Last two decades of the contemporary Manipuri history have witnessed the degradation of moral values together with corruption of humane ethos and social ethics. The recent most cases of the rape and murder of mother and daughter, closely followed by another similar sinister crime involving a girl clearly point to the degrading moral values and social ethics. In our humble attempt to trace the root causes of the plummeting morality, the (post)-modern education system followed in the post-British India figures prominently as one major factor. Subsequent upon the amalgamation of Manipuri culture with the so called Great Indian tradition, Manipur has transformed into a bizarre land where social character and ethics are thrown to the dogs. Education in the State has seriously gone haywire.
Parents at tuition centres!
Since the past decade, groups of parents thronging at the gates of tuition centres or residences of teachers have become a common sight. In these unnatural gatherings, they mostly talk about the achievements, potentials and prospects of their children. Presence of the parents at such sites seems to have a common purpose, Yenning guesses, a mission to ‘educate’ their children through private tuition. Parents’ escorting their children to the tuition centres is another inescapable sight. This is a new found tradition visible in almost all localities of Imphal and greater Imphal.Thirty years back, private tuition was reserved for a privileged few who were academically not so bright. Even then, private tuition was largely confined to one or two subject(s). Over the years, private tuition or coaching has become an integral part of formal (school) education system in Manipur. With students going for private tuition for each and every subject, private tuition or coaching is fast acquiring the status of a parallel schooling system.There are many compelling and not so compelling factors for the rise of private coaching system in parallel to the formal schooling system. Frequent bandhs, boycott and other disturbances are some of the compelling factors. Here, we cannot overlook the heightened sense of competitiveness. It is really painful to see that private tuition is assuming the character of a tradition in our society. We do agree that private tuition equips students better to face examinations. At the same time, it evokes a question of fairness. Whereas the level of competitiveness is rising year after year, the arena of competition is shrinking reciprocally. Competition and sense of competitiveness has already become an exclusive domain of private and mission schools only. This is reflected most glaringly in the results of Class X and Class XII examinations conducted by Board of Secondary Education Manipur (BSEM) and Council of Higher Secondary Examination Manipur (COHSEM). These exams have become so lopsidedly unfair that students of Government schools have been thrown out of competition.This fast growing tradition of going for private tuition gives unfair advantage to those students who can afford while victimising many poor students. If private coaching raises the level of competitiveness, it is also one major factor for the increasing number of High School drop-outs. A notion seems to have been imbibed by the students that it is impossible to pass Board and Council exams without going for private tuition. To many poor parents, both in rural and urban areas, private tuition is a luxury they cannot afford. With the culture of private tuition spreading like a plague, many families are struggling to send their children to private tuition sacrificing other basic requirements of the family.
Nurturing dependency mindset
Private tuition has many inherent demerits, producing serious implications on multiple aspects of our social life. However, by virtue of its sheer relevancy to the education system, private tuition centres are gaining prominence at the expense of public schools. The shift in the education pattern is that schools are there to conduct exams and issue certificates, while the actual teaching and learning is done in private tuition/coaching centres. Schools have deviated asunder from their sacred purpose of imparting education to students.Growing culture of private tuition is a manifestation of parents’ dissatisfaction with the educational performance of schools. The rising popularity of private tuition and coaching centres has its roots in the Indian education system where marks secured in the examinations are used as the sole criterion to measure a student’s abilities. This system of judging a student’s potential and ability defies the very purpose of schools, which is to prepare students for examinations and more importantly for life beyond. Again, private tuition contradicts the aim of education, that is, to make students think and nurture their innate potentials. Underscoring the flawed education system which has deviated quite afar from its intended line, the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) recommended in 2005 that education should be for nurturing multiple intelligence in order to fructify the full potential of each child. And this has to be supported by a constructivist approach to learning and a flexible, scientifically designed student assessment system. “Performance should be portrayed in a portfolio revealing his/her total being. This can include domains such as life skills, academic/non-academic and vocational subjects, personal qualities”, CABE recommended. Private tuition/coaching operates in total contradiction to such recommendations. In other words, it stands to mould students to secure maximum marks in examinations. Guided by this objective, private tuition/coaching feeds students with readymade answers/solutions. With private tuition assuming central role in the school education system of the State, students have been accustomed to a culture of spoon-feeding. The culture of spoon-feeding is robbing away the thinking power of our young students. Students are not allowed to exercise their mental faculty to tackle a problem and arrive at a conclusion of their own because teachers in coaching centres are ever present to supply them with readymade answers. This slowly cultivates a mindset of dependency among young students where they cannot think of solving any new problem without teachers’ assistance.
Bookish knowledge vis-a-vis health
The busy schedule of private tuition both before and after school hours has direct bearing on mental as well as physical health of young students. Too pre-occupied with the efforts to acquire bookish knowledge and much concerned to deliver their parents’ expectations of securing maximum marks, students have neither time nor energy to indulge in mind-refreshing activities like games and sports. In fact, students have no time to de-stress their spoon-fed crammed minds. Steadily, the ever-expanding tradition of private tuition is removing extra curriculum activities from the life of students.The separation is reinforced and sharpened by the existing education system under which only marks ‘secured’ count. Either you concentrate on your study of textbooks suppressing all other potentials and talents or give up schooling if you want to groom other non-academic, vocational or sporting career. In this existing education system, there is no meeting point between academic and non-academic activities. On account of this highly restricted structure, the pool of our sporting talents has been limited to rural areas. The tragedy is, caught in the rat race for securing maximum marks, parents are now overlooking the importance of games, sports and other physically and mentally refreshing activities at the cost of their children’s health. At the end, we are breeding a generation of students of highly rigid learning and underdeveloped physique.
Even if one likes to blame teachers and parents alike for the malaise stunting the mental and physical development of our students, Yenning believes the crux of the problem lies in the all pervading system in which only marks matters. The infectious growth of private tuition/coaching that we see in Manipur is the spill-over effect of the system followed all over India. When mark is the only criterion for admission in higher educational institutions including technical ones, it is only natural for students, teachers and parents to focus on securing maximum marks. With majority of parents disillusioned with the performance of public (sic Government) schools having failed to generate marks to the scale demanded by higher educational institutions located outside the State, a fertile ground was bred for gradual ascension of private tuition culture over formal schooling. Much earlier, mission schools run by Christian missionaries and other private schools, which mushroomed in the later phase, have disqualified Government schools from being educational institutions. It is now a fact that education sector (up to higher secondary level) is one sector in Manipur, which has been fully privatised. And now, private tuition culture is fast emerging parallel to the formal school education system in Imphal valley, if not in the whole State. Perhaps, this could be the beginning of ‘double-privatisation’ of education sector.Given this situation, Government sponsored education-promotion schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Mid-Day Meal scheme, etc (under slogan, ‘Education to All’) throws an interesting picture. But the bitter truth is that when parents have lost all their faith in Government schools, no schemes can impart proper education to the students, how-much-ever noble their objectives be. Parents send their children to Government schools covered by such schemes like SSA, Mid-Day Meal etc, not because they prefer Government schools but they cannot afford private schools. The poor children are out of the ambit of private tuition culture. At the most, these Government schemes may be able to raise the statistics of literacy rate going by the number of students enrolled or if it sticks to the outdated concept of literacy as the simple ability to read and write. In the face of the accelerated pace of privatisation of education sector and the all pervading private tuition culture, the slogan ‘Education for All’ sounds uncannily out of place.
This article was posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, February 7, 2010