If one wants to get equity and respect in life, then education is the basic requirement, but in Madhya Pradesh, education itself has turned into a challenge for the children. In the Nateran block of Vidisha district, 102 out of 282 schools are such where impact of education was not at all felt in real life. Not a single student in these schools managed to pass primary level exams. During the academic session that recently concluded (2006-07), 41 per cent of the children could not get the certificate of having passed and not a single student of government schools could make it to the merit list. If school level education does not hold any importance for the state or society, then the situation of education system, especially situation of quality education, is looking to be quite worrisome.
Total 46 percent of the teachers in state are working without training. The decision to give shikshakarmis and contract teachers the same grade as regular teachers is a late step towards equity in the system. Now indeed 1.25 lakh temporary para teachers would get respect and equity due to them. But the question is whether this would bring positive changes in quality of education. Government of Madhya Pradesh in a recent decision has given status of teacher to the para teachers but still a question of quality and capacity of these teachers still exists.It indeed terrifies one to realize that we are encouraging such education system where the government is literally digging the roots of the society to promote commercialization in education. There is ample doubt that an education system that is based on disparity and inequality would be able to remove the social evils like casteism and communalism from the minds of the students. The questions that raises head again and again is that how can a teacher, who is himself/herself untrained provide good education to children.
At the national and international level, society and politicians have had to accept that the right to education is directly connected to the basic right to life. In the World Education Forum convention at Dakar in Senegal in year 2000, all the countries in world, including India had claimed unanimously that by year 2015 education would be provided to all. But the government hardly seems prepared for the challenges to be addressed to fulfill this promise.
Education can drastically change the equation between the weak and powerful in the society and this is one of the main reasons that free, compulsory and quality education has been opposed. Reformer Gopal Krishna Gokhale had placed a resolution of free and compulsory education before the Imperial Assembly in year 1911, but owing to the pressure of propagators of capitalist and divisive politics, the resolution could not be passed. Later in 1937, Mahatma Gandhi termed education as the basic priority of states and asked the education ministers to make education `productive'. But this proposal was almost shot down under the excuse of unavailability of resources. The situation has not much changed even now. Education is being provided, but teachers remain absent. There are schools but textbooks and buildings are not available. If something happens without fail, it is multifaceted disparity. The World Bank has recently praised the educational efforts of the MP Government because this institution that seeks to promote globalisation and capitalism thinks can education could be somehow conducted with help of temporary teachers. Although shikshakarmis have been given the cadre of full time teachers, to give them the true honour, it is important that the teachers are freed of all non-academic work. MP has had total strength of 117502 para teachers inclusive of contract teachers, shikshakarmis and temporary teachers like gurujis.
This year, the number would increase by 50000. The government has decided to use para teachers as a policy in the garb of providing education to all. But the important fact is that these para teachers do not have the basic competency in subjects and teaching techniques. It has been always debated that at least school level education should be made compulsory, but government has considered primary and maximum part of middle school education as part of `compulsory education'. Now since the government is committed to this, it has come out with strategy to appoint temporary and untrained teachers at low salaries to cope with the requirement. Important fact is that about 96000 out of the 1.17-lakh para teachers are working at middle school level. One third of para teachers in country are in Madhya Pradesh, the number being highest among all states. The objective seems to be fulfilling the formalities of `education for all'. In the higher education sector permanent, full time and trained teachers are working. This means that rural, tribal, dalit and economically backward students studying in government schools would get education, but this education would neither be qualitative nor productive.
In the Jan Sunwai (public hearing) conducted at Bhopal by MP Shiksha Abhiyan it was proved that the students of government primary school could just write their names, which means that they have just become literate and not being educated. This is clear violation of the constitutional right of equality and right to education. Recently, after analysing the educational situation in tribal areas, the government has made a policy to appoint guest teachers. These would also be temporary teachers who do not need experience and competence and would be paid on basis of classes taken.
The situation is that about 49200 para teachers are educated only upto higher secondary or even lower level and about 88000 teachers have no training and these are the teachers who are posted in rural areas and teach the actually deprived section of children. These are those children who not only require education to be able to read and write, but to engage in the process of liberation from disparity of class and creed. This makes it clear that the government is either not able to gauge the connection between education and social reforms, or is not willing to accept the fact.
The experience document of the Madhya Pradesh Education Campaign mentions that even the most expert teachers consider teaching primary kids more challenging than those in higher classes. Yet the responsibility of primary teaching has been given in incompetent hands. To find a solution to this problem, the state government has come out with the strategy, under which more than one lakh untrained teachers are being provided D Ed (diploma in education) degree by using distance education programme of the MP Bhoj Open University, while they continue their teaching work. Here too, one point arises as to how the teachers would get competency without practical training. Working in the present conditions, the teachers are not in situation of going through such training. In the state about 30233 (25.06 pc) schools are such where only one teacher is responsible for teaching, administration and also the mid-day meal scheme.
If not anything, the state government should be made aware of the concerns of the Supreme Court. In a recent ruling in Andhrakesari Educational Society versus, instructors/ schoolteachers, the Supreme Court had made clear that unskilled and incompetent teachers are dangerous for the educational machinery. In such situation, the government and the university would have to take care that inadequate training does not hamper the education for children. Similarly in a ruling on Mutthukumar versus Tamil Nadu State, the Supreme Court ruled that the process of untrained teachers teaching children is detrimental fro the country and would prove to be roadblock in progress of nation. But the government is so engrossed in commercialization of education, that it does not even hear the voice of the apex court. It is the need of the time to turn the issue of education into a mass campaign. Those who consider private education system as better would have to understand that they are relieving the government of its constitutional responsibility and this is very dangerous trend where the state would have no role to play in society.
By Sachin Kumar Jain