The dent in the education system in Manipur
Education in Manipur suffers from several inadequacies and the state lags far behind the rest of the states in the country.
With over 13,00,000+ schools and over 315 million enrolments, India has the largest education system in the world. Due to educational reforms, since the 80s, pre-school and primary schools have been made accessible to all children in India. According to the Right to Education Act 2009, schooling is free and compulsory for all children in the age group of six to 14 years of age. Most schools in India pay attention to academics and pay less attention to extracurricular activities. The Indian education system is quite different from foreign nations. In western countries, the syllabus is considered to be based on practical knowledge, while in India the focus is on theoretical knowledge and rote score. Students are expected to read all the chapters and bring good grades in the classroom. The marking system in Indian schools starts with primary classes, putting the burden on young children; the competition is increasing day by day. Parents want their children to perform better than their peers and teachers want their class to do better than other classes.
Education in Manipur suffers from several inadequacies and the state lags far behind the rest of the states in the country.
Education expansion in Manipur
Higher education has expanded over the years in Manipur, both in terms of the number of institutions and enrolment of students. From only one college in 1946–47, today higher education is imparted through nine universities and more than 90 colleges, including seven women colleges but concentrated mainly in the valley districts. Of these, 86 colleges are affiliated under the Manipur University and one constituent college (Manipur Institute of Technology). Five colleges have been affiliated to the Dhanamanjuri University. There are two colleges of teachers education along with two Medical (RIMS and JNIMS).
In terms of enrollment also, there has been a massive expansion in higher education. From only 60 students in 1947–48, it rose to 35,424 in 2001–2002. The share of girl students to the total enrollment has also increased considerably, from only 2.01 per cent in 1950–51 to 44.3 per cent in 2001–2002.
Expansion Lacks Quality
The progress of higher education in the state in terms of quality is not encouraging. The present higher education system in the state is not up to the desired standard. The quality of education in the colleges has deteriorated due to the mushroom growth of private colleges. These colleges are without adequate infrastructures and proper facilities. There are reports of irregular admission procedures, recruitment of incompetent teachers and financial hardship to make payment of teacher’s salaries etc. in these colleges. There has been mismanagement and corruption, and lack of proper academic atmosphere except in a few urban colleges in the state. Since the state failed to provide constructive education, students are starving of quality education and it leads to increased burden to the economy of the state.
Lack of Competent Teachers
The number of competent teachers is not many. There are several part-time teachers in colleges across the state. The norms set by the UGC are ignored in recruiting part-time teachers. The gap between the students and teachers and students to students has also widened in Manipur. The academic interaction between teachers and students and among students themselves have been limited. In such situations, even serious students do not have much of a chance of developing their potential. In fact, teachers profession has become the last resort in the job market for competent and well-qualified persons.
Quite a few people who have neither the competence nor the aptitude for teaching have come into the profession over the last decades making a mockery of school education in Manipur. A sufficient number of high-quality teachers is generally not available at the time of recruitment for various reasons. This is another setback for school education in Manipur.
It may also be pointed out that there is little or no opportunity for the new recruits to attain the best possible professional preparation. There is no continuous orientation of in-service teachers. The conditions in which they are working are also less than satisfactory. In the circumstances, there is low motivation and lower quality of teachers working in schools.
Students lack interest
Majority of the students in the colleges of Manipur appear to have anticipated at the time they entered the college that their higher education after secondary school stage would help them to better their employment prospects. They continue their study without any definite objective. Many of them are not keen on higher learning. They come to colleges in the hope of getting jobs for which only such education would qualify them.
Lack of infrastructure in rural and hill areas
Even though the size of rural and hill area population is much bigger than that of urban area population, the rural and hill areas are getting much less in respect of allocation of essential infrastructures, including qualified teachers. According to the report of the comprehensive survey of education in Manipur (NCERT) 1972, about half of the teachers working in lower primary schools in Manipur were only middle schools class pass during the year 1972 – 73. Some of them had not even passed middle schools of the total number of middle schools still working in the schools of the total number of middle pass teachers, 64 per cent were teaching in the schools of rural and backward areas.
Further, the report revealed that under matric teachers working in government primary schools constituted 58.79 per cent as against 33.31 per cent in aided schools and 47.30 per cent in purely private schools, and about 53 per cent of the under matric teachers were untrained. Even today, the number of under matric teachers working in primary schools is about 40 per cent of the total primary teachers.
The percentage of trained teachers at primary, junior high and high school stages are still not satisfactory, including schools under autonomous district councils. There were many incidences in which students eclipsed teachers in classroom teachings. Funny scenes used to occur anywhere. In the ultimate analysis, it is the teacher who is the kingpin of the teaching-learning process. It is his or her quality, motivation and relationship that he or she establishes with the students and the innovative ways that he or she adopts in his or her teaching which would influence the quality of education.
The teacher input may actually more than compensate for various inadequacies and deficiencies such as lack of attention by parents, their illiteracy, and absence of some physical facilities in the school. Indeed, there is a positive relationship between teacher behaviour and pupil achievement. This would require the professional development of the teachers. Orientation course of short duration for all in-service teachers would be essential to enable the teachers to perform their duties effectively.
Numbers of children in government schools decreasing
It is unfortunate that the number of children in government schools is decreasing due to mismanagement and too much political interference during the last two decades. It is crystal clear. The education system is plagued by regional imbalance. Unless more effective measures are taken on a priority basis for proper planning of schooling facilities, elimination of regional disparities and equalization of educational opportunities among all population will not be feasible.
For the implementation of various programmes for qualitative improvement of school education, it is necessary to note the present position in respect of enrolment indicating inter-district disparities, accessibility of schools to children, infrastructural deficiencies, non-availability of qualified teachers in village schools, attendance and dropout rates.
Enrollment of girls students and literacy rate
The enrolment ratio for girls in Manipur has improved in comparison with that of the past decades. Yet, in rural and hill areas, the enrolment of girls and children of poor and illiterate families is still not encouraging. In fact, one of the main hurdles holding up progress in the universal enrolment is the presence of a number of illiterate persons. Although the literacy rate as per 1991 census is 60.96 per cent as against the all-India literacy rate of 52.16 per cent, the number of illiterate people is on the increase due to high population growth rate.
The present literacy rate of Manipur is 74.04 per cent. The literacy rate of males is 86.49 per cent and females is 73.17 per cent as per the 1991 Census.
The 2001 Census of India shows four valley districts and two hill districts of the state attained literacy rate above the national level whereas the remaining three hill districts remained below the average mark.
However, the high literacy rate in the state does not drive economic development because the method of imparting education was not relevant to global competitive education and it led to a high rate of educated unemployed persons in the state. The state has a limited number of professional and vocational educational institutes. Moreover, the system of imparting education in general colleges are outdated and the environment of education is polluted by numerous stakeholders in the state.
Absence of proper academic calendar
There is an inability to maintain a proper academic calendar. The frequent bandhs, strikes and boycotts are the main hindrance in maintaining a proper academic calendar. The most disturbing situation is the lack of proper academic atmosphere in the colleges and attitude of both teachers and students. If there is a boycott of classes or a half-holiday, both students and teachers seem to enjoy and take advantage of the situation. They do not come to colleges these days. Even department/faculties are closed. Another disheartening situation is that some selections or groups of people threatened to call a bandh on a particular day only a few students and teachers come to the colleges and few departments or faculties are open on such days even if the bandh is called off or postponed at the last minute.
Inadequate academic atmosphere
There is also a lack of student’s knowledge and skills necessary to cope with the demands of their courses. Discipline, commitment and basic knowledge etc. are lacking. Lack of proper and adequate academic atmosphere, parental and government support and existence of corruption are some of the reasons for these situations. Therefore, it is not surprising that many parents send their children outside the state for their studies.
No formal counselling centres
The parents and teachers play an important role in sensitizing students about their educational and career choices. Students are to be informed of the modern avenues and changes from time to time. There is a need for closer and consistent contact with the students and motivate them. No substantial efforts could be seen in this regard in the colleges of Manipur. There are no formal counselling centres in the colleges and no information is being disseminated to the students properly about their educational and career choices. Instead, different aspects and scopes of various subjects are being rendered to the students, that also only in some few colleges. Most of the parents also do not even bother where and how their children spend their time. Thus the students themselves determine their educational and career choices.
How the present system factors unemployment in Manipur
The present higher education system has contributed to the problem of unemployment in the state. There has been an increase in the number of graduates in the faculties of science, arts and commerce. There is a lack of professional and technical institutions. The state government cannot provide employment to all the graduates coming out from the general colleges. The state has also no large-scale industries to absorb these educated youths. These create a serious unemployment problem in the state.
Smooth running of educational institutions a far cry
Manipur is a plural society with a mix of many distinct groups. The problem of education has been much prevalent in the state day after day, month after month and year after year. Smooth running of educational institutes is a far cry. The crisis of education in the state has many agencies; the blame starts from the highest level of political leaders. They direct the blame upon the negligence of the concerned department, the concerned departments blame each other within their own department, teacher blame the concerned leader of a state government and irregularity of student, student blames teacher, concerned department and the leaders of the state government, and the state government blame a concerned department of the union government for allocating limited finance in the education sector. Likewise, the blame never ends, it goes on and on.
Education in Manipur lags far behind other states
Action against the guilty person has rarely happened since most of them are involved directly or indirectly in downgrading the system of education in the state. The few Good Samaritans could not reform the failing system of education without the support from the state bureaucrat and political godfather. Therefore, the system of education in the state is far behind the rest of the states in the country where educational technology plays a significant role in global competitive education which leads to socio-economic development in society.
Suggestions for solution to all that ails
A number of suggestions or solutions to the problem of higher education and graduate unemployment can be made such as qualitative improvement of the college curricula, restricting intake into degree courses, introduction or opening of professional and vocational subjects or courses and setting up of career counseling units equipped with the latest information bulletins about the development of the prospective careers, etc.
Parents and teachers should be the effective and motivating forces of students, besides guiding them. For teacher appointment process, UPSC or the MPSC type of examination can be introduced in the state of Manipur so that the deserving candidates can be appointed as teachers. Improvement of the present system of higher education in the state can be brought about only when students do their own academic activity, strict adherence to a proper academic calendar.
There is also the need for proper regulations of the teaching-learning process and adequate attention of the government on education is called for.
(The views expressed are the writer's own)