Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Education is reasonably universal now and what needs more focus is the calibre of those responsible for not only imparting it in classrooms, but also planning policy from the departmental offices. Because let’s accept it, more than the details of lessons learnt from textbooks, the memories that stay longer with people are of the teachers who taught them and of the infrastructure which greeted them everyday they walked into school. Now make a frank appraisal – are these happy memories for college and school students enrolled in government-run institutions in Sikkim? The State Government, drawn into a senseless imbroglio with the college fees fiasco, in a clear bid to reiterate its commitment to the youth and education, has waived all kinds of fees for Sikkim Subjects from schools and colleges. Substantial resources will have to be routed to the institutions now if free education is also to be quality education in the State. Hopefully, education will receive expenditure in more sectors than salary payments [of teachers and HRDD officials], because if that does not happen, the government might even have to begin considering paying students stipends to attend school and college [and thus keeping the gigantic department relevant]. Fees, free of inflated, is only a minor part of the problem at college and schools – the bigger worry is the lack of invigorating and inspiring classes and shoddy infrastructure.

Every person invariably has a teacher who either inspired the entire class to chase their dreams or toed the other end of the spectrum and actively engaged in stifling imaginations, enforcing norms. The pressure of examinations and competition and the tendency to prioritise rote over comprehension has handicapped the teaching fraternity into becoming problem solvers, handing out answers and solutions for students to learn instead of assisting students in finding their own answers or encouraging them to enquire deeper and develop faculties that question more often instead of accepting things too easily. Because students look up to teachers, it would be nice if teachers could also offer themselves as role models, but it would be even better if teachers could introduce their wards to personalities worth emulating and inspiring students towards excellence. What Sikkim’s classrooms require are motivation for students towards learning, not hand-held walks through the syllabus. Many dismiss this as not possible because the students lack the ‘foundation’, but it is really about uninspired teaching. And no, this is not something that a degree provides and is something with which every teacher begins his or her career. The planners in the Department are expected to keep the policy interventions inventive and inspiring enough to sustain this spirit. They however seem to busy themselves with much shallower and short-term pursuits. The ideal teachers and the perfect students, will, after all, need the support of at least a reasonably functional Human Resource Development Department. Think about it, if the teacher appointment process had not been blatantly usurped by enthusiastic proponents of nepotism, Sikkim would have been deliberating weightier issues by now. Appointment of deserving and qualified teachers should always have been a given, and then one could engage in more meaningful discussions on how to retain the better teachers, appoint better facilities in schools and update syllabus and teaching methods. Instead, the debates which have commanded current deliberations are about fees, transfers and supplies.

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