The other day, an Assamese daily reported gross errors in the question papers of Diploma in Elementary Education (D EI Ed). This examination was conducted by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). It was reported by the newspaper that the authorities in the NIOS had also said: “There is not a single person in Assam who knows both the English and the Assamese languages well. So we had to get it done by some outsiders.”
If they really said this they must be courageous people! First they committed the hilarious mistakes and then they came up with equally hilarious alibi. The purpose of the D EI Ed is to prepare someone to be appointed as in elementary schools. It covers all the critical aspects of teaching-learning activities. That is why D.El.Ed/ BTC is an NCTE approved 2-year elementary Diploma Program by SCERT which is a necessary certificate for the appointment of a teacher in Government Primary Schools.
Again D.El.Ed /BTC has a two-year curriculum which has been divided into four semesters. But, the authority in the NIOS has turned this examination to a play thing. Otherwise, they would not have been so lackadaisical in setting the question papers for this examination. How could they dare to do so? And how could they offer such insulting explanation. They have committed two sins. First they didn’t show due diligence and care in setting the question papers and second they insulted the entire community of educated people in Assam saying that there was none in Assam who could handle the English and the Assamese language with equal command.
No, this is not acceptable. Elementary education is the basic. If the basic foundation of education is not built properly, our education will always remain incomplete. But unfortunately this is what has happened. Primary education is ailing in many fronts. Earlier major problems were the problems of infrastructure. However, in recent times schools have been receiving enough funds to improve their infrastructure. So school buildings are looking good now. Thousands and thousands of toilets were also built all over the state. Don’t ask me whether all the toilets have the water connection and are functioning now!
But, what about the academics? What about the textbooks? Do they have quality textbooks? Are the students receiving their textbooks in time? What about the libraries? As per RTE norms, each school should have a library? But how many of our primary schools have libraries? I think very few of them have something called a school library. Even high schools and secondary schools don’t have school libraries.
I am keeping the most important thing to the last. That is teachers – the quality teachers. A good teacher can do wonders. He or she can change the entire teaching-learning environment of a school. He or she can look at all the disadvantages and turn each one of them to an advantage by involving not only the students and fellow teachers, but even the community.
He/she can be the answers to many deficiencies in a school. But we rarely see them these days. We don’t have them. We have meshed it up long time back with the appointment of the school teachers. And this is a serious problem. There was a time when the government treated primary education as a job generating factory. If the industry was not looking up, no problem.
If the agriculture was dwindling, no problem, let us absorb our unemployed youths in education sector as teachers. That was the time when we made a big mistake and played with the education of our children. The political parties were mainly responsible for this. Nepotism played an important role in appointing the teachers. Till the other day, powerful political leaders controlled local politics through school teachers. Even now teachers play an important role in village politics and during the time of elections.
At the time of their appointment the ability to teach and instruct children was not the prime criterion. The main thing was to offer a job to an unemployed youth. The rot in teacher appointment started with this. So judging the competence of a teacher before her appointment is crucial. With the changing time and in a fast moving world, periodic training of the teachers is a must even after their appointment.
And there are many aspects of judging the competence of a teacher. Besides their knowledge on curriculum content they also need to know how to evaluate the works of their students. Teaching-learning activity is always context specific. Again there are other pedagogical and epistemological issues where a teacher must have sound knowledge and understanding.
Then, there are many other areas like these. But, if the NIOS takes things so casually in setting the question papers for this examination, can it be trusted with this responsibility? Are they themselves competent enough to judge the competence of the would-be teachers?
Siddhartha Bhattacharya, our education minister, was my classmate in Cotton College. He was a smiling man then. Now he has turned grave. The strenuous responsibilities have made him this. I understand his burden. He should get this thing properly investigated and ask the NIOS to punish the guilty officers and warn them not to repeat it.
Paresh Malakar is a commentator based in Guwahati. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org