Karela Fry

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A nation without teachers?

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The acute lack of interest shown by various state and central governments to basic education is well-known. The fall-out seems to be hitting the best public school system in the country: the Kendriya Vidyalayas. HT reports from Mumbai:

The city’s 15 Kendriya Vidyalayas (KV), schools run by the central government, are facing an acute shortage of teachers.

The Mumbai Division, which includes the city, Thane, Yavatmal, Pune and Nashik, has 48 Kendriya Vidyalayas which are facing a shortage of 339 teachers.

At the KV in the Powai campus of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B), parents of eight students have volunteered to teach math and science to Class 11 and Class 12 students. They have been teaching in the school since August to make up for the shortage of six teachers.

Academicians said that the shortage was due to few candidates clearing the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET), the eligibility criterion for appointing teachers. The test was introduced in June. Only 14 % of the candidates who took the test across India cleared it. KVs can only employ those who have cleared the test.

Over the years the school education system in Maharashtra has been dumbed down till students have become virtually unemployable. This shows in the results of teacher eligibility tests. DNA reported:

Maharashtra Federation for Junior College Teachers, along with an education NGO, DEEPER, have filed a petition in the Supreme Court for opting out of the exam until 2014.

The Federation is demanding that the exam be conducted in 2014, after the state board has implemented its revised syllabus that will bring state students on par with their CBSE counterparts.

Anil Deshmukh, general secretary, of the Federation, said, “NEET [National Eligibility cum Entrance Test] will not benefit Maharashtra students. Almost 40 to 50% of the exam is based on the syllabus of the CBSE. Our students will not be able to answer many questions. They will feel demoralised.’’

The Federation has hit the nail on the head: an eligibility test is a wonderful idea, but is it useful without training teachers adequately? The result of a gradual dumbing down of education is that eventually there is an acute shortage of teachers at all levels of the education system.

The central government has spent the last five years trying to build wonderfully publicity-friendly institutes of higher education, with little success. It would like to blame this on delays in land-acquisition by the states, but the truth is that lack of trained teachers is as much, or perhaps more, to blame. HT reported:

The UPA government will shift its focus from quantity to quality in higher education with its efforts to launch an unprecedented expansion across the country not being matched by building of infrastructure and finding talented teachers.

The government had announced the setting up of 51 public-funded higher education institutions — including eight Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) during the 11th Five Year Plan period from 2007-2012.

The 12th plan will add four new IITs but no new IIMs. Fourteen innovation universities and 374 model colleges already announced in the 11th plan but could not be established will also go into the new plan.

Despite the union cabinet approving over Rs 10,000 crore for setting up new IITs and IIMs in 2008, construction work for only four technology and five management institutes have started and about 40% of the faculty posts are lying vacant.

Faculty shortage ranges from 30% to 40% in IITs and up to 30% in IIMs. It is as high as 50% of the teaching posts in the university system. “Many new universities have started from temporary campuses with just a few courses because of faculty shortage and space,” a senior University Grants Commission (UGC) official said.

The 12th plan would also see a higher allocation of funds to support high-quality research in educational institutions and incentives to have more PhD-holders, whose number has been falling in recent years. The proposal, agreed by the ministry, will soon be submitted for approval to the planning commission, which is mandated to finalise the 12th plan for India.

If you wonder why teaching is not a career that people aspire to, just remind yourself of the goings-on in Punjab.

Following this reprehensible incident, further protests were dealt with even more violently, reports the Chandigarh Tribune:

Accusing the CM of showing dillydallying attitude towards the demands of employment and stern action against the Akali Sarpanch Balwinder Singh “Toti” of Daula village for slapping Varinder Kaur, one of their female colleagues, they blocked the main gate of the school to press for the acceptance of their demands.

Protesting teachers squatted on the road in front of the CM’s cavalcade and raised anti-establishment slogans.

During his Sangat Darshan programme, the CM faced an awkward situation at Chatteana village in Gidderbaha constituency where also he was greeted by protesters.

The National Commission for Women on Wednesday said it would conduct a probe into the incident of a woman teacher being slapped by a sarpanch in Mukstar. “I will soon set up a panel to go into the case,” said NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma.

Policemen were seen dragging female teachers by their hair and even hitting them with shoes in order to clear the way for the CM’s cavalcade. Two of the women protesters – Sarbjeet Kaur and Kiranjeet Kaur – were hit by a jammer vehicle of the CM’s convoy. The teachers were left to cry in pain.

Meanwhile, seeing the policemen beating up women teachers, a large number of passers-by rushed to rescue them.

Enraged villagers targeted Gidderbaha DSP Bhupinder Singh as he was leading the police posse assaulting the protesters. One of the villagers hurled shoe at him, hitting him on the neck. The DSP, however, denied this while speaking to media.

Immediately after the CM’s convoy left the village, police reinforcements were rushed in to bring the situation under control.

Varinder Kaur, who was slapped on Sunday by an Akali Sarpanch of Daula village, was again thrashed by cops. The protesters then blocked the Bathinda-Malout national highway (NH-15) at Husnar Chowk. Later, they took out a protest march in the city.

This particular incident is threatening to blow up in the face of the Akali Dal, reports TOI:

Use of force on teachers, a woman getting slapped by an Akali leader and two others getting injured in police lathicharge has turned the spotlight on agitation for regular jobs by teachers. However, there is no sympathy within the government towards the teachers’ demands and teachers are being seen as trying to take advantage of a politically charged environment ahead of the state going to polls.

The teachers are demanding permanent jobs in lieu of the contractual jobs they did for the government, contracts for which expired in 2008. “About 3,000 teachers were hired on contract by the government under Sarv Shiksha Abhiyaan in 2003 after an education guarantee scheme was launched for school dropouts,” said Pritpal Singh, who is leading the EGS Teachers Union agitation.

The teachers were entrusted the task of bringing school dropouts into the mainstream and paid Rs 1,000 per month as remuneration. “We managed to bring all students in the mainstream but the centres were closed down subsequently. We agitated for government jobs but most of us did not have the pre-requisite qualification. That is when the government gave us an incentive to do elementary teacher training diploma from government ETT colleges,” said Pritpal Singh.

At Rs. 1000 per month, temporary teachers live just above the infamous definition of the poverty line touted by Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia: Rs. 32 per day. So teachers in Punjab face not only humiliation but also poverty.

Our neighbour to the north does somewhat better in this respect. In China the largest universities are the so-called "Normal Universities", which are essentially teacher training universities. As, for the education system, this article from IPP Media also has lessons for India:

But how has China managed to be the third top vehicle manufacturer and assembler in the world?

It is very simple; the secret lies in its educational programme.

For unlike Tanzania which has lately focused in construction of universities, with degrees taking centre stage, china has for the last fifty years concentrated in the training of technicians.

Presently China has technicians literally in each and every field from electrical to mechanical and from laboratory to masonry.

And the result of such well-thought educational policy has been the production of top-flight technicians that has made it possible for China to be the home of most of the world’s top range vehicles and machineries.

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