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EDITORIAL: Educating Inao And Tombi

Ever since the Union Human Resources Development portfolio fell into the lap of Kapil Sibal, the Minister has shown that he is a man out to revolutionize the education system in the country. It is towards this end, why the grading system has started in schools affiliated to the Central Board of School Education with some State boards following suit.

Mr. Sibal has not stopped there and is today talking about an Ivy League system like in India too, where the top universities will be identified and included in this elite group. Already the number of IITs has increased from the seven to 13 now, with the new entries being IIT Bhubaneswar, IIT Punjab, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Gandhinagar, IIT Patna and IIT Indore. Originally there were only four IITs to begin with, Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur and Kharagpur. This later expanded with the establishment of IIT centers at Guwahati, Madras and Roorkee.

The same thing holds true in the case of the Indian Institute of Management. From the original four, namely Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta and Lucknow the number has increased to eleven with seven new centers coming up at Indore, Kozikode, Shillong, Raipur, Ranchi, Rohtak, and Trichy. The hitherto regional engineering colleges have also been rechristened National Institute of Technology, giving it a more pan India outlook and approach.

Kapil Sibal may not be wholly responsible for the overall changes that have taken place in the last few years, with regard to education but clearly the motivation and intention of the man is clear. From the higher level of education, including technical and professional courses, the focus of the Union HRD Minister shifted to primary education or school education and it was primarily to revitalize and revamp the school education system, that the Centre enacted the Right to Education Act, 2009. Under this Act, many sweeping changes are in the pipeline awaiting its strict enforcement, some of which are drastic and could alter the demographic profile of the students studying in a reputed, public school.

As we have said the marking system has been abandoned and instead the grading system has come into vogue in all schools affiliated to the CBSE and time alone can tell if this system works out better, but one thing is for certain and that is the blind obsession of the marks scored by a student to determine his academic proficiency is outdated and places an extra onus on the shoulders of the young students. Mr. Sibal has even gone ahead and mooted the idea of coming out with a model, wherein a student can decide whether he or she will appear for the Class X Boards exam or not.  In other words, this means that the Class X exam may become a subject of choice and not one which is forced down the gullet of every students. Whether the idea of Mr. Sibal will find enough takers or not remains to be seen, but it surely gives us a fresh insight into what education is all about.

This is the general scenario of what has been going on in the rest of the country while Manipur is today caught in the endless debate of whether it was justified on the part of private schools, primarily the Mission schools, to conduct entrance examination for admitting students to the primary level. Some parents or guardians have even dragged the matter to the Court with some schools being named. The strength of the petitioners or the parents lies with the clause in the Right to Education Act, 2009, wherein it has been clearly stated that there will be no entrance test for any children to get admission at the primary level or from the age of 6 to 14.

Different views and opinions have been aired and while one school of thought goes by the line that entrance examination is a must for the school authorities to select their choice of students, since not all can be accommodated; another school of thought has aired their opinion that some other alternative should be adopted to admit the children. Some have favored the draw of lots and some have backed the idea of first come first serve basis. The contrasting ideas have their merits and demerits, but let’s remember that subjecting a child as young as 6 or 7 to an entrance examination is nothing short of encouraging him or her to take the first step of learning by rote.

By the way, a number of students and even a number of adults, who are regarded as being educated and qualified, have not yet overcome this inbuilt instinct to learn by memorizing everything, understanding little of the substance that is being digested. If at all a test has to be conducted then let the respective school authorities think of a different way to test the skill and talent of the young students. A piece of paper and a pencil and sitting inside an examination hall, is not something which will correctly judge the capabilities of the young student. Moreover, subjecting these young children to a language which is alien to them, that is English, is absurd.

English can be learnt with the passage of time but expecting a 6 or 7 year old child to speak English fluently is ludicrous and makes no sense at all. On the other hand we also need to acknowledge the fact, that private schools have mushroomed all over the place and they are the coveted ones, simply because the Government has not done its job of imparting education to its children. Just think it over against the backdrop of the recent agitation launched by Government school teachers, demanding the 6th Pay Commission in toto.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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