This year the school education sector in Punjab certainly saw some ups even as the last quarter of 2018 was marked by two-month-long protests by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and RMSA teachers from October.
As the contractual teachers protested against the state government's decision to regularise 8,886 teachers, but with pay cut, as many as 2,265 government schools saw a facelift with world-class infrastructure. Also the students of several government schools set unprecedented examples of their IQ level. And last, but not the least, English, the subject, in which maximum number of students fail in the final exams of Punjab School Education Board, is no more dreaded in many government schools now.
The schools were given a facelift under 'Smart School Project' launched by the government. Crores have been spent on attractive clean buildings, smart classrooms, computer rooms, hygienic toilets, playgrounds, drinking water facilities and colourful premises. Government, however, has not spent from its pocket, but motivated inpidual donors, Non-government Organisations (NGOs), charitable trusts, firms, and Non-resident Indians to financially help the schools.
Even Director General School Education-cum-Project Director Parshant Goyal had written to several NGOs, charitable trusts and firms to contribute towards digital classrooms, laboratories and toilets, provide books in libraries, uniforms to the students, create infrastructure for Midday Meals and sports, install solar power plants and Reverse Osmosis system and any way that the donor or the school deemed fit.
Education Secretary Krishan Kumar confirmed the infrastructure in 2,265 schools have already been improved and by the end of this academic session, a total of 4,250 institutes will be covered. He said some 100 teachers of Punjab are supporting them hugely by motivating people.
"With the contribution of such people and organisations, it will become a sustainable model of community ownership and accountability," said he, adding the government will provide support on pedagogy, ways of teaching, resolving specific problems etc. "It will enhance the performance of the government schools in every possible manner. We will cover all 20,000 government schools in a few years," said he.
Several government schools, including government middle schools at Rajgarh village (Ludhiana), Malwa and Nawanshahr, have already started getting applications from people in advance for reservation of seats for their wards for the next session, revealed the education secretary. "Two government school teachers in Nawanshahr have got admitted their wards," said he.
"It is a dream come true for us as we belong to poor families and haven't even thought of having access to facilities like e-content, computer labs and libraries," said one Kamljit Kaur of Kishangarh village in Mansa district. Along with the infrastructure, the education standard has also started improving. The students of Government Primary School, Jhangerian, in Nurpur Bedi block of Ropar district, have set an example. Several students of this schools have memorised the names of all 117 Assembly segments, 13 Lok Sabha constituencies, names of several countries with their respective capitals, that of Punjabi and Indian English writers, Indian scientists, Indian festivals, national holidays and neighbouring countries. The Class I children of this school have memorised tables up to 20, while as per syllabus, they need to learn just up to 5.
Education secretary has also uploaded the videos of these children on social media. "Under Parho Paunjab Project, we have designed several programmes and now our students are speaking in English without any hesitation and several schools have started conducting prayers in English now," said District Mentor of English, Chander Shekhar.
Even, a renowned missionary-run convent school, St Francis in Batala (Gurdaspur district) had invited the government school students during a Science and maths fair recently. "The government school students explained maths and science equations in fluent English to their convent counterparts," said Principal of St Francis School, P J Joseph.