The Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) can pat itself on its back for having achieved a feat that has been dodging it for decades. Beleaguered by the persistent dismal performances by schools in the board exams, its efforts to improve the teaching standards have finally borne results this year. With a pass percentage of 88.21 in Class X exams, government schools in the state are — for the first time in 30 years — ahead of the private ones. Behind this huge leap from last year’s pass percentage of 58 is the year-long strengthening of the schools, training and monitoring of the staff by the Punjab Government. Cracking the whip on low performers, the education department in April last had issued notices to 200 teachers seeking an explanation for their classes’ extremely poor results. While this had the desired effect of spurring the staff to show results, the department’s parallel programme called ‘Padho Punjab Padhao Punjab’ paid dividends as it bolstered the teaching imparted in regular classes.
The main force that propelled the performance graph up was the recruitment of 3,000 teachers exclusively for the border area schools. That this gap was rightly identified by the department as the bane of the poor children of this region and promptly filled is evident from some dramatic results: three rural schools of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Pathankot today proudly boast of over-90 pass percentage, up from last year’s abysmal 2.
However, after congratulating itself, it would be advisable for the PSEB to not slip into complacency. It needs to keep up the effort. The board’s real success would be when parents vie with one another to admit their wards in government schools. Innovative approaches to reforming the sector are required. Along with keeping the teachers satisfied, rather than on the path of agitation, tapping in NGOs and volunteers for supplementing teaching can prove beneficial. There is a need to ensure that the students who pass out have not just crammed the subjects, unable to do the math or speak the language learnt. They have to be equipped to analyse and think critically, so that they are employable and ready to take on the world.