The Performance Grading Index (PGI) for the year 2019-20 was recently released and we can see as many as five states and Union Territories scoring 90 per cent while reaching the Level 2 or Grade I++ for the first time with Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala topping the index. Other than these three states, Union Territories (UTs) of Chandigarh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands also occupied spots in this category with scores in between 901 to 950 on a scale of 1000. It is also interesting to note here that Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh also improved their overall PGI score by 20 per cent moving up to Grade II and Grade IV respectively.
Let us briefly look at what the Performance Grading Index is. The Performance Grading Index (PGI) is a tool to provide insights on the status of school education in states and UTs including key levers that drive their performance and critical areas for improvement. The Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSEL) has designed the PGI to catalyse transformational change in the field of school education.
The PGI is expected to help states and UTs to pinpoint the gaps and accordingly prioritise areas for intervention to ensure that the school education system is robust at every level. It is prepared with a set of 70 parameters. The PGI evaluation provides grade to the states and UTs, as opposed to ranking. Grading, by allowing several states and UTs to be considered at the same level, eliminates the phenomenon of one improving only at the cost of others.
It is however ironic that Meghalaya again for the third consecutive year is the only state to remain alone on Grade V. This clearly goes to show that neither our education system is not at all robust nor is it showing any signs of improvement. Known for having many students coming from across the North East to pursue their education in our State, we should be proud of being a booming education hub. But sadly, the PGI results bitterly show us that we are far from being proud of our education system.
The education sector is one of the most important determinant of human resource development and overall performance of a State. A good and effective education system ensures that all of its citizens are built to nurture the society and become better individuals not only for themselves but the society and nation at large.
In Meghalaya though, our education system is far from seeing better days. There are many issues and problems associated with the system in our State but the Education Department and the education minister do not take much action into what needs to be done to bring a more effective system in place to check all the existing loopholes. Knowing that this sector is of utmost importance, his position needs to be critically examined.
With the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen the challenges that many are facing. In our State it is no different. Our State’s education system has always been crippled and the pandemic is making things difficult. The need for online education and classes has made matters worse, especially for those living in the rural areas that neither have access to android cell phones nor good internet connectivity.
In 2020 when Covid-19 hit us, the Education Department came up with a solution of broadcasting online classes through channels like Doordarshan Kendra and also via the radio. The irony here lies on the fact that neither the Education Department nor the Education Minister thought of equal opportunities. There are still many houses in the rural areas that neither can afford a TV, nor a radio transistor (which I rarely see) or FM stations in their cell phones. How then do they gain access to the much-needed education? I have friends and family members alike who are teachers and also students and I have heard them lamenting of the problems they are facing because of the online education system.
An example of a State that actually gained success while bringing changes to its educational system when the pandemic kicked in is that of Gujarat. The authorities knew that 25-30 per cent of its students had very little to no access to learning devices. Responding to this, Gujarat’s education department prepared a detailed plan and guidelines to ensure that no student was deprived of education. Learning was provided at the local levels with help from local authorities (in our case the dorbar shnongs), in promoting peer learning or group studies, home visits by teachers and field staff whenever possible, providing access to online classes at citizen centres, common halls or even offices as well as mobile learning vehicles that would reach the remotest village. Many students benefitted from the exemplar and proactive contingency response of the education department in the State.
As the pandemic continues, very little is known of what the state of education will be especially for Meghalaya. It risks leaving a scarring impact on the education sector which is already reeling under a learning crisis. It is high time now for the Education Department and Education Minister to wake up and start devising strategies and means so no child is left behind. There is a need for the department to craft policies into an integrated Covid-19 response strategy, guiding comprehensive action to ensure that learning continues. Whether or not the minister has time to do this or the capacity for restructuring education, that is to be seen another day.