UT Education Secretary B L Sharma speaks to The Indian Express about the factors that improved the results of government schools in the CBSE Board examination results and the pressure he faced from teacher unions’ front upon issuing show cause notices and suspending many teachers for poor results in 2018 among government schools in the region.
Government schools performed well this time. Who do you attribute this improvement to?
It is correct that the government schools in the region have performed really well this time. Pass percentage class 10 is 75.27 per cent, when last year, it was 48.51 per cent. This year, the result is more than we had expected with an increase of 26.76 per cent in the pass percentage. This is an extraordinary achievement. This was more than what we had expected. Though, we, as a department, worked very hard to improve our performance, an increase of 26.76 per cent was quite incredible, given the extent and nature of difficulties involved. Even for class 12 results, the pass percentage this year is 81.65 per cent against 73.63 per cent last year. There is an increase of 8.02 per cent. This too was a substantial improvement. We undertook a number of initiatives which transformed the teaching learning environment in government schools.We put a system in place, which is fair, responsive, accountable, efficient and effective. Inspiring leadership is necessary for success of any institution/organisation. Senior officers of education department acted as role models and won the confidence of each and every principal/head, CRC/BRC and teachers. The department transformed into a dynamic, vibrant, well-governed and efficient organisation. We were in a ‘mission mode’, trying to meet challenges to achieve the desired objectives. I made everyone work and ensure that they were performing their duties sincerely and to the best of their ability. This was our success mantra.
Video | CBSE released class 10 results
What factors and policy changes you felt acted as major contribution in improving the results?
Last year, when the pass percentage of class 10 results was at 48 per cent, we were rather shocked. We were impelled to analyse the reasons for such a low pass percentage. After a lot of deliberations and comprehensive study, we took some path breaking decisions. There were certain schools in the heart of the city which had excess of faculty, while schools in the peripheral areas were facing a shortage of teachers. An elaborate exercise was carried out, for rationalisation of deployment of faculty, keeping in view the actual requirement of teachers in each schools. For this, all subjects taught in schools and numbers of students in each school was taken into account.
Transfer/posting of teachers was carried out accordingly. Adequate faculty were provided in almost every school. Also, the system of grace marks, which was quite anachronistic, was dispensed. This system encouraged poor performance among students and teachers. One of the most important steps was introduction of remedial classes for imparting additional instructions/education to weaker students in each class and in each subject in all government schools. This exercise was carried out by teachers and principals with great devotion. This brought about tremendous improvement in the learning levels/attainments of students. At the same time, an attempt was also made to ensure that the number of students in the different sections and classes are within the manageable limits and that class rooms and schools are not over crowded.
Were some inspection teams also constituted to keep a check on teachers?
Nine inspection teams, headed by senior officers of the department were constituted, which carried out periodical inspection for ensuring that the principals and teachers perform their duties as per prescribed standards and sincerely. These inspection teams acted as guides and mentors for principals and teachers. Several meetings were held between Secretary of Education Department and principals/heads of schools, sensitising them about the crucial role they play in bringing about transformation in quality of education. The principals and teachers performed their duties exceptionally well, as is evident from the wonderful performance in class 10 results.
Punitive action was taken, following which the teacher unions were against you.
Punitive action was taken against principals and teachers who failed in discharging their duties during academic session of 2017-18. Strict instructions were issued for observance of discipline in schools, calling upon, each and every teacher/official to perform his or her duty as per prescribed norms. I gave liberty to each and every teacher and principal to approach me in case of any difficulty or if they had any suggestion for improvement in a particular school or education system at large. Several teachers and principals can forward with their suggestions and their problems. The suggestions were duly considered and these problems were resolved. Service matter of teachers, like finalisation of pending seniority and promotions, were also accorded top priority. There was a need for providing impetus and driving force to the entire education department. Driving force was provided by leading from the front and by mobilising all the available resources. Academic performance of teachers has been given weightage of 60 per cent in the annual performance appraisal reports. Better performance would fetch better grading and would therefore be an incentive. Poor performance of students would fetch lower scores and would be a disincentive for the teachers.
There was lot of opposition within the department after you issued show cause notices to teachers. What all did you have to face?
It is true that there was a lot of resentment among teaching community. There was also a lot of pressure from different quarters regarding the punitive action taken against poor performers but we withstood the pressure. Operation of system of reward and punishment is necessary for successful running of any organisation. In this case also we rewarded the teachers and principals who performed well and proceeded against those who performed miserably. These steps sensitised the principals and teachers to the fact that poor performance is going to attract penal proceedings and good performance would attract rewards and appreciation. The message went deep down and worked really effectively.
The unions also went against to the UT Administrator. They even termed you "Hitler".
I would have been happier had they called me Napoleon instead. Napoleon said: The word ‘impossible’ is written in the dictionary of fools . I have followed this dictum throughout my life, right from my childhood.When in governance, quite often, we are required to take tough decisions in larger public interest. Some such decisions are likely to be unpleasant. However, if these decisions serve the larger public interest, then we have to stand firm and carry on with their implementation. For bringing about transformation in quality of education, we took some really tough decisions. However, we were supported wholeheartedly by the worthy adviser to the Administrator and Governor, in whatever, decisions we took for overall improvement of government schools.
What are the major challenges within the UT Education Department?
Imparting education to students in government schools, particularly those situated in slums and colonies and in the periphery of the city, is a really difficult job. About one-third of the students in these schools come from very poor backgrounds and suffer from socio-economic deprivations. A fair percentage of parents of such students are manual workers and daily-wagers and have to struggle and undergo drudgery for their livelihood and survival. Children of such parents find it difficult to cope up with children of more fortunate parents. Evidently, it is a great challenge to impart education to such children. Principals and teachers of the UT have risen to the occasion and proved that there is nothing impossible if you are committed to achieve a mission, undertake necessary steps and mobilise all your resources for attainment of the objective. Some of the schools situated in the periphery of the city and in rural areas have performed exceptionally well in this year’s results.
What all reforms are in the pipeline?
We launched a project called, ‘PHOENIX’ on October 5, 2018. The project aims at tracking learning outcomes of each and every student and performance of each and every teacher from classes 1-8. Our teams of experts have developed 33 handbooks containing methodologies and processes that need to be followed and outcomes that need to be achieved by the teachers. These handbooks are meant to guide the teachers and have been distributed among them all. PHOENIX, the IT application is at an advanced stage of implementation. The learning outcomes have already been pre-fed in the said application. The names and particulars of the students are being fed. By July, the application will be most likely be fully operational. Once the application is fully operational, one can access learning outcome of any student in respect of any subject for any period (i.e. April, May, and June etc.) as well as corresponding performance of any teacher. The project will enable us have online and real time availability of information. It will provide us plenty of data for formulating policies and making interventions for improvement in the quality of education as well as system of governance. Successful implementation of this project would prove to be a game changer. Four activity based Teachers Manual for Science & Math for classes 6 and classes 8-10, were developed by our pedagogical experts. These manuals are meant to inculcate learning by doing, experiential learning, thereby inculcating the spirit of creativity and scientific temper among students.
PISA is being held in UT in 2021. What preparations are being made?
We have taken several steps in connection with the preparation towards PISA test (an international test conducted by OECD), which will be held in the UT in 2021. This will bring about a major shift from rote-based learning to competency-based learning.Transformation in teaching-learning process will enable students to use their knowledge and skills in real life situation and to become useful and successful members of