Writers’ Workshop on the State of Education in Odisha

Anil Pradhan

Education is vital for development of any nation. A number of programmes and schemes are being implemented to improve the educational situation of the country. In spite of number of schemes implemented in the past and are being implemented at present in the state, the state of education in Odisha is in deplorable condition. In the mean time Elementary Education has become fundamental right as per the 86th amendment of the constitution of India and to implement the constitutional mandate, Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 has been implemented since April 2010. The deadline for implementation of RTE Act will be ending in March 2015.

It is a matter of great concern that, the educational situation of the state has not improved at expected level rather the quality of education has been deteriorating day by day. As a result, people have been attracted towards private schools and the number of private schools has been increasing at a faster rate. However, in Odisha still 90% of children depend on Government schools. Government of Odisha claims that there is only 6000 out of school children in the state. But, the real picture is totally different. As per a national study recently conducted by the Government of India, there are 4 lakh children who are out of school.

If the situation remains like this, the societal problems will be worsened and the society will be divided on the basis of schools they send their children and the class they belong to. If man is to survive, he must build a new world order which will be secure and free from evils that brought the old world crumbling to earth. In planning this better order, the part played by education and the forms it should take are vital factors. A nation’s system of education is the source of its power and inspiration. The contribution that men and women are able to make to the enrichment of national and international life depends upon the nature of the education they have received and on the outlook, wisdom and character it has developed in them.

In view of this, Sikshasandhan and Odisha RTE Forum have already organised a number of programme for community, media, members of Legislative assembly, teachers and other stakeholders to create awareness on the situation and to build pressure on the government to act proactively to improve the situation.

This time we thought to organise a consultation for writers to discuss with them about the educational situation of Odisha. Government on one hand is celebrating Sastriya Bhasa Divasa and planning to establish a Odia University in the state. On the other hand, Government run schools (Odia medium) is in deplorable condition. We strongly feel if government school system will not improve we cannot enrich our language and culture. The writers’ consultation was organised at Hotel Seetal, Vanivihar, Bhubaneswar on  20th April 2015.

The workshop started with a welcome note given by Mr. Anil Pradhan, Convener, Odisha RTE Forum. The inaugural session was chaired by Dr. Manmatha Kundu and Professor Khageswar Mohapatra and was presided by Mr. Aurobindo Behera. Sharing the objectives of the workshop, Mr. Pradhan said that Right to Education Act has completed five years but the government has failed to comply to its various provisions. Odisha RTE Forum did a stocktaking in this context and found that none of the districts in the state have availed the basic provisions mentioned under the RTE and the status of primary education and schools is very much disappointing and the pity lies in the fact that now there is a new demand to strengthen secondary education. In this context, the role and responsibility of the writers were sought for who could contribute their part in highlighting various issues and problems affecting primary education in the state.

Anil Pradhan

Mr. Pradhan made a power point presentation on "State of Elementary Education in Odisha: Issues and Concerns". During the presentation, he highlighted that only 3% of the schools in Odisha comply with the RTE norms. Malkanagiri, Nabrangpur, Nuapada and Raygada are the four districts with less than 1% schools fully comply with the RTE Act. Issues like frequent school closure, increasing number of private schools, dropouts and out of school children, increasing appointment of contractual teachers and deteriorating quality of education makes the fulfillment of the act a distant dream. Talking about the basic infrastructural facilities, Mr. Pradhan shared the following data:

  • Out of 52,890 government elementary schools, 12364 have no toilet for the boys and 7497 have no girls' toilet.

  • 1714 schools are yet to have clean drinking water facility.

  • 82% schools do not have electricity facility and only 7% schools have computers.

  • Around 41,706 schools have no play ground and 17949 schools have no boundary wall.

  • 32% of the schools have no ramp facilities.

  • 23% of the schools have no separate kitchen for cooking mid day meal.

  • There are still 2857 single classroom elementary schools functioning under the S&ME Department.

  • Only 1000 schools out of the 14,000 schools have MLE teachers.

According to Mr. Pradhan, the prevalent issues in government school have diverted children to the private schools and a segregation is being created between the private and government schools. He opined that the major reason behind this is rampant corruption in the SSA and DPEP.

Dr. Manmatha Kundu

Dr. Manmatha Kundu discussed about "Status of textbooks, teacher's training and quality education'. His discussion basically centered around the pre-primary education where he talked about a three tier method to analyze the quality of pre-primary education i.e. man, material and method. Coming to the manpower, pre-school teachers or the anganwadi workers are not trained. It is fact that teaching the pre-school students is a herculean task but the teachers are not efficient enough to do the job. Besides, along with teaching, the teacher needs to maintain more than 27 registers and do other jobs. This hampers the quality of education in the pre-primary stage. Arunima, a resource book-cum-teachers’ guide, along with two workbooks have been supplied to ICDS centres, without providing proper training to the ICDS workers. The primer for Class-1 , the Hasa Khela, has made the situation very much worse. The Hasa khela book needs to be revised. The content of the textbooks developed for higher classes is also worse. The textbooks miss the introduction about the methods that teachers need to adopt while teaching the particular subject. You cannot apply a single method to all the subjects. English has been introduced to the government school children at class 3 but this become a burden for the children because the children lack any sort of pre-primary activity for the particular subject. There is a wide gap in the standard of the class 3 and class 4 english textbooks. They are also not clear about the methods that they should adopt while teaching i.e. whether the fragmented approach or the whole approach. New generation teachers are willing to learn and the teachers training institute must take advantage of this but the module for the teachers training are not matching up to the changing needs of time. Every teacher’s training institute has a DM school attached with it. These are to be used for the demonstration purpose. But these schools are not used and the practical aspect of the teacher’s training is missing. Teacher’s trainers are born and die as teacher’s trainer. They do not have any practical experience on teaching. They only adhere to the theoretical approach. School syllabus and the teacher’s training syllabus are not symmetrical. This create problem. Every classroom has wide range of mixed abilities learners. We lack discussion on this aspect and do have any specific method for the same. The local guide book agencies and publications are controlling the publication of government textbooks. This affects the quality of textbooks and learning.

Prof. Khageswar Mohapatra

Prof. Khageswar opined that textbooks must be prepared keeping the present context in time. He himself prepared certain textbooks for the children but they were not accepted by the government. The books he translated was not specific to the tribal context for which the books were not accepted. Therefore, the textbooks must be all inclusive where the tribal culture and language finds its representation. Government and its organs must give special attention to the tribal population and their needs. Old textbooks must change with time. He is now working as an adivisor in the Santhali Textbook Development Committee. Specific attention is given to prepare standard books in Santhali Language.

Responding to Prof. Mohapatra, Mr. Basanta Panda said for 30 years and more we do not have specialized teachers to teach odia in the government schools. This has deteriorated the standard of odia language.

Issues highlighted in the open house discussion

The open house discussion was basically held to encourage the participants to put forward their opinions regarding RTE and its various provisions. The major participants of this session were: Mr. Basanta Panda, Mrs. Supriya Mallik, Mr. Baisnaba Charan Mohanty, Mr. Sailen Routray, Mr. Sudhir pattnaik, Mr. Kedar Mishra, Mr. Pradeepta Sundaray , Mr. Bhaskar Parichha, Ms. Kirti S. Kalinga, Ms Debabrati Dash, Mr. Biswaranjan Jena and others. The major outputs of the session were as follows:

  • Many schools have not appointed separate and specialized Odia and English teachers.

  • OTET and TET results are very disappointing. Only 7% candidates have cleared the OTET exams. The process and procedure needs a revision.

  • Teacher's training must be given importance because this to a great extent can ensure quality education.

  • Special training and orientation must be provided to teacher training trainers.

  • Special training must be given to the pre-school teachers for teaching alphabets.

After the open house discussion, Mr. Aurobindo Behera had put forward certain suggestions.

  • Now there is a need to move beyond the RTE. We now have to focus on the finance part because that is the most necessary element that would help us in complying to the RTE provisions.

  • There is the need for a HR policy for the schools and this must be discussed in the public domain.

  • Teachers union must be taken into confidence, which would make our task easier.

  • Before formulating a policy, teacher's opinion must be taken into account.

The technical session was chaired by Mr. Achyut Das and Prof. Ajit Mohanty. Mr. Das talked about the social responsibility of the writers. He initiated a participatory discusion where he threw open 3 major questions of relevance: what is the social responsibility of a writer? Are you willing to be a part of the campaign? Are you willing to have a strong voice in the public domain? The major sharing that came from the discussion were as follows:

  • Writers must continue to write in spite of criticism.

  • Writers are many times threatened to life. But must be unbiased and remain independent in expressing their thoughts.

  • Writers must not limit themselves to the textbooks. Their ideas can be circulated in any medium and they must target a wider public.

  • Writers must highlight the behavioral aspects to education.

  • Regional languages must be represented and included in the vocabulary.

  • Writers must include tribal culture in their writings and textbooks.

  • Writers must highlight success stories in education. Social networking sites can be a medium.

  • All the writers combinedly can create an alternative media where they can place their ideas and views.

Prof. Ajit Mohanty suggested the way forward at the end of the session.

  • For the better implementation of RTE, writers must be encouraged for a combined voice.

  • We must analyze the difficulties that we face because of the absence of a common school system.

  • Textbooks are not necessary for education. A child can learn from his own environment. So we must motivate our children for a holistic learning where textbooks only catalyze the process.

  • Odia language must make itself much flexible to include the tribal languages within its vocabulary.

  • Teachers must be given autonomy and space so that they device their own methods and techniques of teaching. Training is not always necessary. This will also promote contextualization to a great extent.

  • The hierarchical division regarding the salary of the teachers must be eliminated.

  • Teaching profession must be made a respectable profession where the best scholars and academicians join because of their choice not by chance.

  • Although NCF 2005 has made teaching in mother tongue compulsory, it has not been implemented properly. Teaching in mother tongue language must be made compulsory. This has to be ensured in the future and the writers can create a demand for this.

Finally, Mr. Pradhan suggested that discussion on specific issue can be conducted at Sikshasandhan office which would create a platform for further discussion and dissemination of ideas. Sikshasandhan can be used as a resource and information hub for those who want change in the education scenario. The workshop finally ended with a vote of thanks by Mr. Anil Pradhan.

Sikshasandhan, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.