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EDUCATION : PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR PUBLIC SERVANTS?

EDUCATION : PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR PUBLIC SERVANTS?

Intro: It will give an opportunity to children of common men to interact and mix-up with children of so-called high or semi high society, giving them a different kind of atmosphere, confidence and other opportunities. This would give a boost and bring revolution in changing Society from grass roots level. The initial level mixing among all children will have a different consequence.
—Justice Sudhir Agarwal
in the verdict

Taking a serious note of the pathetic condition prevailing in government schools of Uttar Pradesh, the Allahabad High Court on August 18 directed the state Government to ensure that all government servants, elected representatives and members of the judiciary “and all other persons who get any benefit or salary from the State Exchequer or public fund” send their wards to government run primary schools from the next academic session. “…only then would they be serious enough to look into the requirements of these schools and ensure that they are run in good condition,” the Court commented.

Reasons cited by the Court for change in policy

  • The government schools are victim of highest level of misappropriation, maladministration and widespread corruption. Standard of teaching is the biggest casualty
  • No real involvement of administration in schools
  • No person who has adequate finance even think of sending their wards for primary education to schools run by the government
  • Whether it is the District Collector or Police Chief in the District or any other Government Servant, they ensure that their children get primary education in schools having better infrastructure, and completely exclude third category schools, i.e. common-men’s schools
  • The public administration, therefore, has no actual indulgence to see functioning and requirements of these schools.

The single judge bench of Justice Sudhir Agarwal also directed that “penal provisions” be laid down for those who violate the order. For example, if a child is sent to a school not maintained by the UP Board “an amount equivalent to that paid in the form of fees by the erring officials or elected representatives shall be deposited in State Exchequer every month so long as such education in other kind of primary school is continued”. “Besides, such person, if in service, should be made to suffer other benefits like increment, promotional avenues for a certain period, as the case may be,” the Court ordered.
With no fans, furniture, building or even teachers, about 10 per cent of the primary schools in Uttar Pradesh are run from single-room structures. There are a total of 26,379 primary schools in the State. The condition of schools is equally pathetic in other states also. It is a matter of shame for the country, which has been the hub of education for centuries and now also is aspiring to lead the world in coming years. The drive to construct toilets has just begun thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The poor condition of drinking water, buildings, educational aid instruments, staff, etc shows how scant attention the policy makers pay to this vital sector, which is directly connected to shaping the future of the nation.
Now the Court might have pointed figure towards the primary education, the situation in higher education too is equally disappointing. Academic Ranking of World Universities 2015 points out that only one Bharatiya institution, Indian Institute of Sciences, Bengluru, finds place among the world’s top 500 universities, and that too at the bottom. The situation in research is also very pathetic. Our global contribution in research is merely 3.5 per cent. China contributes about 17 per cent in mathematics research, but Bharat’s contribution in this field is merely 2 per cent. Equally, Bharat’s contribution in clinical medicine research is 1.9 per cent, in psychiatrically research 0.5 per cent, in molecular biology sector 2.1 per cent and in environment research 3.5 per cent. Nobody seems ashamed at this situation.

A welcome step, implement
throughout the country
—Mukul Kanitkar Joint Organising Secretary, Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal

“It is a welcome development. Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal has always been demanding this step as an important measure in improving the public education delivery system. The government has best human resource in education. Most qualified teachers are available with the government. In many states, infrastructure is also more than optimum. Big playgrounds, laboratories can be seen only in government institutes. The only problem with these institutes is that they do not produce quality output. It is an apathy on the part of the government mechanary. Government officers, administrators and teachers themselves do not own the educational institutes. The High Court directive may become a major step in this regard. When the ward of a Chief Secretary, a Collector or Principal or School Teacher is enrolled in a government institute, there will naturally be owning of that institute. We hope this is implemented earnestly by all the State governments and the Centre. It may be added that these provisions should also be applied to all Ministers, MLAs and MPs as they are also public servants.”

During the last seven decades the number of government schools has definitely increased. But it is still insufficient when we look at the burgeoning number of students. In 1950-51, the country had 5.38 lakh primary teachers, 0.86 upper primary, 10.06 secondary and 1.27 lakh senior secondary teachers. This number in 2013-14 rose to 26.84 lakh primary teachers, 25.13 lakh upper primary, 12.86 secondary and 17.85 lakh senior secondary school teachers. In the decades the student enrolment ratio increased substantially. In 1950-51, 1.92 crore students used to study in primary schools, 0.31 crore in upper primary, 1.90 crore in secondary and 0.15 crore in senior secondary schools. This figure in 2013-14 rose to 13 crore in primary, 6.57 crore in upper primary, 3.70 crore in secondary and 2.77 crore in senior secondary.

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What is the case about?
The case was a bunch of writ petitions filed on the procedure of appointment of teachers to government schools. The petitions were an offshoot of the Court’s earlier decision, which struck down certain provisions of UP Basic Education (Teachers) Service (Fifteenth Amendment) Rules 2012, which only considered the educational qualifications and did not give any weight to the scores of Teachers Eligibility Test in preparation of merit list for the recruitment. Interestingly, no relief had been prayed before the court to order the children of government servants, politicians, etc. to be sent to government schools. The Court sue motto expanded scope of the PIL.

However, the teacher-student ratio disturbed hugely in these decades. In 1950-51 the ratio was 1:24 in primary, 1:20 in upper primary, 1:31 in secondary and 1:21 in senior secondary. It widened in 2013-14 to 1:28 in primary, 1:30 in upper primary, 1:28 in secondary and 1:40 in senior secondary. In these decades the dropout rate has substantially reduced. In 1960-61, for classes 1 to 5 it was 64.9 per, 78.3 per cent for classes 1 to 8 and 82.5 per cent for the classes 1 to 10. It reduced in 2013-14 to 19.8 per cent for the classes 1 to 5, 36.3 per cent for the classes 1 to 8 and 47.4 per cent for the classes 1 to 10.

Need to improve condition before issuing any such order—Dinanath Batra
Chairman, Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, New Delhi

“We feel people cannot be forced to purchase substandard goods from a particular shop. Today people are conscious about future of their children. Therefore, before issuing any such order the condition in government schools should be improved substantially. If it is done the parents will automatically admit their wards there and there will be no need to issue any such directive. Forcing parents to send their children in government schools without creating an academic atmosphere there is  unfair. Today people are forced to teach their children in private schools because they have no other option.”

Majority people have applauded the Court directive and wished it would be implemented all across Bharat. “We have to admit our children in private schools, because we find is no future for them in government schools. If the situation improves there even slightly, we shall immediately withdraw the children from private schools and admit them in government schools. We know the private schools are shops for looting us. But we have no other option but to get looted and cheated,” said Suresh Yadav, an electrician working in Laxmi Nagar market of Delhi.
“The Court ruling is difficult to be implement. But it has definitely drawn the attention of all towards the major ill killing our government education system. Those who are responsible for taking care of the schools have turned a blind eye to the pathetic condition of schools and are not at all interested in improving it. This decision will force the officials to look into it and for at least their own wards they would be interested in improving the condition of the schools,” said a senior government official working in the Union Finance Ministry in Delhi.

A milestone verdict
—Monika Arora
Advocate, Delhi High Court

The decision came because the Court was appalled at the pathetic conditions of government schools and indifference of the state government towards that condition. The Court wondered that there cannot be two sets of schools for two different sets of people—government schools for the Masses (who have less money) and private schools for the Classes, which comprise of bureaucrats, politicians, etc. Unless and until the Classes put their own children in government schools, they would not understand the problems of government schools. Merely giving affidavits in Court will not serve the purpose. Let them face the brunt and feel the pain. If their children go to government schools, immediately there will be sitting facility, proper infrastructure and instruction facilities in those schools. It is a welcome move. It is high time that difference in education on the basis of money should be stopped and the gap between the Classes and Masses should be crushed. Same education should be provided to both Classes and Masses. It is a milestone verdict.
If you talk about law I agree that it is against the freedom of choice. But the Court, in the interest of justice expanded the scope of the PIL. People will welcome it. If the Executive is not doing its work properly the Judiciary has to step in. Some people can also term it as judicial activism. But this is a fact that if the bureaucrats and politicians put their children in government schools, within a week or so the government schools will have proper toilets, sanitation, food, sitting capacity and proper instructional facilities. What more do you want.

Dr Govind Singh, Prof and Head of Department of Journalism and Mass Communication in Uttarakhand Open University, termed the Court ruling as “an eye opener for all”. He said, “It is a slap in the face of the government school system. The condition was not so poor even during the British period. There used to be very few public schools exclusively for rich people then, and about 98 per cent people used to study in government schools only and excelled in every sphere of life. Though the number of schools was low, their condition was better. The students studied in those schools were more qualified, civilised, talented than today.

Being victimised for a genuine cause: Pathak

In an unexpected move the Uttar Pradesh government terminated the services of the whistleblower, Shiv Kumar Pathak, who is a Shiksha Mitra. His suspension received sharp reaction from various quarters. Suspended IPS officer Amitabh Thakur came openly in support of Pathak saying the termination goes directly against the letter and spirit of protecting the whistleblowers. He said Pathak should have been awarded for having filed this PIL, which will pave the way for improvement of primary education in Uttar Pradesh. Shiv Kumar Pathak said he was being victimised for raising his voice for a genuine cause. “I had taken leave and had informed my seniors that I would be away from duty to attend this case in the Allahabad High Court for six days. But still they have sacked me arbitrarily,” he said.

The avalanche of private schools hugely devastated the government school system and the bureaucracy has just turned a blind eye to it. People are also equally responsible for this deterioration as they too allowed the governments for this criminal negligence. But the big question today is whether the Court order would be implemented. But this is a fact that if the Court order is implemented all over the country the picture of the education system would improve definitely within years.”
It is not clear whether the Court ruling will be implemented or not, the fact is that it has provided an opportunity to the policy makers to pay attention to the pathetic condition prevailing in education sector of the country. The attention should be paid not only to primary education but also to the secondary and higher education.                                                 Pramod Kumar

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