(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 30, 2010
Remarkable Successes in Education
IT may be the smallest among the seven sister states of the North East. It may also be the most physically cut off from the rest of the country in terms of connectivity . Yet Tripura towers over not only the North East states but most of other bigger states of the country when it comes to achievements relating to education and literacy.
The target of achieving cent per cent literacy in the state by 2012 has already been met and the state is waiting for a formal authentication by the centre after due process. Even otherwise, as per the National Sample Survey 61st Round data (2004-05), the literacy rate in Tripura stood at 79.60 per cent while the all India average was 65.38 per cent as per 2001 census. Not just literacy, the phenomenal expansion of schools and teachers in the state is also an indication of the gains made under the Left Front governance, particularly since the 1990s. Today there is near universal school enrolment while the drop out rate has been significantly brought down, particularly among tribal students.
But then this is actually a continuation of the effort of stalwarts of the Communist Party, Comrades Dasharat Deb, Hemanta Debbarma, Shudana Debbarma, who began the Jan Siksha Andolan (People's Literacy Movement) way back in 1945 in order to spread literacy among tribals and thus raise their social and political consciousness. They established a number of schools in hilly and remote areas for this purpose. It is on these foundations that the present Left Front government is laying a strong ground for the future development of the masses. As is known, education and literacy have importance across sectors in society – economic development, health, population control, empowerment of women and weaker sections etc.
It is not just the Left Front government that is fully involved in the tasks of spreading literacy and education among the people.. The democratic movement also plays a crucial supplemental role in this effort. The Left Front government launched a total literacy campaign in 1995 in which 13000 volunteers from mass organisations participated in the literacy committees formed at district, block, panchayat and ward level to mobilise people. After one year, evaluation studies showed that 79 per cent of the target group had become literate. A second phase of post-literacy campaign was launched in 1997-98 to provide continued support to the neo-literates. A third phase was launched in 2001 whereby 1227 community education centres were set up which were equipped with a library and facilities for sports and cultural activities. Each of these centres had a full time functionary available along with a motivator. This combined effort of the government and democratic movement resulted in a commendable literacy rate of 79.60 per cent by 2004 for population 6 years and above. This was 90.3 per cent in urban areas and 78.3 for rural areas. This is commendable also because among the literates were jhumias (the shifting cultivators), reaching whom is always a difficult task.
As per the Seventh All India School Education Survey (September 2002), out of 7538 rural habitations in the state, 6356 (i.e. 84.42 per cent) had primary stage schooling facilities within a range of 1 kilometre. Another 6213 habitations (82.42 per cent) had upper primary stage schooling facility within a distance of 3 km while 6054 habitations (80.31 per cent) had high school facilities within a range of 6 km. Given the dispersal of most of these habitations across hilly regions, provision of this kind of infrastructural facilities is indeed remarkable. Almost all the schools have pucca buildings along with vast playgrounds.
The Left Front government is providing many incentives in order to ensure full enrolment and retention of students. Education upto 12th class is free. For BPL students the government also provides free textbooks, school uniforms, shoes etc. As per the latest Economic Survey of Tripura government, there are 2379 primary schools, 1139 senior basic schools, 459 high schools and 311 higher secondary schools (upto 10+2) in the state. Out of these, 1593 primary schools are administered by the TTADC as they fall under its area. The state government has devoluted full powers to the ADC for education in these schools. The elected village committees play a crucial role here ensuring near universal enrolment in the schools. Not just enrolment, they also have live engagement in ensuring retention of students and proper running of the schools. For example, in a village where jhumias were in large numbers, school timings were changed with the intervention of the committee as the students were finding it difficult to attend school due to clash of timings with their work in jhum.
Another instance of active intervention to retain the students is the decision of the ADC to construct hostels in 18 locations identified as “educational hubs” to cater to the students from 60 habitations which are remotely located. This was decided after observing the drop out rates of students from these habitations. Another innovative effort is the encouragement to village committees and NGOs to run hostels in areas with surplus schools. The ADC provides Rs 300 per month per student to these bodies. All these efforts are paying off when one observes the declining rates of school drop outs in the state. In 2001-02, the overall drop out rate for primary school children (class I to V) was 50 per cent. It fell sharply to 11.6 per cent on 2005-06. For the tribal students the corresponding rates were 65.4 and 13.8 per cent. Similarly for upper primary schools, the drop out rate was higher at 67.9 and it was brought down to 21. 4 per cent in the same period. With the latest efforts of the government and ADC, this would improve further.
The main challenges before the Left Front government in relation to education are improving the quality of education and meeting the aspirations of the educated youth for employment. Although Tripura has adequate number of teachers state wise (there is one teacher on average for every 23 children), there is shortage when it comes to individual schools due to their dispersal across hilly regions. Recognising this, the Left Front government has recruited 2000 more teachers recently who will join duty from 2010-11 academic year. There are limited opportunities for quality training of teachers. The ADC recently sent a proposal to the North East Council seeking setting up of a permanent training centre on the lines of District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) at Khumulwng with a capacity to train 200 teachers every year.
Supplementing the government efforts, mass organisations like SFI and Tribal Youth Federation (TYF) are arranging special summer camps to help students better their learning. Help of senior teachers is solicited in running of these camps during holidays. The setting up of more number of residential schools would also help in overall improvement of educational standards. There is increasing demand for more English Medium schools, particularly among tribals and the government is taking steps to start more such schools. Again the problem of finding qualified teachers is a hurdle that is being overcome.
The reported youth population in the age group of 15 to 34 years is about 35.5 per cent in Tripura. With most of them having access to education, the problems of unemployment and under employment are a big challenge to the Left Front government. They are exacerbated by the geographical challenge of being a landlocked state with hardly any proper connectivity to the nation. Still it is doing its best to surmount these obstacles by placing more stress on vocational and technical education apart from encouraging agro-based entrepreneurship. In the last budget the government has declared higher education and employment generation as thrust areas. Given these challenges, the achievements related to education and literacy are a tribute to the political commitment of the Left Front to ensure overall development of the people of the state.