Education is an emancipating force in the society. Investment in education is a vital step in building a more inclusive society. Our government believes that if we are to make the most of the wealth of talent that exists in our state, we have to focus on reviving Public Education. The Left Democratic Front in government has ushered in real change and reform towards this end.
Protecting Public Education
Protecting and strengthening of Public Education is a necessary condition for making quality education affordable and accessible. A movement to protect Public Education was initiated and the campaign was then followed with actions to effect a revival in the domain. A striking example is the case of Malaparamba Aided Upper Primary School (MAUPS). Banking on a court order in their favour, the school management had claimed a loss and was fixed on closing it. Facing an uncertain prospect, the students of that school had to move into a makeshift setting for schooling. This was becoming a pattern across the State with aided schools attempting shutdown by claiming loss. These claims of loss were often invented and the real motive was a desire to use the land for other lucrative businesses. Aided schools form a sizeable portion of the total number of schools in the State and this tendency was posing a danger to public education. Determined to arrest this trend, the LDF government intervened and resuscitated the school. Efforts were undertaken in 3 other schools facing similar troubles, Mangattumuri AMLP school, Palode AUPS, Velloor PMLPS. Government also made necessary changes in the law by amending the Kerala Education Act to prevent such cases.
Improving the Student Life
Improving the quality of services available to students is fundamental to improving the quality of education. Government’s initial efforts went into resolving the troubles associated with distributions of textbooks. It was also decided to split a textbook for an year into volumes to lessen the physical burden on students. All students from classes I to VIII were given free school uniforms irrespective of APL/BPL classification. From this year students of classes I to V will be provided uniforms made of hand-loom. Government also implemented a free insurance scheme for all students. Another scheme introduced was a fixed deposit of Rs. 50000 for the student in the unfortunate event of the death of a parent. The practise of collecting funds from students towards Kalotsavam (Youth festival) expenses was discontinued and instead the Government allocated Rs. 40 Million for it.
Delivering Quality Teaching
Improving the working life of teachers and non-teaching staff is important to ensure the overall quality of the system. To attract and retain good teachers we need to ensure that they are supported well. The LDF Government has raised wages for many occupations in the sector. Wages were raised for teachers of Multi-Grade Learning Centres (MGLC) and Inclusive Education for Disabled at Secondary Stage (IEDSS). Mid-day meal workers saw their wages rising from Rs. 400/day to Rs. 475/day. Honorarium for pre-primary teachers and Aayahs was increased by 600%. Government granted Rs. 70 million to provide daily wages to the 3000 teachers that were working in Higher Secondary schools without pay.
Kerala Education Rules was amended and the Teachers bank which provides a scientific way for appointment and transfer of teachers was made a part of the law. 4000 teachers whose posts got abolished due to lack of students were redeployed. The Government authorised the State Council Educational Research and Training (SCERT) to study the problems in the pre-primary sector. 141 RMSA schools were elevated to the level of government school to solve the dearth of teachers. Every educational sub-district was provided with one IT@school trainer to make our schools hi-tech.
A Better Plan for Higher Studies
To take advantage of the opportunities of the modern world and to cope with its challenges, governments must focus on higher education. The LDF government is striving to ensure that higher education is accessible to all those who are interested. We took necessary steps to ensure that merit and social justice were considered in engineering admissions. Under the LDF government admissions to professional colleges became more transparent, timely and at a lower cost to students. Government was successful in ensuring that admissions to professional colleges were based on entrance test results, it was adhered to even for admissions to seats in the management quota of self-financing colleges. Two new postgraduate courses were started in Trivandrum Engineering College during the last one year. The Central Polytechnic in Thiruvananthapuram lost its AICTE recognition during the tenure of last UDF government. The LDF government paved way for an infrastructure overhaul there along with sanctioning twenty six additional posts at the institute, which helped the polytechnic to regain its lost recognition. Guidelines were issued for starting new courses and colleges in the higher education sector. Syndicates were reorganised in universities. Government has decided to enforce an Academic Calendar, and decided to use technology to impart efficiency and improve the conduct of examinations and publication of results. A committee was formed with five Vice-Chancellors to initiate the process of bringing out a research journal to publish the research done in our universities. Rs 728.7 Million was distributed among fifteen colleges and a University through the Rashtriya Uchchattar Shiksha Abhiyan.
At a time when technology is fast changing the nature of jobs, the workforce needs to continually up-skill and re-skill to remain relevant. This is far too serious a problem to be left at the hands of the market, and instead requires an intervention through active governance. Driven by this belief, the LDF government is actively expanding vocational training and Skill development. Ten new Skill Development Centres were started under the ASAP scheme. The department of Education entered into an agreement with the Labour department to identify and solve skills gaps through vocational training courses. Two new centres of CCEK (Centre for Continuing Education Kerala) were started in the Polytechnics of Kalliasseri and Kanhangad.
The Government’s blueprint for development is the LDF manifesto. In the thirty five point pre-election manifesto, points 23 and 24 talk about education. A year into governance, we can proudly say that we stood by the promises we made. The work has been initiated to transform our high school and higher secondary school classes to smart classes. The endeavour to make our universities Centres of Excellence is well under way, and as a first step Rs. 2.50 Billion was granted to CUSAT.