The NCERT Director, in his foreword to the textbooks which are now followed in Assam as well, says, “The tiol Curriculum Framework, 2005, recommends that children’s life at school must be linked to their life outside the school… The syllabi and textbooks developed on the basis of NCF signify an attempt to implement this basic idea. They also attempt to discourage rote learning (emphasis added) and the maintence of sharp boundaries between subject areas… These aims imply considerable change in school routines and mode of functioning… The methods used for teaching and evaluation will also determine how effective this textbook proves for making children’s life at school a happy experience, rather than a source of stress or boredom… The textbook attempts to enhance this endeavour by giving higher priority and space to opportunities for contemplation and wondering, discussion in small groups, and activities requiring hands-on experience… ”
Of Assam Schools
So where do government schools in Assam stand? Barring some rare cases, a survey of such schools in the State will present a grim picture. The objectives enshrined in the textbooks are quite progressive, but the fact of the matter is that such schools – on which huge student populations in rural areas depend – are woefully lacking in the right teaching-learning methodologies. This is primarily because of the poor quality of teachers who are not teachers by choice but by compulsion because they do not fit into other jobs and hence are forced to choose teaching as a profession, which has put our children’s intellectual life in jeopardy. A visit to a typical government school in Assam will bare the reality. Not much research is done at the psychological level to understand a child’s inherent needs and orientations, and at the same time individual differences are not taken into consideration. Library facilities are very poor; worse, hardly are students in general encouraged to use libraries and exploit these for educatiol growth in the right direction.
As for private schools too, which are mushrooming by the day and which most parents in urban areas prefer because of their expectations of quality education for their children, what is remarkable is that there is too much expectation from teachers despite the meagre salaries they get. This salary factor compels teachers in private schools to take to the private practice of tutorials and it is here that they are more serious, for which, again, they cannot be faulted because after all they have to sustain themselves – that is, after all they have to survive. There is no doubt that the quality of education in private schools is higher than the one in government schools, but it is the government schools that children rely on in rural areas. Here then lies a tragic tale. The situation is all the more depressing in schools where the basic infrastructure is lacking, such as drinking water, medical aid, power supply, libraries etc. It is high time, therefore, that the Assam government woke up to the situation at a time when education is the most important enterprise in a society that is woefully short on quality human resources. And when we talk of quality human resources, how can one gloss over the significance of vocatiol or job-oriented education in the 21st century. Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) have a very major role to play in this regard, but even the ITI scerio is not rosy at all, which the government is surely of. These are very important areas to work upon sooner rather than later. We believe that given the extremely high rate of unemployment in the State – a prime reason why there is much unrest and frustration among the youth – education ought to be top priority in the sense that it has to be meaningful in what and how things are taught to our children and whether the examition system is both valid and reliable.