How to reform the education system crisis in Nagaland

In a poll conducted in The Naga Blog “What do you think are the necessary steps to provide quality education to all children studying in Govt schools of Nagaland?”, the below options were the maximum accepted solutions:  

1. Focus on teachers to change the pedagogy (Style of teaching for students to learn, able to think and not simply memorize)  

2. Penalize non-performing teachers, schools and VECs under whose jurisdiction these poor performing schools fall under  

3. Accord teachers same status as Class-1 Gazette Officers and appoint teachers through a rigorous selection process  

4. Compulsory for all Govt servants to send their children to Govt schools  

5. Provide autonomy and ownership to schools without management interference from politicians and directorate  

Comments from bloggers including educators and professionals from different fields:

T Rhonbemo Lotha: My wife is a teacher who has the zeal to educate her students in the best way she can. Posted in a far village, she chose to be away from me and our small baby in love for her underprivileged students. We hardly meet, but we are OK because we both understand each other. In other words, she became the bread winner and I became the baby sitter of the family. Now, with the irregularities of her salary, it is extremely hard to go on. In such a situation, should I blame my wife or her students? I think it is irrational on my part to put the blame one the two helpless group (my wife and her students) while ignoring the insensitivity of the government.  

Of course I'm well aware that many teachers have not seen their work place, and many students are far behind seriousness. On the other hand, there are still teachers and students who are truly engaged in their own field according to their standard. If the voice of such teachers are avoided, then there is tendency to adversely affect the progress of the students. Then whom to blame!!!? Teachers!? Students!? Or the government!?  

Sungty Lemdor: It is easier said than done! Students never do their homework, never study for their tests, don't bring note books and pens to school. The struggle is real for a teacher! Sometimes we end up staying in the school till 3-4 pm just to let the students study and still the performance is so bad! Also we are met by complaints from parents that we shouldn't keep the children beyond the school hours! Should include the teachers in the policy making because it is us who are working tirelessly at the grass root level! We know the ground realities. Being a village schoolmaster ain't easy at all! Infact it is one of the toughest jobs. How I wish all the educated folks experience this at least once in their life time!  

Ato Moses: Kindly tell government to stop appointing backdoor teachers but selection through Exam like us teachers who got through hardwork and pain. 1) Tell government not to give training 4-5 times a year which affects school functioning due to to-fro. 2) Tell government to provide textbook without shortage & notebook too to the students. 3) Tell government to do justice to all the teachers in terms of salary especially those appointed through exam.  

Vizovono Elizabeth: The whole system needs an overhaul. Payment and non-payment of salaries notwithstanding, the quality will not change unless the whole education system changes. The sad thing is teachers are never included in decision making. They are only targeted and blamed for the dismal results. Those in a position of authority have zero idea about the ground reality. For the teachers to change the pedagogy, the course content and evaluation criteria also need to change. If a teacher teaches students to be creative, but the exam questions continue to be traditional and the evaluators continue to grade accordingly, things are not going to change. To change all these, the teachers don't have a say in our education system. A lot depends on the management and decision makers, who are least bothered about quality and only seem to look at pass and fail percentage.  

There are lots of performing teachers as well as non performing teachers. We all feel for the ones whose salaries have not been paid. It is truly unfair. But it is also true that regular payment of teachers will not automatically change the quality of education. So I feel these two issues should not be confused. The quality of education depends on policy makers first and then the implementation of those policies. Take the example of Finland.  

Teachers are just facilitators. Let's not always blame them. Education is everybody's responsibility, including the parents, and the community.  

Yonga Chang: We all know the causes that are hampering the performance in government schools. Few are listed below,  

1. Backdoor appointment practice on the basis of politicians’ recommendation. Most of such teachers are under qualified, lack interest in teaching, irregular (under the protection of his/her political boss). I though admit that some of them are highly qualified and good in teaching!!  

2. Proxy teachers. Many young teachers are staying in cities preparing for NPSC/UPSC/Competitive exams with proxy performing their duties. VECs are hand in glove here without realising that their own children/relatives are being victimized.  

3. Irregular teachers. Many politically appointed teachers have never been to there posting place even after many years in service. There are many examples where such teachers are regularised and even promoted.  

4. Many schools without subject teachers for mathematics/ science and in some cases even English. Government love to appoint so called GT (general) because there is no definite requirement criteria. So don't be surprised if a social sciences teacher is taking maths classes.  

5. Many Principals/HMs/AHM/ Head Teachers in government schools have gone Missing in Action (MIA). They are not aware of what is happening in his/her school. Even their paper works are singed in Kohima/Dimapur. They are not held accountable by the government. If they stay in their respective station, many teachers will be compelled to go for work.  

6. Lack of action from government against guilty teachers. There are many reports before the education department in written from the school heads regarding problem teachers but we haven't heard of any disciplinary action against any one so far. Everything is negotiable at the top and the school heads putting up such complaint are humiliated.  

7. Corruptions in infrastructure projects. School building construction schemes are the easiest targets of many politicians. Many schools had received large SSA funds to construct school building but we all know about the poor quality of work done. Actually we have no reason to complain since funds were deposited in the VECs account and they are supposed to implement at the ground. Contracts are usually awarded to local political party leaders. There is no accountability in school infrastructure projects.  

8. Make teaching an attractive business. Government has to make sure that only the best and the brightest are entering into teaching jobs. In order to do that government should give top priority to education sector. It should provide certain special facilities to the teachers such as quarter, teaching allowance, difficult allowance for teachers in interior areas. Above all, pay grade should be upgraded for all categories of teachers. Many young teachers are looking for other jobs and teaching is just a gap arrangement for them. If highly qualified teachers are paid equal to class 1 scale many of them will have second thoughts changing their job. Moreover, promotion scope in education department is limited so attractive monetary benefits should be given to the teachers. Education scenario in the state will only change when government stops treating teaching as yet another job. Teaching profession demands extreme dedications and commitments and a happy teacher will be willing to go an extra mile.  

These are my two cents observations about the present status in government schools. The solutions are to streamline the system from top to bottom, compulsory merit based appointment system, terminate irregular teachers (find people willing to teach), voluntary retirement scheme for non performing teachers or school heads or department officials, pay salary regularly on time, rationalise teachers per school, etc.