A recent report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has exposed the sorry state of affairs of Goa’s government-run schools and the hype created over the State’s education system is now out in the open. The UNESCO report not only uncovered what was being pushed under the carpet but has caused a major embarrassment to a State which has consistently shown ambition in the education sector.
It would be important to make a reference to the report and put in perspective how the education system stands in rural Goa. UNESCO states that out of the 1,486 schools in Goa, a staggering 239 schools have only one teacher. A majority of such schools (93 per cent) are located in rural parts of the State and Goa follows Arunachal Pradesh which leads the list with 18.22 per cent of single-teacher schools.
Another aspect that paints a grim picture of Goa's schooling is that 10.28 per cent of the pre-primary teachers in schools are under-qualified while a minuscule 0.57 per cent in primary and 0.03 per cent in upper-primary schools do not meet the required qualification criteria. Interestingly, only 40 per cent of schools have internet facilities while a small 16 per cent have information and communication technology laboratories. The positives are that 87 per cent of the classrooms are reported to be in good condition, cent per cent road access and availability of basics like drinking water and electricity.
If we may recall, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has been making promises on improving the quality of education. As part of his budget speech in 2019, Sawant had announced that the time has come to improve the academic quality of education to match with the world's best and had assured to take all steps in that regard beginning from the primary level to the University.
Cut into 2021. On the eve of Teachers' Day, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant lauded the teachers for standing up and taking up the challenges of the new teaching systems. In his message, he said, "I appeal to the teaching community to draw inspiration from the life of Dr S Radhakrishnan and discharge duties with a renewed sense of dedication and commitment.” On the face of it, these are words of appreciation and accomplishment that sound hollow. Because, beneath the surface, a different picture emerges where Goa's rural education system lies crippled and teaching becomes an unpredictable exercise.
The education system in rural Goa is in poor shape. Several primary schools have only two students per class and teaching of multiple classes happen within the confinement of one classroom because there is a single teacher available. How can the State see a transformation in education under such an outdated system? If there are genuine plans to revamp the education system as promised, the government has to rethink and get to the grassroots of education.
Primary schooling is a crucial component in a scholastic career and provides a solid foundation for learning. Known as the formative years, it is here that students pick up fundamental skills of reading and writing that prepare them for higher learning. It remains to be seen if the National Education Policy which is scheduled to be implemented in the next academic year can usher in a change.