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When the school bell rings again

When the school bell rings again

After the mid-summer break, the academic year starts again. Kerala's new generation, about 43 lakh children will be in school today (besides the CBSE-ICSE syllabus schools). Their dreams and aspirations are also belong those of Kerala. The state has been able to attain a level of proud achievement in the field of education in the country. This is the result of joint efforts of governments, teachers, and parents. While this achievement is important, it is even more crucial to maintain and further improve the standards and that calls for the government to intervene urgently to solve the problems in the education sector. The first Pinarayi government emphasised on infrastructure development of public schools. This way, the government schools were able to set up better buildings and arrange facilities including better labs. Now, the main emphasis should move on to improving the overall quality of education. The shortfall of attainment in mathematics and language learning pointed out in the National Achievement Survey should be addressed. There should be no room for a situation with good infrastructure and poor quality education.

Teachers have a major role to play in quality improvement. To solve the shortage of teachers, the Directorate of Public Instruction recommended to the Finance Department 6005 teaching posts in the academic year 2022-23. They were blocked in the name of financial crisis. According to a reply given by the Education Minister in the Legislative Assembly last December, the department has files pending approval of 15,225 teachers in aided schools. Out of this, 13996 are for classes 1 to 10 and 1208 are for higher secondary, and 21 are in vocational higher secondary level. Since November 2018, the recognition of teachers appointed in aided schools has been blocked by the education officers on account of a court order on appointments of differently abled. Even though the Supreme Court has issued the clarification on this, the department appears not to have got it clear. The proposal now is to solve the shortage of teachers by temporary appointments. However, it is doubtful whether such temporary appointments can improve standards. For frequent changes in temporary teachers will cause disruption and standards may fall. The government should pay special attention to filling up the teaching posts.

The last time the school curriculum was revised in the state was during 2013-15. The government has started to reform the curriculum but it is dragging its feet. Children should be able to get a revised textbook for at least the next academic year. Curriculum reform is also about being abreast with the times and introducing new knowledge areas to children. When the world is making leaps in techniques including artificial intelligence, reforms should be borne out of the realisation that textbooks that are currently being taught in schools are eight to ten years old. With more than 45 lakh children leaving their homes, the government's top priority is their safety. Children should be ensured safety in and around the school campus and during commutes. The instructions and measures taken by the government regarding school vehicles and staff are commendable. Meanwhile, a large number of children depend on public transport. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure everything from the courteous behaviour of the bus crew to the availability of the necessary KSRTC services in nationalised routes.

The biggest threat Kerala is facing is the drug mafia that has spread to the school premises. This academic year should start by tackling the mafia that intoxicates and makes carriers out of students. It is not desirable to sit complacent with the consolation that this task will be looked after by the excise department and the Police. Parents also have a big role to play in this through effective monitoring. The reactionary efforts that are going on in the country with the blessing of the government to alter history lessons and teach falsehoods in the education sector are very serious. Kerala has already announced a firmstand that it will teach the history lessons that have been removed by the central government. The state must stand united against any attempt to turn classrooms into launching pads for communalism, casteism, and superstition. Children should learn and grow up with the values ​​of equality and social justice and contribute for an India that is secular and sovereign. Wishing all the students and teachers to enable them to achieve the best education, Madhyamam assures all necessary support for such effort.

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