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Punjab made year 2009 an year of education. Shouldn’t the whole of India do it?

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Punjab made year 2009 the year of educational reforms. It is really funny because educational reforms, if and when they happen, would come after financial reforms. Though we got the order wrong, at least we have the reform mindset going and people acknowledge that reforms are essential for feeding a billion strong nation.

Reforms mean different things to different people. When it comes to education it is not as simple as finance. In finance, if you allow 74% foreign direct investment in, let’s say, insurance sector then that is a reform. If you allow 100% then you are a rock star reformist and darling of the stock market.

Educational reforms are slightly different. In fact, they are radically different. Educational reforms could as well be having more qualified teachers in a school or having any teachers at all. It might be increasing the number of teachers to have a better teacher student ratio.

In the case of Punjab it is having parent teacher association and having meeting with parents once in a month. That’s a good start, as it is missing apparently.

All students would be properly informed in advance two days before PTA meeting and parents would be provided monthly progress report cards and the daily signed.

Besides students work books would be regularly checked by the class teachers and school heads, he said.

He said that for surprise checking of schools, inspection teams had been constituted at district level comprising seven lecturers or masters from Science, Mathematics, Social Science, English, Punjabi, Hindi, and Computers faculty. (Mint)

Shouldn’t all of this be already present? Well, it is not and hence it can be called as a reform.

Education reforms as per Kapil Sibal are doing away with class-X exam. Now, that’s a tall order and not an easy task. Most of the colleges weigh heavily on those exams and those exams alone. If you are a bright student for the whole of 10+ years, you toiled for more than 10 years and you are sick for an all important exam and you failed. There will be blot on your score card and your educational history. That is very depressing for any teenager who is ready to enter the next big thing in life.

Does that seem fair?

Should one exam have such a huge say? It is not fair and it should be that big a deal. Students should be evaluated through out the year. And our honourable minister agrees. But doing away with the exams and moving to a grade based system poses a different problem of gigantic proportions.

India is still a yes-sir country. What do you expect? British ruled India for 200 years just because of these two hyphenated words – Yes-sir. Now, the Indian courts have done away with the ‘Your Honour’ drill in the courts which promised to be a good start. But, the yes-sir culture is so ingrained in our DNA that it is hard to imagine an average Indian who is not afraid of another person – boss, teacher or the cop. If a cop stops someone, that person readily goes into the yes-sir mode because he is afraid.

What does this has to do with education? That is where it all starts. As a student you are bound to say yes sir. You have to raise when a teacher enters a class and again when the teacher exits. You have to say good morning or whatever the ritual is.

The clout a teacher has on the examination and the outcome of it is enormous. That is the reason why all public examinations papers are graded by neutral entities. So, if we do away with the exams, who has all the power in the world to decide a kid’s future?

Yes-Sir. Yes he or she has all the power. Now we are back to our petty politics of pleasing the teacher. That makes me think that may be exams are a better option even if it means more stress. I don’t know what an ideal model for education is. But, for a country like India going the grades way is not the obvious choice as it gives enormous power to the teachers who can abuse it.

Reforms, at least we are thinking about them especially in a sector which matters the most. As I said reforms means different things to different people. It could be doing away with exams, bringing in more information technology as Sam Pitroda wants and as the state of Maharashtra is already doing it. It could be anything. The important thing is it should happen.

I would rather remember 2009 as a year of education reforms rather than the year of India’s biggest scandal, or the comeback of India’s biggest party or the year of the flu.

The whole India should go on a reform path and that doesn’t mean making an Indian language as the first language.

PS: Beefing up the reservation quota categories does not qualify as a reform either.

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