Q. Elementary level education is being ignored which directly has an impact on the school children. What is education department doing to improve at elementary level both in terms of infrastructure and quality?
Elementary level education is priority of department. We worked on certain points in order to improve at elementary level. We integrated primary level with secondary and senior secondary level and started a scheme called cluster knowledge scheme where we appointed principals of these higher secondary schools as nodal principles, to supervise and do academic monitoring of these schools. It has brought a kind of integration between these levels and now a principal is in-charge for 30-40 schools. After that we focused on minimum learning levels. We notified NCERT base learning levels for children. Unless these learning levels are improved it makes no sense going after the syllabus. We also thought to have a base line correction, to give basic competency to children: competency of writing, competency of reading the text, competency of doing the basic arithmetic, competence of knowing basic concepts of science. Also we held subject specific trainings and this helped us in clearing the concepts at elementary levels and made teachers more comfortable with syllabus. Since this year is year of expressions, so our focus is on English speaking and communication at elementary level.
Q. We have 5 classes, two teachers, one classroom type scenario these days, which affects quality education. What is department doing in this regard?
Huge investment is going on both at the district levels and state level. RMSA and SSA are giving a lot of money for infrastructure. But rather than spending on new buildings, our focus is on consolidation of infrastructure. We want to consolidate; we want to co-locate schools rather than opening of new schools in new buildings. What is already available can be utilized for more effective teaching learning.
Q. There are several central sponsored schemes like RMSA, SSA but in large cases these funds get lapsed just because many schools are run from rented building. Have you taken up this issue to change the guidelines in case of state of Jammu and Kashmir?
A. SSA and RMSA money doesn’t lapse. It is not lapsable money actually. The school constructions rather get stuck because of contractor issues. Contractors take money from us and they are unable to complete the buildings on time and the cost gets escalated and we don’t have more funds to fix it and the building gets stuck there. But at district level various Deputy Commissioners are trying to settle down these abandoned buildings and department is also infusing more money to complete these halted buildings.
Q. There have been instances where the books contain outdated, plagiarized and poorly translated content. Quality of content is poor. Have you tried to fix these problems?
Yes, I completely agree with you regarding the quality of content provided in text books. I have serious reservations regarding that content. My team has also flagged those reservations, with the board office also. Insha’Allah, we may also revise the texts books particularly at the primary level in coming days.
Q. Corruption is mid day meals! Are there any guidelines? There are ample examples where students are not provided meals as per fixed menu.
A: Mid day meals itself lends to a lot of manipulation and corruption but good thing is that we are now shifting to Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) based monitoring very soon in the state, so every head teacher or school teacher will get a call and they will have to punch the number of people who took the mid day meal. The call will simultaneously go to the panchayat member also, he will also punch. So there will be cross verification and then it will go to central database. It will be on internet. People can also see what is happening and is it happening transparently, that will bring a lot of transparency.
Q. There are complaints that some teachers are studying or working in foreign countries and yet they are on rolls and marked as present in schools and regularly get salaries.
I don’t think so. There is a lot of perception about education department which aren’t actually happening but people imagine they are happening. But if you can provide us with details about such teachers I will definitely take action. If somebody is taking salary form our side and working outside, I assure you, if not anything, termination of that teacher.
Q. Now you have been Director School Education for almost six months, so what is your assessment? Is it a case of hope or despair?
There is a lot of hope that things can be improved. At times, I feel disappointed but I am hopeful that things will be good.