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By Dr. Rusievan Shangpliang

Meghalaya may have once attained a tag ‘educational hub of northeast India’, however, it is high time that we make an assessment on the kind of education that we expect from our students and the method we use in imparting education to them.

Here our discussion will be on two areas :-

HIGHER EDUCATION

Firstly, concerning higher education, there is a missing link and a gap between the stakeholders, the institutions and the state.  It seems that throughout the years, the controlling agencies focus more on testing rather on learning. For instance, it is surprising to see that the newly introduced Semester system of NEHU could not improve the performance of the students. For example, the pass percentage of the Ist semester B.A. of 2016 and 2017 are 33.96% (22169 appeared 8151 passed) and 36.77% (20600 appeared, 6996 passed) respectively. Does this mean that students are not learning? Is this the quality education that the University wants to impart? Who’s fault is it?

The late declaration of results has become habitual and compelled the introduction of unnecessary break (December- January) in between the semesters. Who feels the punch? Definitely, the students and the teachers who struggle to complete the syllabus since the course which was earlier taught for around 8 months is now being taught in only about 4 months. Besides all these, many teachers who neglect their duties added salt to the wounds.

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Fewer concerns are being shown to the students as we have witnessed recently. It seems like the present sixth semester students are being made scapegoat to see whether the semester system is functioning smoothly or not. In the last examination held in May 2018, sixth semester students feared that their plans will get a huge drawback. They may do well in their honours papers, but when it comes to an additional paper, they may have to pay a high price.

Concerned parents and students have voiced out their opinion after the questions set for the Environmental Studies paper suddenly became more of an Environmental Science subject and thus demoralized the examinees.

However, least concern is shown by the University or the concerned institutions. Will we pull down our own students by testing the capacity rather improving the quality? But what more can we expect from the University which has shown its negligence that even the Annual Convocation that was supposed to be held for the academic year 2017 was not convene at all.

EDUCATION SCENARIO

Secondly, when we turn to the entire education scenario in the state; we appreciate the concern shown by the current Chief Minister, Conrad Sangma. The swift initiative taken to streamline the education sector either in the Budget allocation or other related issues is a hats-off applause. An attempt was also made to come up with a draft of the Education Policy. Sadly, without getting proper information that the draft has been released, the suggestion box for improvement of the draft has been closed before this article is written.

Now when we talk about improving education in the state, it not only meant the salary, number of institutions, number of enrollment and number of degrees attained by students. It is quality education and the foundation of professionalism that would prepare the students to determine their future.

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And in the hope of attaining such aims, a strong educational policy is required along with the mechanism to effectively implement the same. However, the draft policy and its features seem more like a work of architectural design with high value sounding words that has less significance.

To point out a few — It is hard to understand the concept of preparing learners by inculcating ‘problem solving’ (see vision 1.4.1.) Moreover, what has spirituality got to do with education (see, 1.4.5 Special efforts should be made to enable students: IV. To become mature, spiritually aware and men and women of character).Why can’t we put more efforts on education that supports and provide students the ability to possess critical and rational thinking. The goal 1.5.3 for Higher and Technical education development to promote and institutionalize high standards for research in higher education institutions seems imaginary giving the fact that the state funding and initiative towards research is an ignominy.

The usual tosh about achieving too many things in an educational policy is not always possible. Excellence can be achieved once the focuses are specifically earmark. One of the key objectives of The Kothari Commission (1964–66) and the National Policy on Education (1986) emphasizes on improvement in the quality of education.

However, most of the schemes and acts that were introduced are more towards getting the children to schools rather on focusing on what they learn there. Though accessing to education and equity seems to have reach the cross line, however, the inclusiveness and employability which can be achieved through quality education is still in need of greater attention.

PLAUSIBLE EDUCATION POLICY

It is important to assess the situation first before adopting pronged approaches that would unnecessarily waste time, energy and resources. It is the basic feature and function of the education policy that would measure what kind of education is imparted to students. Potential of each pupil should be maximized through guidance and counseling to support, help and guide students to be able to make correct and appropriate decisions concerning their education and careers.

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It should be able to put an end to the pressure of standardized external tests in which student performance is expected to reflect the quality of teaching work. Evaluation and assessment strategies are important for improving students’ outcomes and developing a better and more equitable and quality educational. Therefore, it is mandatory that system evaluations should be carried out where clear guidelines and accountability mechanism is necessary for such an endeavour to succeed.

It has to be kept in mind that successful education policies are based on equity, creativity and teacher professionalism.  The policy should base on flexibility not standardization that will ensure high quality of the pedagogical and ethical training of the staff involved.

It should be able to prepare teachers for a research-based profession. Teaching profession should be made on a par with other professional works. This enables the teachers to diagnose problems in their classrooms, apply evidence-based and often alternative solutions to them and evaluate and analyze the impact of implemented procedures.

If this is implemented properly, parents will trust teachers as professionals who know what is best for their children. It is through professionalism that institutions and teachers and schools become responsible for their own work and also solve most problems rather than shift them elsewhere.

(Dr. Rusievan Shangpliang is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of History, Synod College, Shillong)

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