Various achievement surveys and assessment reports clearly show that the performance levels of the government school students decline every year. What, according to you, is the reason?
I believe it is because a majority of the students belong to unstable families. Largely, their parents are migrant labourers. So, if the parents of a government school student relocate, the child needs to wait till he/she can join school again. It is difficult to make such students cope with studies. Another reason is a poor pupil-teacher ratio. However, we are working on giving it a fillip.
What are the steps to improve the performance of government schools?
There should be better books, teachers should be comfortable while teaching, there should not be too many students in classes, and the schools should have a provision of modern technology to refine the learning culture.
What is your contribution as the Education Secretary, especially in regard to the government schools?
There are certain corrective measures that we have tried to take in order to keep a check on students’ performance. First, all the 1,400 primary teachers have been given intensive training by the State Council Educational Research and Training (SCERT). Further, we introduced colourful workbooks for primary-level children so that they felt encouraged to pick up the workbooks.
To maintain a balanced teacher-pupil ratio, we recruited over 1,000 teachers and focused on the schools in the periphery. I had also passed orders to implement the neighbourhood criteria, whereby a child could be shifted to the nearest school if there were no vacant seats available in the school in which the child desired to take admission.
What are the future plans for the city schools?
A major project would be the introduction of electronic teaching aids in the schools. Blackboards and textbooks will go digital. Although these technologies will initially be installed in 200 classrooms, they will gradually be a part of the remaining schools as well. We are also planning to conduct inspection in the schools. Also, five government schools are likely to be completed by next year.
The government schools, especially those in the periphery, have no dedicated libraries, adequate science labs, or playgrounds. Some schools do not even have proper infrastructure. What is the education department doing in these directions?
Recently, when we recruited teachers for government schools, our focus was on the schools in the periphery as they had the maximum number of vacancies. A lot of improvement is expected. The teachers were selected on the basis of merit, and they should bring about changes in their respective schools. Then, ramps and toilets are being constructed in the schools. Next year, the science labs in all the government schools will get the required equipment.
Apart from infrastructure, new toilets, science labs, and teachers, what else does the UT Education Department need to do to improve the rankings of the government schools?
The emphasis has to be on regular training and setting strict rules. The problem is that we cannot transfer the city teachers to Ferozepur or anywhere else, which is why the teachers here are very casual. So, the only alternative is to take punitive action against the teachers. They should be demoted and held responsible for the poor performance of the students. I believe nothing effective can be done without creating an atmosphere of fear.
A proposal of providing bicycles and laptops to the girl students of class XI and government colleges, respectively, has been hanging fire for more than a year. The former DPI had said that the proposal was scrapped. Will it ever see the light of the day?
Scrapped? The proposal was approved by the Governor himself. The former DPI must have scrapped it at his level. A few specifications of the laptops had to be changed, which the staff got it done. Later, I had given a green signal to the project. Tenders were floated, and the department had received monetary aid as well. However, nobody brought to my notice that the proposal never took off thereafter. I am looking after 10 departments, I cannot go into the nitty-gritty. The DPI was intimidated about the budget, and he was supposed to implement it. You better ask the DPI.