If there is a National Award being given for irony in governance and public life, Goa will be one of its top contenders. Here we have the Chief Minister of Goa flying off to Delhi, to collect yet another award for Goa being the best state in education conferred by the India Today group. On the other we recently had hundreds of parents taking to the streets again because the government is toying with the future of their little ones by refusing to convert its cabinet decision of giving grants for English medium schools to a notified policy.
The dichotomy between how Goa is perceived on measurable parameters and the sufferings of children and guardians, which cannot be measured is pitiable. Numbers, indices, charts and parameters can never indicate or capture the grave injustice done to Goa’s parents and teachers who can never be sure that the schools their children go to will have money to pay their teachers salaries, if they chose English as their medium of instruction.
No state in this country can be called a “best state” in education if it cannot guarantee the freedom of choice of the medium of instruction at the primary level to its parents.
Goa’s priorities in education are not educational but purely political. Goa’s priorities in education are not visionary but very petty. In the last three years, much of the discussion on Goa’s education has only been about the political battle over the medium of instruction and the trading of charges and insults between the Forum for the Rights of Children in Education and Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch. While the battle has unfortunately played over religious lines, the fact remains that parents cutting across race, religion, creed and social strata, have preferred choice over bigotry.
Their children may largely go to schools run by the Church but that’s because they believe in the value of education. They do not need to link true learning to their place of worship. And that is true learning. A state which does not recognise this and fails in its promise of etching the principle of choice of the medium of instruction in law, does not deserve to get the “best state in education” award in any forum.
But that alone isn’t enough. Schools are devoid of basic infrastructure, children of different classes often sit in one classroom with one teacher for all four classes, rooms sometimes have no roof and schools have no playgrounds or proper toilet facilities. The drop out rate at the primary level is as high as 28% (2014 figures).
To indeed qualify itself to be called a best state, there needs to be a complete system overhaul. From language to infrastructure to better salaries for its teachers to the quality of its mid-may meal schemes and the performance of self help groups, need a giant leap, for Goa to get into the bracket of truly developed states.
And finally, our secondary, higher and professional education system should be geared towards opportunities for our youth to give back to the state and not move out to look for better opportunities. Therefore education, industry and government need to work as a troika to give greater value and purpose to education. That will be our real best state in education award.