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Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Well-Researched Book for Those Interested in India and Education

Common School System: Examining the First Initiative in IndiaKhagendra Kumar
ISBN: 81-7714-327-1
By Dr K. Kiran, lecturer, Dept. of Political Science, M.A.M. College, Naugachia, T.M.Bhagalpur University, Bhagalpur (Bihar)(INDIA)

In the book under review ‘Common School System: Examining First Initiative in India’, the author has tried to examine the recommendations of the first ever Common School System Commission of the country instituted by the Government of Bihar.

In the comprehensive preface the author has explained the reason for taking the task of examining the report of the Common School System Commission. The Education Commission of India recommended the establishment of a Common School System in the country way back in 1966. It was also endorsed by National Education Policy 1986 and Programme of Action 1992. While reviewing the implementation of this policy, the Ramamurti Committee (1990) considered the development of Common School System (CSS) to be a “very vital component of the overall strategy for securing equity and social justice in education. Over two thousand non-government organizations which have joined hands to promote the National Alliance for the Fundamental Right to Education (NAFRE) launched a public campaign demanding the implementation of a Common School System in India. \

The Government of Bihar has shown the strong desire to provide equitable quality education to all the children of the state. Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of the state said “In my encounter with the public everywhere of the state, I found a ubiquitous desire among the people, particularly the poorest to send their children to a good school”. He further said “I have no option but to respond to the yearning of the people…” He announced his government’s intension to establish a Common School System (CSS) in Bihar on the 22nd July, 2006. Finally the Common School System Commission (CSSC) was constituted on the 8th August, 2006. The CSSC submitted its report on the 8th June, 2007

The Commission termed the intention of the Chief Minister to establish the CSS in Bihar as a development of historic significance for Bihar and possibly for the rest of the country as well.

The author says “In spite of my deep concern for the CSS and support for its early implementation, I strongly feel that the report of the CSSC needs to be examined and necessary changes should be considered before its implementation. The reason is very plain and simple. There appears to be contradictions between discussions made by the Commission on various issues and the Commission’s recommendations related to them at various places of the report. Its discussion is also loaded towards bureaucracy and elites of the society but in a subtle way…The PRI and urban bodies have hardly a place in the legal frame of the CSS…That is why I have taken the task of examining the CSSC report which is the first initiative in India towards the implementation of the CSS.”

The book has twelve chapters. In the first chapter of the book, present status of school education and teacher education has been described. The report is based on latest available data. In the second chapter the author has looked into the CSSC’s concept and rationale of CSS and identified some views of the Commission which explain some of the past events erroneously, perhaps due to poor understanding of the social and political situations of the state. The author has also identified some vital areas where many actions of the state justified by the Commission are not in consonance of its concepts and rationale of the CSS.

In the third chapter, the CSSC report on school administration and management under CSS has been examined. The Commission has recommended two bills for management of schools for consideration by the Bihar Legislature. The first bill, Bihar Primary and Middle School Education Committee Bill, 2007 is meant for constituting school education committee in the primary and middle schools of Bihar and the second bill, Bihar Secondary Education Committee Bill, 2007 for constituting school education committee in the secondary schools of Bihar. The author has tried to reveal the loaded arguments of the Commission in favour of bureaucrats and against the legislators in respect of the management of Rajkiya and Rajkiyakrit schools. He has also tried to visualize the Commission’s theoretical position regarding the vital role of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in the school management and its position in the recommended bills where PRIs role appears to have been diluted.

In the next chapter, the author has examined the CSSC report on teachers. Enumerations for creating conditions for optimum performance of teachers of the CSS and norms relating to pay and allowances of teachers suggested by the CSSC were examined taking justification of the Commission regarding some of the practical conditions of the newly appointed teachers. The author says, “The Commission describing the norm said that the pay and allowance of teachers should match their qualification and professional responsibility. There is no denial that professional responsibility of a teacher is very high, perhaps highest. Describing the essential criteria for fixation of salary and allowances of school teachers the Commission says that pay and allowances of school teachers should be fixed at a level high enough to enable them to live a life of dignity. But the Commission in its discussion on concepts, rationale and content of CSS in chapter three of the report justified the appointment of large number of school teachers on a very low salary, even lower than a fourth grade employee. School teachers from primary to senior secondary get consolidated meager monthly salary of rupees 4000 to7000. It is ironical that this salary structure has been adjudged as reasonable salary by the Commission. It appears that the Commission which talks of the abdication of conscience of the society in general lost its own conscience and could not speak against the wrong decision of the Government that constituted it.”

In the chapter five, the author has examined the CSSC report on the teacher education in the Common School System and in the chapter six, the CSSC position on different types of schools in the CSS has been examined. The author has found some of the views put by the Commission need to be reconsidered as they are not in consonance with constitutional rights of the people.

In the chapter seven, the author has tried to look into the curriculum and pedagogy for the CSS. A brief summary of National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 and draft Bihar Curriculum Framework (BCF) 2006 has been presented. A critical review of draft BCF has also been presented.

In the chapter nine, the author has tried to summarize and examine the financial implications of CSS suggested in the CSSC report.

In the last three chapters the author has suggested his own plans for the development of DIETs in Bihar, On-service training program of untrained serving teachers and development of Education Faculties in the universities of Bihar.

The book critically examines the report of the CSSC and raised many important issues which must be addressed before its implementation. The presentation of the CSSC’s theoretical positions, recommendations and their examination has been done so well that the book becomes very interesting and readable even for common readers. One can get holistic picture of the CSS. The author is bold enough in putting his views straight. This is the first and only book of its kind on the CSS, an issue of great public importance.

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