The overall development of any area is reflected by multiple markers and education happens to be one such important marker. The educational level of an area is reflective of its socio-economic condition on one hand and education is also a means of improving the socio economic condition of that place. Educational level is reflected in the literacy rate, job portfolios of the residents and performance in periodic examinations. And the latest examination results did not provide much for Dhubri to celebrate.
The High School Leaving Certificate Examination results of 2020 saw Dhubri slip to the lowest rung with the least pass percentage amongst all districts. Overall pass percentage of the state was 64.8%. Nalbari topped the list of districts with a pass percentage of 78.3%. Dhubri could manage a pass percentage of only 44.8%. Interestingly Dhubri’s neighbouring districts Goalpara had a pass percentage of 58% while Bongaigaon had 67% and Barpeta performed quite well with 70%. The pass percentage of Dhubri has in fact gone down from the last two years and this has led to a lot of concern amongst the educated section of the district.
A preliminary look at Dhubri’s performance shows that like most other districts, schools in private sector outshined public schools. But if we move from urban to rural areas we will see that a mixed picture emerges. This latest result is a reflection of the larger problems that the education sector of Dhubri suffers from. The district is infamous for having one of the poorest literacy rate in the state. The scenario worsens if one moves to the char areas. And if one tries to understand this in terms of gender, the picture is bleak.
Dhubri’s educational woes and poor academic performance should be understood in two terms — firstly, there are some long term infrastructural and systemic problems and secondly there are some immediate causes. The district suffers from floods and erosion every year.
In fact in the last big flood in 2019, almost 500 schools were enundated and as many as 17 schools were completely washed off. Schools at a higher ground often function as relief camps for people displaced in these floods. Erosion also creates troubles for students especially girl students whose education comes to an end once they have to travel to nearby places for higher education.
Gunatsav which allowed school evaluation brought forth many infrastructural issues with schools. Lack of adequate classroom, teachers continue to be a problem. The optimum student-teacher ratio also does not hold good. While it may make sense for schools with a large student intake, a school with a smaller number of students suffer. A lower primary school say with 60 students will have five classes and six subjects each. Only three teachers will not be able to ensure that the entire syllabus is taken care of.
In urban areas, private schools abound and the enrolment in public schools is successively going down. Despite having comparatively qualified teachers in government schools, students and guardians are opting for private schools. However in rural areas the onus of providing education is still on the government and provincialised schools. Here the role of the School Management Committees becomes very crucial.
On policy level we should be aware that no detainment policy, mid day meal, free books and admission etc were crucial steps to ensure higher footfall in schools and universal education. To ensure quality education, periodic external evaluation was introduced through Gunotsav. After the first Gunotsav in 2017, issues like fake enrolment in schools came down. The unequal distribution of students was corrected through amalgamation. A continued evaluation will go a long way in ensuring quality education in public schools.
The Bahalpur Girls High School is on the verge of closure because not a single candidate could pass HSLC this time. But as reports show the school has only three teachers — the Principal, one Arabic and one Sanskrit teacher. Students are left on their own for subjects like English, Assamese, Maths! Speedy recourse to correct such anomalies should be taken up.
Shortage of teachers continues to be a problem. Newly appointed teachers often try to move towards their own home districts given the first opportunity. Appointment in far flung areas with poor transport and communication forces some to discontinue their jobs or to opt for unfair means like appointing ‘proxy’ teachers. These systemic infrastructural issues should be addressed by the government with utmost immediacy.
The immediate cause for this poor performance is somewhere a gap between what is expected of the teaching community and what they are able to deliver. Students in Dhubri despite having easy access to internet and digital platforms lack crucial information about future prospects. A district with very less job opportunity, younger generation is often at a loss about what to do in future.
It becomes the responsibility of the teacher to also act as friend, philosopher and guide and motivate the students constantly. Remedial classes and tutorial classes should be used to address the problems of weaker students. Some exam centres are known for their notoriety of encouraging unfair means. This time the administration came down heavily on some such centres. Arrests were made and this saw a sharp decline in the pass percentage of these centres. In one such centre the pass percentage declined sharply from 79% to 19%.
Amidst all this difficulties, there are examples that make us hopeful. While the performance of government schools are often under fire, this time two students from Dharmashala H S School scored around than 95%. This shows that there is a lot of potential and scope to work. What is required is a constant engagement with such students.
The students of Dhubri are slightly at a disadvantageous position as they are not exposed to an environment which emphasises on all round development of students. Sports, co-curricular activities continue to be given secondary importance in schools.
As a result Dhubri has not produced good sportsperson, debaters etc for quite sometime. The HSLC result of 2020 is just the tip of the iceberg. Taking cue, if immediate measures are taken then the vicious circle of backwardness can be broken. A culture of hardwork, integrity, fair competition, rational thinking and critical engagement should be inculcated amongst students from the very beginning. This will go much farther beyond any specific examination and prepare students for the long race of life.
Parvin Sultana is an assistant professor in the department of political science. She an be reached at email@example.com