Edu Minister ruffles feathers; promises changes

interview

Suresh Kumar

Assuming charge of the Education department at the thick of the controversy over teachers’ transfers, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Suresh Kumar has experimented with several initiatives aimed at ensuring quality and affordable education to all kids. While programmes like School Stay and Interaction with Students are hailed by all, his decision on holding public exams for class 7, initial refusal to provide second set of uniforms to children resulted in intense backlash. In In tête-à-tête with DH’s Rashmi Belur, Kumar shared his stand on the burgeoning issues.

Private schools are mushrooming every year. How will this be checked?

We cannot infringe upon the fundamental rights of individuals to start education institutions. However, I completely endorse that they are mushrooming everywhere. Stricter rules for their operation, in terms of providing quality education and student friendly infrastructure is the need of the hour.

We are trying to empower government schools in all possible ways, and some visible changes should start happening in the near future. I have given directions that hereafter every rule/regulation should be strictly followed before permission is given.

The previous government amended the Right To Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act to prioritise admissions to government and aided schools. Will this government continue with it?

The government has already prioritised government school admissions by bringing in necessary amendments to the RTE Act. Even the High Court has endorsed our view by not staying this decision. Children in government and government-aided schools are our top priority.

Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) results have turned out to be disappointing and resulted in shortage of teachers. What will the department do now?

Presently, the recruitment examination system for teachers is going on  transparently and efficiently. The recruitment process of around 10,000 trained graduate teachers is on and it is expected to be finalised by November. Based on the number of teachers getting into the mainstream out of this process, we are planning to recruit more teachers immediately, against possible vacancies.

Your recent announcement on the public exams for class 7 has received a backlash. Will there be any relook?

Contrary to the perception, there is a larger consensus on this. I have travelled across the state and interacted with teachers and parents. There is a general feeling that our system needs better evaluation and the children must have a feel of public examination before they face SSLC exam. This year, it is just a trial (without failing any student). My wish is that every child faces the examination with confidence.

What are the measures to ensure safety of kids in schools?

I have already held meetings with senior officers of Education department and the police department along with representatives of Nimhans. We are working on constituting coordination committees of these departments at every level for better management of this issue.

I have also asked our officers to explore the possibilities of bringing schools under the
Public Safety Act, so that school managements become more responsible.

Though the government has implemented fee regulations and directed schools to follow the fee structure, most private schools are not following the fee structure. How will the government act?

I have asked the department officers to be constantly on their toes when it comes to addressing the concerns of parents and the students. Wherever rules are breached, the school managements have to face consequences.

Your major challenge was the teachers’ transfers. What is the plan for next year?

From next year, no female teacher beyond 50 years of age and a male teacher beyond 55 years of age will be under the ambit of compulsory transfer. Every teacher’s case will be viewed with utmost humanity.

An ordinance to this effect is planned soon. Instead of revenue division as a unit, teachers will be transferred within their districts and primary school teachers within their taluks.

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