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Students of the year

  • Students of the year

Sanjeev Singh Bariana in Chandigarh

An entire generation has shied away from government schools and for reasons well known. However, this year, these not-so-sought-after schools have outshone private institutes, becoming the first step towards reinstalling the lost faith. At an overall pass percentage of 88.21 against 86 per cent of private schools, Punjab’s government schools have made big news, a big statement.

This result has meant a 30 per cent jump from last year’s 58 per cent in 3,607 government high and senior secondary schools of the state. The credit goes to a series of training sessions for the teachers and a series of tests for the students according to their mental capability. Interestingly, Delhi’s government schools, despite the much-applauded schooling initiatives by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), registered a pass percentage of only 71.97. These results have placed Delhi at the ninth spot in the 10 regions under the Central Board of Secondary Schools (CBSE) across the country.

Results reversed

Last week, sarpanch Amrik Singh of Basrawan village in Gurdaspur district, organised a special function to felicitate the staff of Government High School in his village. Reason: All Class X children in the government school passed this year. Last year, all students had failed.

“The abysmal situation in government schools has forced people to send the children to private schools as only they offer disciplined teaching. We know that most teachers in these institutes are not well qualified; however, we still sent our children. The recent results in government schools have given hope to people. After last year’s poor results, new teachers were brought in and the scenario has now reversed,” the sarpanch says.

This year, stories of 100 per cent result are repeating across many schools that drew a zero last year. These included Government Senior Secondary School, Khabba Rajputan (Amritsar), GSSS, Khinwa (Jalandhar), Government High School, Azizpur (Pathankot) and GHS Bhura Kohna (Tarn Taran). Last year, as many as 163 schools had less than 10 per cent result. This year, there are only six schools having less than 20 per cent pass percentage.

The border districts, which had showed pathetic results last year, have seen a marked improvement. The biggest reason behind this has been teacher recruitment. In routine, teachers have not been interested in posting here. But last June, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh allowed recruitment of more than 3,000 teachers for border districts with a clear rider that no transfers will be allowed. The availability of teachers has shown results. Pathankot, which recorded pass percentage of only 52 per cent last year, has topped the state with 91 pass percentage. Gurdaspur recorded 89 per cent this year against 60 last year; Amritsar 89 per cent against 55; Tarn Taran 74 per cent against 33; and Ferozepur 80 per cent against 52 per cent last year.

Crackdown on cheating

Public memory is still replete with the image of Education Department raids, led by Secretary (School Education) Krishan Kumar, in the Tarn Taran area during the annual examination for 2017-2018 session last year. At least 34 schools were found allowing students of Class X and XII to use unfair means during the examination; 4,839 students were caught cheating at different centres. The results were, expectedly, drastic.

Officials say that with a clear signal of no tolerance towards cheating, the students prepared well for their exams. This year, student preparation was bolstered with additional teachers. In one of the meetings on boosting classroom teaching for better results, a senior principal remarked, “We never thought that cheating could be stopped!”

Padho Punjab, Padhao Punjab

The Padho Punjab programme, which was re-launched after the Congress government took over in 2017, did not have an easy run. Agitation by teachers’ unions started last October and continued till the commencement of the parliamentary election process this year. The programme faced allegation that the department, because of vested interests, had started a course parallel to the existing one, thereby increasing the workload on students as well as teachers.

The results, however, have proved all critics wrong. One of the biggest critics of the programme, Sanjha Morcha convenor Devinder Punia, also appreciated the government for improved results. “The result is good. As suggested on earlier occasions, the government went in for teaching students according to their mental abilities instead of generalised teaching for all,” he says.

“We did not introduce any new books in the curriculum, except study material for the newly added pre-school classes. The only additional study material added for other classes was as homework to help students. This was prepared by our block and district monitoring teams with help of the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT),” says Krishan Kumar.

Jarnail Singh, assistant director of SCERT, Punjab, says they conducted a general test to assess the mental capability of each student. “This was followed by special classes for students who scored less than 40 per cent marks. Then another test was held and classes were repeated for students who scored less than 40 per cent were repeated,” he shares.

Continuing efforts

Unlike last time, when the Padho Punjab programme was left mid way after the SAD-BJP government was voted out of power, the department has formalised certain important innovations to allow the continuity of reform measures.

In one case, the department has changed recruitment rules for headmasters and principals. “We have created a special cadre for the border districts so that teachers don’t try to seek transfer to other places. Padho Punjab is just a Punjabi christening of the Centre’s Learning Enhancement Programme and was mentioned as part of the Budget speech of the Finance Minister. This meant the initiative was now a government policy,” says Education Minister OP Soni.

He says the government is working on creating a special cadre for the SCERT teachers too. “We need them for training programmes to suit modern times,” he says.

Pat on the back

Since last March, the Education Department has been honouring “deserving teachers” with merit certificates. “We wish to identify all our star performers in imparting good education and acknowledge their work publically,” — Education Minister OP Soni says.

Plugging the loopholes

Need more teachers

Shortly after the elections, the government aims at recruiting more than 2,000 principals, headmasters, centre heads and Block Primary Officers through direct recruitment, says education secretary Krishan Kumar. Department officials, however, said that the correct figures for fresh recruitment to different cadres of the teaching staff would be finalised after the understudy rationalisation process was over. Changed admissions will have a bearing on the final recruitment figures.

Agitations galore

The department has been faced with teachers’ agitations since October last. While the elections brought in a brief lull, they have once again started demanding DA, revised pensions and regularisation of contractual and ad hoc staff. The department maintains that sufficient classroom teaching has been going on with the available staff. A senior officer, requesting anonymity, says, “We first regularised 5,178 teachers and later 8,886 more teachers. The unions have just been disrupting teaching, nothing else.” The unions, however, are not satisfied and have raised their banner at different places in the state.

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