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MESSAGE To School Leaders

Chandra Bhushan Sharma

Professor of Education, IGNOU, New Delhi.

Dear School Leader,

I have a few concerns about schooling to share with you which I don’t want to share through an article or essay so decided to write a personal note. Please spare me some time and read it through.

Good school system has to be the first priority of any nation if it desires to be a progressive, developed and a happy nation. India that is Bharat had a very scientifically developed system of schooling as long back as at least five thousand years i.e. 3000 BC. We gave the world texts like the Vedas, the Upanishads and epics like the Ramayan and the Mahabharat besides thousands of such texts and corpus of knowledge which is known as the BhartiyaGyanparampara. However, in the last one thousand years we have not been able tocontribute anything significant which the nation can be proud of. I am concerned about it and wish to share my thoughts with you.

If our schools have not produced world class students, if a large number of children are out-of-schools, there is rampant illiteracy then who is to be blamed and what should change. A few of the most important reasons, to my mind are presented below. The most obvious reason is that the teachers have been pushed to the margins.

If for some reason schools, teachers and the school leaders have not got the attention and regard they deserve then what can be our role. The Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi while speaking in the Parliament reminded that he had been given the responsibility by the people of India to leadand also decide on crucial national issues. This statement of his made me think – If the teachers and the principals have been appointed and given the responsibility to shape the future of the children and ultimately the nation then why are we shy of taking the reins in our hands? Most of those who have never been trained to be a teacher, never been to a classroom, never managed children, curriculum, assessment, decide on what and how we should be teaching. This has happened because we never asked the decision makers about their competency to decide on schooling. We must tell them “you are ignorant and not qualified to decide on the issues in schooling”. Let us start telling we are the qualified professionals and the practitioners and we will decide not those who have not been part of the process.

In democracy number matters. I wonder if you know that there are more than fifteen million (one crore fifty lakh) school teachers. School teachers are often the think tank and the opinion makers of most villages and towns. We influence each household’s decision making through our pupils. If we all together decide that we will manage our own system and develop norms and standards through discussion and consensus no government can thrust upon us norms and standards decided by fly-by-night decision makers. Political masters have theonly objective to be in power and they often make political decision with regards to education as well. Our objective is just one – to prepare world class students who think for the nation first. Decision making for schools must be out of the hands of the political masters and the bureaucrats. Am I saying this because I have to gain something? No, we the teachers often teach our own children well and they settle in better places than us. I am saying this because we are not just concerned about our own children but the children of the nation. If we demand and press for a sound decision making we are doing this in the national interest. Our professional objective is nothing but to think for the nation. So, if we generate ideas for better service condition for teachers, if we press for a system where teachers decide; we are talking in the larger national interest. Let’s start doing this. This is our professional responsibility and national duty as well.

Would you be surprised if I tell you that there are nearly thirty five crore children in the schools and after we add the three Foundational years for the children between the age of 3 to 6 there would be nearly forty crore children in the schools of the nation. There are nearly eight crore learners in the colleges and universities of India. To decide on the norms and standards of higher education there are nearly one dozen Statutory bodies. By Statutory body is meant a body created by an Act of parliament or State legislature. Such bodies get legal powers so norms prescribed by them will have to be followed by all institutions. In school education there is not a single statutory body. All decisions are taken by the government officials and the political masters. Bureaucrats propose and decide as per the wishes of the political bosses. And, with the change in the political masters they also change their stand. I have many examples but for paucity of space I won’t mention here.

Let us all together propose to establish a professional body for school education through an Act of parliament which will have representation from all bodies concerned with schooling – government, private and give it the status of a body like the Election Commission. Let us name it School Education Commission (SEC). The Chairman of the SEC be appointed by the same committee that appoints Chief Election Commissioner. If we care for a system which will design and manage a world class schooling then we must establish SEC.

I hope you will agree with me and propagate this idea of establishing SEC. Let’s together work to reach quality and affordable education to all and not just the rich and the elite. Please feel free to write to me and ask if you have any queries.

Together we can create a world class school system for our nation.

With best regards and high expectations from fellow teachers.

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