Missing Accountability

There is no denying the fact that key to change, success and prosperity is education and school education is the vital part of the entire process. The government is not oblivious of this fact and that is why, in J&K, by numbers and by money it involves, education is the No 1 department. Given the fresh impetus to the sector at the federal level, it is cash-rich area.

New Delhi, by way of a series of fully sponsored schemes, is funding almost everything, literally. School constructions, repairs, playgrounds, textbooks, lunches, uniforms, teachers’ salaries, hostels and whatever is left – all comes in cash. Barring audits and occasional observations, there is nothing much the central government is asking in return. But the huge investment in the sector is not making a huge difference – about 38 percent schools in the state lack drinking water facility and 26 percent have no toilets. The percentage of schools operating from rented and ramshackle structures is too huge.

But that is just part of the overall infrastructure. What could have made the difference is the quality of education. Had it been closer to the mark, it would have made a huge difference. But that is not the case. The trends suggest the parents are earning to invest in the education of their children and it is the private sector that is the most trusted way of building a good future.

With more people sending their kids to the private schools, it does imply a change in socio-economic status of the people. But it is a verdict on the way education sector functions. The crisis is more in Kashmir valley that incidentally has more teachers than Jammu or Ladakh. State-run schools are performing comparatively better in other two regions unlike Kashmir. Policymakers in the state government need to spare some time and understand why the private sector is making such a huge difference at a fraction of the investment that the public kitty is making.

If people with low investment can make such a great difference, why can’t the people managing state’s education system need to be made accountable? The government has a responsibility of monitoring what happens in the private sector especially the fee structure which varies after every 50 feet in Srinagar and elsewhere. The government has already set up a committee to look into this part of the commercialization of education.

But an ideal situation would have been to create a larger commission that would take care of the entire gamut of issues related to the education sector. It should suggest ways and means to make the teachers accountable in the state sector and ensure that the rights of the teachers in private sector are not marred by biggies’ manipulation. The government cannot be lopsided always, so cannot be the policies pertaining to the basic right of the kids – the future generation.

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