I thought it was one of the noble jobs. Then I have dreamed of getting into the education department and doing a lot of revolutionary stuff. I still think that I should build a lot of schools and colleges if I earn too much in future. But, when I look at some faces that are calling themselves the educationists, I am afraid that I would lose interest in that idea soon. The distance between them and education is the same as that of truth and lie. They are neither educated nor do they educate anyone. They just build buildings with their black money, which are used for educational purposes. That's it. I even wanted to become the education minister at some point in time.

Once I had to write an essay in school days about what I would do if I become a minister. I wrote different things under different headings. I had also written about what all I would do if I become the education minister. What I wrote under that heading made my teacher lose her peace of mind and complain about it to the head master. She handed over the evaluated answer paper to the head master and asked me to take it from him. He also lost his peace of mind when he read it, called me to know if I would hang everyone if I get a pen and paper in hand and warned me to mind my language from then on. He had to do that because I had expressed my frustrations very openly. I had even written that I would sack the head master if he did so and so things. He should have taken it very personally and as a challenge to his job. So, he had to prove to me what I was actually capable of. I started minding my language in all essays I wrote after that. In school essays alone! :)

I don't remember all the complaints that I had at that time. But, I do remember some of them. Here are the vital few...
1. I would send home the teachers that are not able to teach in an easy and understandable manner.
2. All science lessons have to be taught with appropriate practical examples and tests.
3. There shouldn't be bias among students.

You may leave the first two. But, the third one still seems to be a major problem for us. My understanding now is that the "common school system" or "common education system" (It is also called the "uniform education system" or "uniform school system"!) that the previous DMK regime wanted to introduce in Tamil Nadu is trying to address the very problem of bias in education. But, I am not sure. Let me understand that first and then we shall continue our discussion.

I was just reading an interview of Mrs. Vasanthi Devi, who was the Vice Chancellor of my university during our time. She was saying, "The disputed thing is not to be seen as common education system. It is just about having a common syllabus across the state instead of having multiple boards and each one having different syllabus. Common education system means everything should be common. The facilities, opportunities, fees structure... everything, which is not the case now!". Wonderful thought! I am not sure if everyone that supports or opposes this system understands this difference. Because, as usual there is a lot of politics around this. What is all the more surprising is the caste politics being played here.

It's not that all articles have to pass judgement and everyone that writes such articles should be qualified enough to pass judgments on the subject. It's all unwritten rules of last generation writing. I am just starting this article with a belief that even bringing all views about an issue to one place and making them available for all to see could be a good writing. Let's see how much sense it makes...

No one was surprised that this madam stalled all the progress made by the previous regime on this front. She has always been someone that doesn't have any principles of her own or for her party. At the max, her policy decisions would be based on any of the below - 1. Things that came on her dreams on the previous night, 2. Suggestions by her astrologer, her close friend, or her relatives, 3. Or, simply doing the opposite of what the previous person did. So, we can't decide anything based on her decision.

One such announcement that was made by her has attracted a lot of criticism from her opponents. It is the induction of two new people into the committee to study the suggestions made by the previous regime. Their complaint is that the ones that are called educationists are not really educationists. They are the ones who do education as a business. The new system is trying to correct that. How would they be able to objectively judge whether the new system is good or bad? I don't know about these two people. But, is it good to have more and more businessmen coming into the education sector? Surely not! How did the governments allow them? Is there a rationale behind it? May be. One of them could be that they might have thought that building educational institutions is not as easy as running wine shops and bars and hence left the former to private parties and decided to run the latter on their own.

All the supporters of madam are also the ones that support her blindly and oppose the previous man more blindly. Even I have started hating him like that. I never even used to call him by his name. I used to respect him so much. Now, I don't even like to use his name. I hate him so much these days. I am more adamant than Jayalalithaa herself in not giving him a place in our history books. But, we don't have to oppose all his policies blindly for that. When he wanted to introduce a noble idea like the common education system, he also smartly inserted his name and some of his writings in all books. This is what he has been doing every time he comes to power. This cheap attempt has handicapped his supporters also while defending him. It would have been easier if he had not done all these. At the same time, I can't say that this madam would not have done whatever she is doing now even if he had not done all that.

The experts on the subject say that the common education system is an attempt to ensure social justice and it would eventually ensure equal opportunity for everyone as noted in the constitution of the nation. Thinking that it would go against them, the upper castes are vehemently opposing that. "How can it be uniform for all? How can it be common for all? How can all be equal? Inequality is natural. You shouldn't do anything against the nature!" is their point. "Should you not do anything against nature? Won't you ever like the word equality? The might is right in jungles. The mighty creatures kill the weaker ones for food. That's natural. Do we allow that to happen in our country as well? Why do we have laws preventing theft and robbery then?" is the counter-question. I don't know how to handle this as caste has come into this as well.

Those who oppose this system ask me - "You didn't get an opportunity for good education. Your child has got it now. Will you say 'No' to that and admit your child in the same dubba school where you studied?". We realize things only if we are asked such personal questions. We easily speak aloud about anything if you have to speak generally. If someone says, "It would also impact you!", we shut up. This question shuts me up too. Isn't it natural for a good dad to get his child the best of possible education so that at least he or she gets to places where we have not been able to? The places that the children of the ones that are less talented and more privileged than us have reached! But, none of us who speaks like this gets even a feet outside our circle and think about the rest of the world. It may be good for a dad of one or two children. How about a government? All children are the same for the governments. All their parents have only one vote each. It's its duty to ensure an equal environment for all. What I see more in the argument of "against the nature" is the selfishness than the public interest. Do you agree or not?

Then, I don't think the common syllabus is asking me to join my kid in the same dubba school where I studied. It just says, "Join in any school; But, if your kid is more talented than the rest, your kid also has to bear the same amount of load that the other kids are able to. Nothing more; nothing less!". As of now, I don't understand what problem I or my kid would have in that. I can understand if someone explains. As of now, what I think is - It is good. In general, it's good to make education a lighter affair. Less burden can never be an obstacle to good education. The same thing could be studied more deeply. Despite all these, if at all I am very adamant about loading my kid with more stuff, I can as well do that outside the school in different forms. No law will prohibit that. Even if there is perfect common education system in place, no one can remove this inequality. It's just an attempt to reduce the gap. Why should we hate it?

It's a vast area. We have to start from scratch. From 'whether privatization is right or wrong'!

It's right - When? When the condition is such that "The government can't do everything. When there is job security till 58 years, there is no fear factor. They would not do their duty dutifully. They would only come to streets for salary hikes every year!". Why can't the government do everything? Democracy is such a model. I can't pressurize the same voters that have to elect me to work harder. Then they would change their voting preference. They would always like the government that doesn't ask them to do their duty and just hikes the salary year after year. So, if privatized, they would ensure that the job gets done properly by having proper checks and balances in place and by hiking the salaries for only those who perform and by showing the right way to  the ones that don't perform. They would ensure that the quality is maintained. If you maintain quality, you would get more customers. Only more customers would mean more business. The fear factor will be there. That's the reason we do not have the same quality of private schools in government schools. Another reason for the deteriorating quality in government schools is that even the governments that came one after the other were horrible. Only good people would get good governments. So, we won't get it so easily. So, that way, privatization is good for us.

It's wrong - When? When the privatization done with good intentions go out of control. I mean, when the governments think, 'Once we privatize, our job is done; Our job then is to just loot the country!'. What is happening now is that the approval is given to everyone that gives money or flatters the chief minister in public meetings or if you are a minister. No one checks if there is building, if there are classrooms inside, if there are labs, if there is a library, if water comes in, or if there are toilets. Even after they start functioning, no one audits or checks their way of functioning. Because of that, while only a few improve the quality and do a good business, all others just don't worry about anything because there are enough people for them in the country of billion people with everyone wanting to make their children engineer. Just as they think, all the below-average kids of rich parents come and pour money to save their businesses. Is it good for the nation?

I have to talk about an important thing here. Like how we say the private schools are much better than government schools and private arts and science colleges are much better than government colleges, we can't say that the private engineering colleges are better than the government engineering colleges. Why? Because, they are being run like business. Uncontrolled business! Many of them are golden goose for the politicians, too. We should stop it at all costs.

Next, free and compulsory education for all is one of the greedy aspirations of our constitution. Is it possible? Yes. If the government has many more aspirations in addition to looting the nation. Is it possible? I don't think it is possible in near future because I believe that I am mentally alright. So, does privatization help here? Surely not! The very word privatization means there is nothing free and nothing compulsory. Will you not doubt my sanity if I say, "You have to compulsorily pay so many lakhs and educate your kid in my college!"?. If free education and compulsory education have to become reality, the government has to more ownership on education. If everything becomes so governmental, then there have to be proper checks in place to ensure our teachers do a decent job. Are there different options other than privatization then? There should be. Privatization is just an escape route. Not a solution to our problems. "If it's difficult or if you are lazy to correct the problems, better privatize that sector!" is the modern day mantra of our governments. It's just shirking one's responsibility and not handing over to the right hands.

What are those options? One of them - The relationship between schools and the parents have to be strengthened. Everything including the pay has to be decided based on performance and result as in private companies. Parents' feedback should be given utmost respect and importance. Unless we shake the job security that assures job and salary on time irrespective of whatever I do or not do, we can't create sincere workers. You may even laugh at this. You may even say, "These boys are always like this. They would never talk about what is practically possible!". If you think so, for your information, these practices are already in place in private companies. If I don't do the job that is given to me properly, I can be assured that I won't even have access to my work place tomorrow morning. If my customer has a complaint on my working style, I would be sent out even quicker. It is this fear that makes someone like me who is a lazy bone by birth a hard working professional. Only this fear can make every lazy bone in this land work for what is paid to them. Ironically, the government jobs make even the active ones lazy. So, what we want is a new approach - to see the parents as customers. Not just while collecting fees, but also after the results come - before promotions to teachers - to take feedback from!

There is another thing that we have to do - Like in many western countries, children should be allowed to get admitted only in schools that are in the same area. That would ensure that the quality of all schools in all areas are improved with the help of all big shots in all areas. One complaint that the ones who oppose common education system have is that it would never bring up the downtrodden; it would only pull down the fortunate ones. That's right too. Like the communist governments did in their countries, we should not make the hunger common instead of making the money common. There is an advantage in saying that let's all be in the same place wherever we are. Then whatever the rich parents do will be good for all. Unknowingly all would think for all even if they don't want to. Otherwise, the ones on top would go further up and the ones in bottom would go further down.

There is another issue adding to the list. It's the medium of instruction. As someone who studied everything in mother tongue throughout, I am one of them who have cursed the system for the irreparable inequality it has created. I would take years to achieve what an English medium guy could do on the first day. It becomes almost impossible for some of us. I strongly believe that I could have been little more successful if I had studied in English medium from the beginning. However, I can never match the ones that speak English at home with their parents, too. You can't have a law prohibiting that as well, right?

If we are talking about mother tongue as the medium of instruction, it should happen across the nation. Otherwise, that would again create huge amount of inequality. We are a nation that depends mostly on English speaking countries for our bread and butter or say, rice and rasam. In fact, that is the only advantage we have over others on the global arena today. If we lose out on that as well, then there is nothing that we could rely on. Even if the whole nation adopts mother tongue based education, the kids that speak English at home would have an edge over the middle class and low class ones. How are we going to handle that?

The only solution that I have for this problem is - Studying everything in two languages right from the beginning. I mean, Maths, Science, Social Science... everything! It may seem like over burden. But, it could be compensated by reducing the overall burden. I am not sure if I could implement this idea even if I become the education minister. If at all it could happen or this idea could reach the right ears, it would be a great thing for our kids.

We should also talk about Right to Education here. Whenever I see Kapil Sibal, I have always wondered why this guy talks so much. This is the law that proved he looks smarter when he acts than while speaking. We don't know what all problems it would have when it comes to implementation phase. Even then, it is a historical thing to have happened to us. We all want it to get implemented smoothly. But, if there is something called Right to Corruption law, then he would get busy making noises in TV channels to justify that and this would go for a toss. Or, if an educationalist with plenty of black money comes and says, "I would take care of your next election expenses!", that is a problem too. Let's see what happens.

We have had enough committees and enough reports. It's time for action now. Though I know that I don't have enough knowledge to speak like an educationist, I could understand that this common school system is a good attempt. This is just the beginning. We should only try to resolve the problems around it and move ahead instead of using them as reasons to stall the whole progress. I somehow get a doubt that that's what is happening here. Another thing, our governments have always been playing to the tune of big businessmen. Luckily, the businessmen in this sector have not become that big yet. It's easy to implement now. Otherwise, if they become so big to say that they could take care of election expenses, then nothing could be done to reduce the ever-increasing gap.

For them, the common education system would spoil their business. We can't expect them to accept their losses wholeheartedly. It's up to us to talk louder than them and get things done. Otherwise, the lessons added with vested interests by the previous regime could be removed and the ones that were removed could be added back. They are no way related to the education system. It's like saying burn all black buses. We should only talk about changing the color and not burning the buses.

One word that most of our country men don't like is - Equality. Right from the hospital where a baby is born till the burial ground, the place where one is buried, we can't accept equality. All in all, I think the root cause of this problem lies in how good or mature we are as a society. When there are problems in the basement itself, whatever we try to correct on the upper part would shake everything including the basement also.

2 comments:

  1. Education system is in the rotten condition now. I am really scared to send my daughter to school.
    1) Do you remember, how many essay type answers we had? That really did boost our writing skills. (if the answers were properly evaluated. I can draw parallel to test matches in cricket. That did test the depth of knowledge on the topic)
    2) Whole history is manipulated. History changes with the government.Funny!
    3) There are more management seats than government seats in colleges. General merit will get peanuts after the reservations. Talent is not valued.
    4) Money rules. Everywhere. Many institutions. Quality of teaching has gone down. Because of scarcity of teachers institutions lower the criteria to become a teacher.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the lengthy comment, Spicy. Don't know what the end is - where all these things are taking us and our children... :(

    ReplyDelete

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