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Manipur heading towards quality education
Manipur is apparently heading towards restoring the quality teaching system of the days of yore. The Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) has been successfully conducted so as to create a bank of qualified teacher aspirants from among the huge unemployed educated youths. Much has been promised and something has been practically demonstrated.

WITH THE establishment of Manipur Education Service and successful conduct of TET examination, optimism prevails in Manipur education sector. However, many things are yet to be done.

The authority has to monitor how effective the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan(RMSA) schemes in the state are. What is the present status of implementation of Right to Education (RTE) in Manipur? Are private institutions governed by norms and guidelines?

After careful handling of all the odds by the present Education Minister M. Okendra Singh with his political wisdom and commitment, the TET has been conducted with support of all the communities of Manipur. It is a noble step towards bringing quality education in the state. The first ever examination for screening teacher aspirants was conducted on 26 November last at 152 centres in and around Imphal. Government declared holiday for all educational institutions located in Imphal East and Imphal West districts in order to facilitate smooth conduct of the test.

Quality teachers are highly necessary for bringing about quality students. Excellence of private school students over the government institutions has been mainly due to presence of quality teachers in the former. In spite of low payments, service insecurity and work overload, private school teachers always yearn to produce outstanding pupils to illuminate their institutions.

Majority of government school teachers recruited amid corruption and bribery are quite unfit to nurture good students. TET is a mechanism to explore quality teacher aspirants and create a guild of potential teachers. Even if there is involvement of corruption in teachers' appointment, TET will limit the opportunity to a few qualified aspirants. It’s a considerate move on the part of the state government. Even though we can not eradicate grafting in appointments wholly, we have mechanisms to minimize this evil. TET will prove it in education sector. All the right thinking citizens of Manipur have encouraged this endeavor by tolerating inherent inconveniences due to topographical features of the state.

However, conduct of the examination is not the end. The authority has many things to follow the TET. It needs to be monitored whether the examination is conducted in complete fairness. Manipur has witnessed innumerable conmen who could do anything for money. It should be ensured that hands of such persons do not reach the TET premises. Question setting, examination invigilation, answer script checking, marks tabulation and result declaration are crucial ingredients to decide the quality of the screening. Every step should be carefully paced.

During appointment of teachers afterwards, the merit list will decide the course. If the authority is able to compromise everything in favour of merit, then the real benefits of conducting the TET will come. If the government overlooks the merit list of teacher aspirants, the dream of bringing quality education in the state can never be realized. ‘No political pressure, no quota for politicians and bureaucrats, and no room for bribes and favouritism’ will prove the success of TET.

Education of children is just like sowing seeds for a better Manipur. However, unwanted elements frequently disturb the regular school education in Manipur. Recent instances of planting of bombs near school campuses have increased insecurity among students while involving the small students in strikes and demonstrations has disturbed their academic well-being. Frequent bandhs and blockades have hampered the good-flow of knowledge. The society as a whole has to mobilize this thought while upholding the true character of school education.

Checking the tendency of commercializing school education and mainstreaming the tuition-oriented education system in Manipur are the important tasks of the state education department. In the absence of systematic monitoring by the government, running a private school becomes the most profitable and lucrative business in Manipur. The government-run schools are not preferred by most parents and pupils, because they do not produce quality students at par with private counterparts. Such an impression of lack of quality teachers in government sector needs to be removed with a fair conduct of TET. While boosting the reputation of government schools, the government also needs to have a vigil on private school education as well.

Most private schools do not have the necessary equipment and infrastructure for moulding good students. There are schools which do not have even playgrounds, computer laboratories and libraries. Such infrastructure should be a mandatory requirement for every school. Common syllabus should be enforced for all classes other than class IX and XII so as to maintain uniform development of students. The locally written and produced text books which include state-specific curricula need to be prescribed for students irrespective of private and public schools. Most private schools are prescribing books produced elsewhere which lack information about Manipur and its features. Teaching about Manipur, its history, its people, its features etc. will help a lot in building national character among students and patriotic vision among future pillars of the nation.

The root of all deteriorating quality education in Manipur has been government's apathy towards the education sector for a long period. Before some decades, government schools could successfully produce good students. Reputed doctors, heads of departments, engineers, police officers etc. who are either retiring or retired from services now mostly studied in government schools. However, due to corruption, favouritism and nepotism in selection of teachers, government schools failed to produce good students. Subsequently, the public credibility towards private schools gradually increased. It is now hoped that the golden repute of the old government schools will be restored by this enthusiastic government. But, TET is not an end in itself. It is just like a tot crawling towards quality education. We have many more things to do.

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