Industrialisation in the poor literate Odisha may not help people
By Anil Pradhan
Odisha has been witnessing an inverse fund flow into the industry and primary education sector in the post-liberalisation period. The state government has claimed that it has signed more than sixty MoUs with a cumulative investment of Rs 4 lakh crore. On the contrary, the available data shows that the government has drastically cut the expenditure in the primary education since 1994.
Odisha is one of the backward states on all the parameters. The Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes constitute around 22.13 % and 16.53% respectively of the total population. There are 62 tribal groups in Odisha and 13 of them have been identified as primitive tribes. The literacy among scheduled tribes is low (37.4%) in comparison to the general literacy (63.63%) in the state. Out of the thirty districts, 14 of them have literacy percentage below the state average of 63.61% (2001). Female literacy is also very low - 21.02 % in Nabarangapur, 21.28% in Malkanagiri and 24.81% in Koraput.
Hence, Odisha should be treated separately. Our Prime Minister has rightly emphasised that the real challenge before India is to make the ¡§growth process more socially inclusive and regionally balanced¡¨(The Hindu) . Unless special attention is given to the underdeveloped states like Odisha, India can not develop.
Odisha government does not give preference to education. The state government has no plan for appointing permanent teachers in the elementary schools. The government has recently announced that the teachers will be appointed under contractual basis with a remuneration of Rs. 1,500/- to 2,000/-.
According to the available data, Odisha Government¡¦s expenditure on the elementary education is decreasing:
%of total budget
(Sikshara Sthiti O¡¦ Dusthiti by Abani Baral, 2007)
With this background of a weak social infrastructure, Odisha government has already signed more than sixty MoUs with the MNCs and mega players. One can imagine the fate of the illiterate people in this process of industrialisation.
Unless government expenditure rises on elementary education, we cannot expect to improve the situation of education in Odisha. However, money alone can not improve the situation of elementary education. Addressing administrative, personnel and other issues alongside accountability system could help us to change the situation.
Community participation, Panchayat Raj institutions and accountability:
If we analyze community participation in education in Odishat, we will find that historically most of the schools and colleges were set up by the community. When community members had a role in the management of the schools, schools were showing better results. However, in some cases, the management was harsh towards teachers. In 1998, all teachers of primary schools and upper primary schools were declared as government servants. During the ninth plan period, 2929 fully-aided secondary schools were taken over by the government. With effect from June 7, 1994, all the fully aided secondary schools have become government schools. After the community became less involved in managing the schools, the performance of the schools began deteriorating day by day. Government has introduced VEC to ensure community participation in school management, but once again it is government driven. It is the head master of the school who decides who will become members of the committee.
The Government of Orissa has transferred 28 items of responsibilities to Gram Panchayats, which include elementary education. As per the law, Gram Panchayat can recommend actions in case of any indiscipline on the part of teachers to the block level committee, but cannot take any action. What is then the use of transferring responsibilities to the Gram Panchayats?
Impact of Sarva Siksha Abhijan
Under Sarva Siksha Abhijan a lot of money is being spent on infrastructure development, teaching learning materials, teachers¡¦ training, surveys and Management Information System. However if there are not appropriate numbers of well motivated teachers in schools, who will translate these concepts in to reality?All district level education officers are administrative officers. They do not take interest in education; rather they are more interested in construction of infrastructure.
Schemes such as DPEP and SSA have done more harm than the good. Teachers are now responsible for handling a lot of money and looking after construction activities, additional responsibilities that came with the implementation of these programmes. People are unaware that the work order is being done in the name of VECs, but in practice, teachers do everything
If the administrative structure will not be changed, accountability will not be ensured at all levels, as spending money through already existing structure which is outdated and rotten is meaning less. Administrative reforms should be a part of planning. People¡¦s capacity should be developed so that they can manage their own affairs including schools.
Quality Education is a myth.
People think that quality education can be ensured if there will be a lot of teaching and learning materials, good pucca building, appointment of permanent teachers, etc. First of all government is not giving any importance to appointing permanent teachers. Secondly, whatever good teachers were there, they are now working as Co-coordinators, BRC and CRC and many have already been corrupted, due to heavy channelling of money under Sarva Siksha Abhijan through them. Teacher and students ratio decreases day by day. Although, various commissions and report have been given much importance on decentralization in developing course curriculum and course materials, nothing has been done to date. Under such circumstances, an expectation of quality education from the government stream is a day dream.
The Important Problems of elementary education can be summarised as follow:
Absence of Education Policy: There is an absence of education policy in many states of India.Educational administration functions chiefly through circulars. Circulars can be changed and altered at any point of time depending on the whims of the ministers and educational administrators concerned. Therefore, there is little accountability at all levels.
Inequalities in Public Spending: There are inequalities in public spending even within a district, between blocks, and within a block between schools, when measured in terms of staff strength and other instructional and infrastructural resources. For example, there appears to be an ironic situation: in urban and semi- urban areas some government schools have too many teachers and too few students; in the less privileged areas/neighbourhoods, in contrast, often one or two teachers have to manage single ¡Vor double-headedly largeclasses and other school related responsibilities. This happens due to lack of a clear-cut policy in the education sector.
Appointment of Teachers: We cannot ignore the role of teacher in ensuring quality education. Education is a low priority area for many state governments. Appointment of teachers is a problem in many states.In almost all cases, state governments are not appointing permanent teachers for primary schools. In case of Orissa, the state government has already appointed thirty thousand teachers on a contractual basis. On October 12th 2006, a notification was issued stating that an additional fifty thousand teachers would be appointed on a contractual basis with remuneration of Rs.2000/- per month. In this context, if pressure will not be built from below, we cannot bring out any qualitative changes in the education sector.
A lot of changes need to be brought about in the selection of teachers, and teachers¡¦ training. In the present context, while selecting candidates for teachers¡¦ training consists of only academic qualifications (not attitude and aptitude) is taken into consideration. This causes serious problems in ensuring quality education.
Education is under the Concurrent List: The 86th constitutional amendment (2002) has declared primary education as a fundamental right. To ensure the fundamental right to education for every child, BJP led NDA government formulated a draft bill titled Free and Compulsory education Bill, 2003. There were a lot of debates over it. When the UPA government was formed at the centre, they brought out many changes in the Free and Compulsory Education bill and renamed it as Right to Education Bill 2005. Again a lot of discussion took place. Finally, during the last parliament session, the UPA government forwarded the draft of Right to Education Bill to all state governments asking them to implement it at their own level. The central Government did not want to shoulder the responsibility of implementing the bill. This will create problems for underdeveloped states like Orissa, Bihar, and Jharkhand etc.
Furthermore since education is under the Concurrent List, it is the shared responsibility of both centre and states.Here, the state governments are not bound to obey the centre¡¦s directives. Therefore, to translate intention into reality, with regard to the National Curriculum Framework prepared by NCERT, is very difficult in the present set up. Unless there is a constitutional amendment that addresses 73rd amendment (Each state government was forced to bring on amendment in their respective Panchayat Raj Act in the light of central act.), it will be extremely difficult to implement the national curriculum framework in the field.
Experience from the field
The state of education in tribal areas is in a deplorable condition. Although, many commissions have been set-up at central level as well as the formulation of many plans and programmes, there is still a vast lacuna in educating tribal people. I have identified certain problems on tribal education as follows:
üThere is no policy for educating tribal children in Orissa. The Department of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes run residential schools for tribal children. The number of schools run under this department is like a drop in the ocean. Most of the tribal students depend on schools run by the department of Schools and Mass Education. The Schools and Mass Education department has no policy for educating tribal children. Tribals have their own language, culture and life style. While planning educational activities, these languages, cultures and life styles have to be taken in to account.Both the departments who work for educating tribal children have yet to address these issues.
üThere is a lot of money being spent for education under Sarva Siksha Abhijan through Orissa Primary Education Authority (OPEPA). OPEPA has developed few primers for tribal children and attitudinal trainings have been conducted for teachers who are working in tribal areas. But, what will be fate of this programme after this Sarva Siksha Abhijan programme?OPEPA activities are planned in the whim of State Project Directors. When the Director changes, priorities also change. For example, when the DPEP programme was initiated, there was a section for tribal education. Tribal coordinators were posted at district levels in few tribal districts.In between, priority of the authority had changed and tribal education section was abolished for a few years.Whatever materials developed (primers, training manual) became null and void. Again there is now a section for tribal education and a lot of work is being done under this section. But if there will be no clear cut policy for tribal education what will happen to this work after this programme is over.
The high schools run under the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes Department are functioning like any other schools with the exception of adding residential facilities. There is no separate curriculum and activities for tribal children in these schools which will promote and raise their confidence level.
Odisha government should learn from these field experiences and redesign school programmes accordingly for the rural communities. And, the state government should join hands with others state to have an inclusive society with social justice.
The author works in the field of primary education. __._,_.___
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