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The embarrassing picture of Meghalaya’s education

By Aristotle Lyngdoh

            Despite immense support and efforts from the government to assist various schools and students in the state, the educational scenario is not at all encouraging. The drop-out rate and low literacy level seems unstoppable and the situation is alarming. This is a concern that our respected officials right from the Principal Secretary down to the District administrators are expressing their on the matter. But blaming poverty as the sole reason for this fiasco is insufficient because this is not a homogenous situation in the present generation where compulsion and influence are very strong. In fact it overshadows other social evils in the society which have distracted and disrupted the learning process and the lapses in the entire education system.

School drop-out is also a global problem but with varied reasons and causes depending on the local situation. In our case, the urgent need of the hour is to have clear data pertaining to causes of school or college dropouts. Then only a solution can be contemplated to tackle the problem. As a matter of fact, a thorough study should be conducted as to what leads school children to drop-out. I strongly believe that there are various factors that push the students out of the school system. And this is exclusively the environment within the school system. Some of these factors can be poor academic performance as a result of a confusion and inadequate foundation while in the primary level. Poor teaching methodology and lack of inspiring activity and creativity definitely dilutes the enthusiasm and interest of the learners.  

In addition, there are other factors that pull the students out from the school. And these are external influences and pressures that undermine and burden the concentration of a child or student toward his/her education. Some of these factors can be family background and this is common in rural areas with huge numbers of siblings in one family. And in most cases, elder children are caretakers of their young siblings. Further, in a free society like ours, we cannot rule out teenage pregnancy and early marriage. Whereas in urban areas most of the kids are deeply influenced by other social evils such as alcohols, drugs, etc that has distracted their goal in education. These are some of the push and pull factors of dropouts. In this manner if we can categorize the causes accordingly with some precision in terms of percentage, then perhaps we can channel the resources and address the problem categorically.     

This issue has been discussed and debated over and over again but without any sign of improvement. Therefore, it is high time to go back to the standing document that has empowered and entitled children to free education. When the Right of children to free and compulsory education Act 2009 was notified and enforced on the 27th August 2009 in the whole country, it had clearly defined who the stakeholders and major stakeholders in this regard are. Chapter One of the Act has clearly named these stakeholders such as central and states governments, the National Commission for Protection of Child’s Rights (NCPCR)  & State Commission for Protection of Child’s Rights (SPCPCR), the local authority (such as municipal bodies, panchayat etc. or whatever name and in our case Dorbar Shnong and Hima or Raid), the institution or school authority both aided or funded by government and unaided school or those not receiving any funds from the government and finally the parent. And with due respect they are expected to perform their roles accordingly and not to wait for a situation to arise.

For instance, the purpose that NCPCR/SCPCR has been tagged into the Act is to ensure that any violation and suppression of child’s rights are not compromised in any situation. Besides, protection of children from various types of abuses by ensuring safe learning environment for children, SCPCR has a major role to play in curbing child labour within their own family and society because of which elder siblings of the family are prevented from attending school. Since this is still a big problem in our state, the question is, what has the Commission done so far? Does any statistic of the Commission reflect this kind of situation and what are the actions taken and achievements in this regard?

Further, the Act has also clearly stipulated in Chapter 3 that the appropriate state government should ensure and prescribe a curriculum and courses of study. But in our case it is very sad that the state does not have a specific curriculum of its own for almost a decade now since the Act was enforced. This is perhaps one of the reasons that have shattered the concept of children on the scope of a holistic education. Comprehensive evaluation system is another aspect that the Act has injected into the education system in order to encourage the system of evaluation based on comprehension and understanding on the subject. But here is the grey area where most teachers are manipulating the system in awarding grades without properly assessing the understanding level of a child as this may reflect the teacher’s competency towards teaching. It seems that there is a gross violation to the RTE Act in the State which ultimately amounts to contempt.         

            Recently we have seen through the print media of how the Board (MBOSE) claims that it encourages critical learning in the teaching system. In the absence of a meaningful curriculum, I wonder how this can be achieved and evaluated so that the goal of every student to score good marks in the Board exam in order to get admission to higher studies is not affected. There is no doubt that there are thousands of schools in the state that have produced huge numbers of students irrespective of the level of performance of the students which  doesn’t seem to matter at all to the school authorities and owners for as long as they reap some benefits. Therefore, the recent direction from the Chairman of the MBOSE to derecognize those institutions with low pass performance is a welcome step but should have been done right from the inception of the Board.

                 ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’ was a unique education policy enacted by the Obama administration but was replaced by a new one ‘No Child Left behind Act’ under the Trump administration both equally unique and child centered. The alarming situation is indeed critical but how long will the state live with this picture and how many more dropouts will we see in the years to come if those who have the keys to unlock every channel and deal with the problems do not take any action. Finally, it goes back to the people who are the creators of their own destiny in the form of electing representatives and the type of government to govern. But the problem is that the major chunk of voters in the state comprise of rural people who do not care much about the type of education we should have.

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