Thiruvananthapuram: The Dr M A Khader Committee appointed to recommend reforms in the school education system in Kerala has called for revolutionary measures in its final report. Among the major suggestions is rescheduling the school hours to 8 am-1 pm and limiting the highest score with grace marks to 79 per cent.
The committee says that regular classes for students of standards 5-12 could take place from 8 am to 1 pm, while extra-curricular activities such as employment training, laboratory, library etc. and training in arts and sports could be imparted during 2-4 pm.
Yet another crucial recommendation is that similar to fixing the strength of students in each division, there should be an upper limit for the number of students in a school.
The Khader Committee has been functioning for the last four-and-a-half years and its term was to end on September 30. The final report was submitted to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the presence of General Education Minister V Sivankutty, Director of General Education Department K Jeevan Babu and members of the Khader panel G Jyothichoodan and Dr C Ramakrishnan.
Other major suggestions of the committee include:
Exams: Written exams have to be revamped and the number of public exams days should be reduced. This could be implemented by conducting two exams a day by alternately seating SSLC and higher secondary students. The public exams should ideally be conducted during April itself, says the panel.
Grace marks: The maximum score which could be secured with grace marks for each subject in SSLC and higher secondary should be 79 per cent (B Plus). Currently, this score is 90 per cent for SSLC and 100 per cent for higher secondary.
Teacher appointments: A special recruitment board has to be constituted for appointing teachers. In addition, the current norms regarding appointment and promotion of teachers should be reformed. For instance, promotions as school principals should not be solely based on seniority but also on other qualifications.
Aided school posts: The procedures to approve teaching posts in aided schools also should be revamped. According to the Khader panel, school managers can make appointments only in posts notified by the Education Department authorities. All appointment-related matters in aided schools should be carried out through the ‘Samanwaya’ portal of the General Education Department.
Midday meals: The free midday meals have to be served for students up to Class 12. Presently, the scheme covers students till Class 8 only.
School strength: The maximum number of students in a lower primary school should be 250, in upper primary school 300, high school 500 and higher secondary school 450. According to the Khader Committee, limiting the number of students would improve the quality of education and improve the availability of infrastructural facilities to each student.
However, there are apprehensions over how this recommendation could be implemented in government schools.
Division strength: The panel report also suggests the number of students in each division of a class. In classes 1, 2: 25 students (with a maximum of 36); classes 3, 4: 30 (maximum 36); classes 5, 6 and 7: 35 (maximum 40, in additional divisions, the number of students should not exceed 20); classes 8-12: 35 (maximum 45)
According to the panel, AEOs and DEOs should be divested of their powers to increase and decrease divisions based on the number of students. Similarly, the staff strength has to be decided every three years on the basis of a headcount of students.
Principal selection, transfers: Principals of aided as well as government schools should be appointed considering not only their academic record but also administrative and management skills. A transparent and systematic evaluation process has to be put in place for the purpose.
Selection of principals and general transfer of teachers should be completed in April-May. Transfers should not take place during the remaining months.
Vacancies arising during the academic year have to be maintained as open vacancies till the coming April. Teachers appointed during an academic year could be transferred to another school where vacancy exists when a senior teacher arrives under general transfer.
Teachers’ meets: Meetings of teachers’ organizations should be avoided on school working days.
Local language: The medium of instruction for school education should be the local language. However, students have to be proficient in English when they complete school education. Command over Hindi also has to be ensured.
Anganwadis: Timings of pre-primary schools and anganwadis could be decided based on the situation in the area where they function. The minimum period of work is 4.5 hours. Facilities which enable children to stay safely till their parents arrive should be arranged along with providing nutritious food.
Physical training: At primary level, specific physical exercises have to be made compulsory inside the classroom. All teachers should be trained to handle these classes. From class 5, physical education teachers should be appointed under Kerala Education Rules (KER).
Three subjects only: Currently, higher secondary students have to study four subjects apart from the languages. The panel wants to reduce the number of core subjects to three in order to ease the burden of students.
Teachers’ unions: A referendum should take place every five-six years to recognize teachers’ associations. Only those unions which receive at least 18% votes should be recognized.
Schools for other needs: Many schools which have few students are often used for non-educational purposes. This tendency has to end.
Evaluate teachers: The panel wants evaluation of teachers also, for which guidelines have to be prepared by taking teachers into confidence.
Valuation of answer-sheets: Rules have to be amended to make valuation of answer-sheets a duty of teachers.
Self-defence: Students should be given training in self-defence also, said the committee.
Sex education: In yet another important recommendation, the panel wants inclusion of lessons creating proper awareness about sexuality in students, in the school syllabus.
Qualifications for teachers: Degree scheme could be implemented for primary teachers and post-graduate scheme for secondary teachers, says the Khader Committee.
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