Let us make schools better : The current initiative

-Yangsorang Rongreisek
Contd from previous issue
Well, we will have to wait for 2020 results to find out whether the trend continues or is maintained. However, some high schools of both the hill and valley districts are showing small gains, no gain or even some poorer results. The dept has to ensure that schools that are lagging behind—and are at the risk of being left behind even more are highlighted with extra effort put into these schools over the next few years. Yet, there seem to be significant improvements on a number of measures in govt high schools in Manipur.
Infrastructure has improved a lot, the provision of basic amenities has improved, and teacher attendance and availability has become better. Many high schools are even seeing higher enrolments. Though the gap in learning outcomes between children going to private or elite schools and govt schools continues, the gap is set to narrow down. What is driving the improvements in learning outcomes? This would, of course, be the main question. Over the past 5 to 8 years, a lot of reforms have been implemented in education sector. Are these reforms beginning to pay off? The state govt have raised teacher numbers, raised entry requirements for teachers (to at least Bachelor’s level though most of new teachers have a Master’s degree), improved their salaries and grades, and increased their monitoring substantially.
The state has improved school infrastructure to a great extent. The state has already started to provide some funding directly to schools under RMSA and SSA Schemes so that they can work on and implement their own school improvement plans—and the state has also provided more support to headmasters and teachers by way of interaction. Earlier it was not so.
Here, monthly district level reviews should be institutionalised as a way of keeping an eye on school performances. Regular higher-level review meetings will have to be convened for weaker schools as a means of introducing tighter accountability. But, at some point, we will have to do careful work to figure out what is working and how it is working. Scores of stakeholders may argue that the gains that have been made are still small that we need to improve learning outcomes of pupils at a faster rate, and whether these gains are indicative of a trend or not has to be scrutinised. All of these are important points but it is also exciting to see learning improvements after quite some time and in some cases, quite large gains. The BJP led Govt in the state have also made a lot of promises to improve school education even further. School Fagathansi Mission is a new deal on education. This will give a nice platform for this govt to move forward but a lot of groundwork is there to build on. Hopefully, the focus will remain on learning outcomes now and for all children of the state when parents of low income group have been running from pillar to post for their children’s schooling for decades.
Till the 1970s, a decent education was not necessarily expensive—mostly because all education was in the domain of govt schools in Manipur. 109 aided high schools which were taken over by the state govt on 5.8.78 served as the main enrolling avenues for a majority of students in Manipur.
In the late 70s, this writer came in close contact with three headmasters of repute namely Shri Indra Dev Joshi of the erstwhile Adimjati HS, Imphal, Shri Iboton Roy of Lilasingkhongnangkhong HS, Imphal and Shri Nongmaithem Chaoba Singh of S.K.Ideal HS, Ngairangbam in Imphal West. The three educators of modern Manipur created fantastic academic atmospheres in their respective school premises by making schools better places for pupils to enjoy their childhood and learn manners with the introduction of extracurricular activities for them to relax from heavy academic pressures.
They worked overtime devoting to teaching as well as office works. Shri Iboton Roy taught Mechanics and two of them taught English. They were regular in their attendance.  Their relation with their colleagues was also always cordial. During their time, their schools produced quite a large number of meritorious students. Such was the hallmark of a high school in those days. Such was the charm visible in each high school of the three headmasters. Lamentable, indeed! Afterwards, private school chains began to dot the landscape of Imphal city and its surrounding villages followed by hill district headquarters gradually. Elite private schools had grown because the state had abandoned the children of the poor. The result was that parents did not really have a choice in the situation but to send their children to private schools. The quality of govt school education in Manipur took a nosedive as the effect of mass recruitment of teachers under political patronage began to destroy classrooms from 1982 onwards.
Parents felt no loyalty towards low quality govt schools. They knew that no amount of raising their voice would work so they simply went on to send their wards to private English schools which were assumed to be superior in many respects. Precariously, Govt high schools began to decline bit by bit. It all started around 1982.
With the School Fagathansi Mission to be launched this time, it has to be pointed out that together with technology, teachers can make schools better with engineering trends in the educational sector. The growth of technology favourably provides a grip of modern education. Technology makes teaching and learning more significant and enjoyable. Efficient technology could replace most of the outdated classroom tools and enhance the efficiency of students and increase their quality time. Teachers can easily utilize the advanced technological assets by the modern community to enlighten each learner. Education technology increases the productivity of schools.
It narrows the inequalities and discriminations in the sector. It simplifies all the irregularities and difficulties for school management and aids in promoting learner achievements. Studies show that schools and campuses which have more education technology assets perform better compared to others. Visualization of topics and interactive sessions should be introduced to improve enthusiasm and passion in learners. Virtual reality can bring a lot of the best in the field of education.
From giving a clear-cut idea on lessons to practical sessions, virtual reality can handle everything with much ease for smart classes.  With the help of the internet, everyone can learn or teach from anywhere and everywhere in the modern day school education. Effective communication is the pathway to establishing and maintaining student-teacher relation. But then—are all these feasible for a cash starved state like Manipur? Alas! Everything depends upon availability of fund for gadgets, tools and electricity backed up by commitment and political will of men at the helms of the affairs of the state for the success of the MISSION.  All the best!    The writer can be contacted at Yangsorang 1 @gmail.com