Complacency in Education: Nagaland's Silent Challenge

Nini Sekhose

In a rapidly evolving educational landscape, the role of private schools has never been more pivotal. These institutions, while sometimes misunderstood or undervalued, are bastions of quality education, fostering a culture of self-reliance and innovation. This article delves into the unique challenges faced by private schools affiliated with the NBSE, their unwavering commitment to academic excellence, and the societal misconceptions that often shadow their contributions. Additionally, it sheds light on broader educational concerns in Nagaland and the need for a societal shift in our approach to education.

Promoting Self-Reliance in Private Schools:

The value and contributions of private schools often go unrecognised or are misinterpreted. Regardless of these views, we're committed to high-quality education and achieve strong academic results. Additionally, our students participate in a wide variety of extracurricular activities.

A significant majority of Private Schools affiliated with the NBSE operate as budget institutions with the exception of a few schools. A critical insight that often goes unnoticed is the decision of many of these institutions to forgo Grants in Aid from the government. This decision isn't borne out of mere financial calculations but reflects a deeper commitment to nurturing a culture of self-reliance.

Rather than primarily seeking external aid, the focus should pivot towards cultivating a deep sense of ownership and responsibility. Instead of asking, "What can the government provide?", we should be questioning, "How can I contribute to my society, state, and country?" By embracing this shift in perspective, we lay the groundwork for a community that's not only proactive but also empowered to shape its destiny.

Similarly, preparing students to solely target government jobs or to depend on government handouts and contracts is limiting their potential. The future lies in diverse opportunities, innovative entrepreneurship, and a broader vision of success. Our students should be equipped with skills and mindsets that enable them to explore a myriad of avenues, be it in the private sector, startups, or social enterprises. By doing so, we not only diversify our economy but also ensure a resilient and self-reliant future generation.

Unscheduled Holidays - A Disruption in Learning:

Nagaland's penchant for unscheduled holidays, while providing short-term relief, poses long-term challenges to our educational system. Each unexpected break disrupts the meticulously planned academic rhythm, creating obstacles for both educators aiming to complete syllabuses and students seeking consistent learning. Education thrives on consistency, and intermittent breaks can severely affect the quality and depth of learning.

The rising trend of unscheduled holidays in Nagaland isn't merely an educational concern but reflects a broader societal mindset that seems to favour fleeting pleasure over enduring benefits. The implications of this are especially stark when one considers the absence of clear guidelines on how to make up for these lost academic days.

We must introspect on our values and priorities. Is short-term gratification worth the long-term cost to our children's education? Should we not be rallying for a more stable academic environment, where learning isn't interrupted by unforeseen breaks?

The responsibility doesn't lie with the educators alone. The public, too, has a role to play. We should be advocating for schools to remain open, valuing each day of learning as an investment in our children's future.

September 6 Holiday:

The recent directive to close schools on September 6th as a gesture of respect for teachers is a well-intended move. However, we must pause and reflect on the essence of what respect truly entails.

Closing schools, while seeming like a day off or a break for teachers, might inadvertently convey a different message. Education, at its core, is a continuous process of imparting knowledge, nurturing young minds, and cultivating a future generation of thinkers and doers. Interrupting this process, even with good intentions, might not be the best way to honour those at the forefront of this noble profession.

True respect for teachers would be recognizing their relentless dedication, understanding the challenges they face daily, and providing them with the resources and support they need to excel in their roles. It would mean investing in their professional development, ensuring they have access to the latest teaching methodologies, and creating an environment where they feel valued every day.

While a day off might be a kind gesture, genuine respect for teachers goes beyond symbolic acts. It's about consistently valuing their contribution, empowering them, and recognizing that the best way to honour educators is by ensuring they can educate without hindrance.

Balancing the Educational Calendar:

Schools prepare their calendars based on the government's Annual Calendar. According to the RTE ACT 2009, the prescribed working days and hours for students are as follows:

  • 200 working days for Class 1 to Class 5
  • 220 working days for Class 6 to Class 8

Teachers are expected to work a minimum of 45 hours per week, inclusive of preparation hours.

These figures represent the minimum required working days for meaningful education. Achieving these basic benchmarks can be challenging even without unscheduled holidays. For instance, students of NBSE Class 11 are already working with only about 150 days, including Saturdays.

Redefining "Overburdened": A Closer Look at Our Educational Standards:

Many believe that teachers are overwhelmed with work. However, when we look at the actual data, the situation appears more complex than this general belief.

Teachers, in comparison to numerous other professions, undeniably enjoy a greater number of holidays. In a calendar year, with approximately 160 days off, excluding casual leaves and other forms of leave, the amount of active working days for teachers is significantly less than many other job roles. This observation becomes even more stark when one factors in the stipulated minimum 45-hour work week as per the RTE. Unfortunately, the ground reality in many schools, especially in Nagaland, does not align with this standard of minimum 45-hour work week. Many teachers in Nagaland don't work these many hours.

So, the pertinent question arises: On what basis are we defining the term "overburdened"? Is it purely in terms of hours clocked, or is it about the qualitative aspect of the job – the emotional and mental demands of shaping young minds, the pressures of administrative tasks, and the expectations from both parents and the institution? While the latter aspects are undoubtedly significant, they shouldn't overshadow the fundamental requirements of time commitment and consistency in the profession.

Moreover, the broader implications of this misalignment between perceived workload and actual working hours are worth noting. If our educators are not adhering to the nationally prescribed working hours, it naturally trickles down to the quality of education imparted to students. Reduced hours could mean less comprehensive coverage of the curriculum, fewer opportunities for student-teacher interactions, and a potential compromise in academic standards.

It's essential to understand that the debate isn't about undermining the challenges faced by teachers. Every profession comes with its unique set of demands. However, setting and adhering to consistent standards is crucial, both for the sanctity of the profession and the holistic development of students.

We need to recalibrate our understanding of "workload" in the educational sector. A balanced perspective that acknowledges the unique challenges of teaching, while also holding educators to nationally accepted standards, is crucial. Only then can we ensure that our students receive the quality of education they deserve, and our educators maintain the professional standards expected of them.

Reflecting on Our Educational Priorities and Performance:

Our students, when pitted against their peers at the national level, often require the assistance of reservations and quotas to secure admissions in colleges and jobs. This is not to undermine their abilities but to underscore a pressing concern about our educational standards and methodologies. We need to ask ourselves: Are we setting the bar high enough? Are we pushing our students to their fullest potential? Or are we, knowingly or unknowingly, fostering an environment of complacency?

Hard work, persistence, and dedication are universally acknowledged cornerstones of success in any field. If our students are not consistently achieving at par with national benchmarks, it's time for a deep dive into our educational ethos. Do we, as a society, place enough emphasis on the virtues of hard work and perseverance? Or have we inadvertently begun to romanticise the idea of 'getting by' and taking the path of least resistance?

Casualness in approach, whether in studying, teaching, or any other endeavour, rarely yields excellence. Celebrating or even passively endorsing such an attitude can have profound implications on our societal progress. The repercussions are not limited to academic performances alone but permeate every facet of societal growth, from professional spheres to innovative capacities.

As a society, it's crucial to instil a sense of purpose, dedication, and responsibility in our younger generations. It's time to introspect and evaluate if we're enabling a culture of mediocrity by being too lax in our expectations and standards. We need to challenge both our educators and students to strive for excellence, ensuring that our future generations are equipped to compete, not just on national platforms, but on global stages.

Our society stands at a crossroads. We can either continue down a path of complacency, or we can rally together, recalibrating our values and priorities to foster a culture that prizes hard work, diligence, and excellence. The choice we make today will shape our tomorrow.

In Conclusion:

In essence, our journey towards a brighter educational future demands a collective effort. It requires educators to uphold professional standards, students to embrace hard work and perseverance, and society at large to prioritise consistent education over fleeting gratifications. Only with this concerted effort can we hope to mould a generation that is not only well-educated but is also well-prepared to tackle the challenges of the future, both at home and on the global stage.

(The writer is Chairman, Little Star Higher Secondary School)