Primary education in Punjab is at a critical but poised stage to meet the challenges of the new millennium. The education department of the Punjab Government is busy equipping the students and the teachers with the skills required to meet the set goals. Dr Daljeet Singh Cheema, Education Minister, Punjab, lays out the road map to Priya Yadav of Elets News Network (ENN)
What are the challenges that primary education is facing in Punjab?
Primary education plays a major role in future development of a state. We have a huge task with us as even though private schools have come up all over the place, yet government schools are at the preferred places of study, especially in the rural areas. In Punjab, there are 19,500 government schools, catering to 26.7 lakh school students. The number of teachers working in these schools is over 1.09 lakh. Streamlining this huge infrastructure and human resources is a challenging task and one that we are working on diligently. For this, we are first trying to ascertain which are the problem areas and then work out solutions for the same.
Though there are so many teachers with the government, yet teacher student ratio remains a challenge. What is the government doing about it?
I have worked out a strategy to solve this problem. I sought approval of the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to create a separate directorate dedicated solely to the recruitment of teachers in government schools. There are as many as 5000 posts of teachers in primary schools that need to be filled on priority basis. Once a directorate is created, this will be taken up and the teachers would be selected on merit. The system is set to be overhauled.
There were concerns about the quality of teachers in government schools. How are you dealing with- this?
After the poor performance of students in school examinations, especially in matric, we assessed the quality of teachers in schools and found, to our dismay, that the teachers too lacked basic skills. We have initiated training workshops to equip the teachers with necessary skills. Some of our trainers, nearly 50, have been trained in Canada and they will impart skills to master trainers, who in turn, will train the teachers. 10 schools have been identified in each district with the lowest pass percentage in English. Teachers will be given a reorientation course. The SCERT has been given a special fund of `1 crore to organise training sessions for these teachers.
What new courses are being planned for the children to make them more skilled?
An MoU has been signed with the National Skill Development Corporation to launch new courses. As its part, new courses like beauty and wellness, healthcare, automobile repair, retail would be launched in 100 schools for 5,000 students. Such courses would run simultaneously with classes starting from 9th to 12th standard. These courses will empower students and enable them to get a job as some of these would be at par with industrial training courses. We have made special provisions for science students and free coaching classes are being given to them.