Assam Cleans up School Education System

In a move that could have far-reaching effects on Assam’s school-education apparatus, the state government has decided to put in place a policy that could, in a single stroke, cleanse the system of most of the politics that plagues it at the moment. The new policy, the recently framed Assam Secondary Education Service Rules 2003, that is yet to be made public, would make merit the sole criterion for the appointment of that key-stone of public education, the teacher in government schools, an area that had over the years reduced to the politician’s personal fiefdom. As state education minister Rupam Singh Ronghan, concedes: “We are aware that certain inefficient people used to get the job …. sometimes due to political pressure.” And hence the new policy, one that has been drafted to marginalise the influence the local MLA hitherto had in the selection procedure--right from his constituency, anywhere, all the way to Dispur, the state capital.

According to highly placed sources in the government, the appointment of graduate would from now on be decided--read filtered--by school and district level selection committees and finally the state level approval committee. Significantly, while the local MLA, would still be a part of the governing body of the school, all other members of all the three committees would be education department officers, including the director of secondary education, from various levels. Members of the public and parents bodies have also found representation in the committees. An unprecedented amount of transparency would be added to the system at the school selection committee stage itself, based on a 250-mark marking system that would take into account the candidate’s performance right from his or her high school leaving certificate (HSLC) examinations, to the university degrees. According to the new rules, “any appointment made from outside the select list shall be invalid except appointment made on compassionate ground by the government”. Significantly the new rules framed by the government also extend to the appointment of all other employees in schools.

Once firmly in place, the rules should prevent the rut from further setting in the state’s education. Ironically, among those blamed for the state of affairs academic in the state is former chief minister and one-time “Man of the Nation” Hiteswar Saikia who had, in the height of the of a series of surrenders by ULFA cadre a few years back (Saikia’s brainwave at that point created the now infamous SULFA, or the band of surrendered ULFA cadres), declared before elections, and then went on to create, one lakh school teachers’ jobs, a move that has largely been blamed for sub-standard, inefficient teachers having found their way, largely through politicians, into the state’s schools. “Through the new decentralisation at the grassroots level, the managing committee of the school will now get the opportunity to choose the right candidate, according to merit, for the job,” says Ronghang. What now remains is the implementation of the new rules, in letter--and spirit

By Monalisa Gogoi (newsfiledelhi@sify.com)