Raising the bar

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Bashir Assad

WE certainly have moved with the times and the changing ways of life and living. Here comes SAMIKSHA – an online portal initiated to take monthly feedback from students of Class VI and above, on the performance of their teachers.

Students are being registered with the portal that creates a unique username name and password for access.

Why such a portal? Senior officers representing the Department of Education, Jammu and Kashmir, say that ours is the only region to introduce a teachers’ evaluation portal. “When every service provider is asking for feedback from clients and customers, why can’t we get feedback from our students? After all, the education department too is a service provider,” points Principal Secretary, Department of Education, Alok Kumar (IRS).

Talking to KC, Alok Kumar says students have the right to quality education. “We have highly qualified and trained teachers and there shall be no comprise in imparting quality education. Our teachers need to be a little more assertive and dedicated towards achieving their goals,” says Kumar, adding that the department has taken some landmark decisions which could greatly help put the system back on track.

Kumar feels that taking feedback from students is certainly going to bridge the gaps and help both teachers and learners to work on their weaknesses. He adds that the GPS- based attendance of teachers introduced earlier in the government schools in Jammu and Kashmir is producing good results and resultantly, punctuality has improved phenomenally.

To a question on the veracity of the feedback from students, Alok Kumar says a unique password and username have been generated for each student registered on the SAMIKSHA portal and the student alone (with the help of his or her parents) can access the portal. Teachers cannot ask for access, he adds.

However, teachers too are registered on the same portal under a different clause wherein they can access the feedback of the students once it‘s uploaded. Kumar feels the introduction of such an app would certainly go a long way in bridging the gaps in education. “I am sure teachers would not only love to get feedback but would actually encourage the students to give it. It would be a great learning experience for both,” feels Kumar.

He also adds that since “most children of all age groups are addicted to smartphones, just like their parents, the SAMIKSHA portal would be a step towards making good use of these smartphones”.

The Principal Secretary also informs that a new transfer policy has been set in motion and around 11,000 teachers have been transferred, strictly following the norms. He says: “We have shifted teachers who were at one place for more than six-seven years. There are teachers who had been serving at one place for as long as 20 years. We have shifted only such teachers in the first phase”.

He says he means to change the system slowly instead of a sudden overhaul. So the shifting of teachers will also be done in such phased manner.  Administratively too, it is not a great idea to shift people in large numbers because it can create a situation of unrest.  “The department has a workforce of 1,50,000 and we can’t create chaos by shifting all the teachers who have a mature stay of three years. Around 33,000 teachers had applied online for transfers; we, however, shifted just 11,000 in the first phase. Administratively the best way to go about it is to effect the transfers of 20% of the workforce in one phase. We have created five zones and the teachers were asked to apply strictly under the provided norms,” says Kumar, adding that the response to the shifts has been overwhelming.

He admits that grievances are there too, which would be addressed efficiently. But there is one clear message: a teacher who has been transferred and is somehow aggrieved, should join the new place of posting and then give a valid reason in support of his/her grievances, and the department assures, it would act swiftly to mitigate the grievances. Kumar, however, reiterates that the department wants to focus more on imparting quality education to students rather than managing transfers and postings of teachers.

He further asserts that there is a metaphor that money changes hands in every transfer, and this is the image they have been able to do away with. “This is the only department where I am effecting transfers of around 15,000 teachers and if you hear about any kind corruption, that is mere propaganda”.

About teachers having problems with transfers, Alok Kumar says “every human being has problems in life… Parents get old, we have medical issues, we have children… Problems are at the core of every human life and they should never become the basis for transfer or no transfer. I am crystal clear about this. Don’t ask me for exemption on medical or on any other grounds. Yes, we have kept some provisions in the transfer policy where you need to go through a process to avail of concessions or exemptions and that process is fully defined. Why should my interest be more towards making my teachers comfortable if the students are not comfortable and the end result of teaching well doesn’t take place? The results have not been good in certain pockets; so why should I not change the teachers there? Why should I not ask them to explain?”

Kumar further adds that he has discouraged the culture of teachers roaming in the Secretariat corridors pretending to be leaders. He says teachers are teachers, not leaders. Not only this, he says, some teachers have entered the profession of journalism and have made a mockery of both these noble professions. “If somebody is interested in something else than imparting education, he/she is welcome to leave my department and choose the one of his/her inclination,” says Kumar.

He adds that he is also making serious efforts to relieve teachers from other responsibilities, most common being the duties given by the Election Department. Kumar further adds that the Jammu and Kashmir LG administration is passionately working towards transformation of the education system in the region and the feedback from the stakeholders is quite encouraging. The initial hiccups, mostly about corrupt practices, have been addressed intelligently and people from all walks of life are appreciating the efforts of such a transformation, he adds.

 

 

 

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