Guwahati, Aug 6: Cutting across party lines, Assam legislators in the Assembly on Friday highlighted the poor condition of the state's education sector in areas such as huge vacancies, high dropout rate, and inflation of marks in board exams in the pandemic situation.
During a discussion on the budget for the current fiscal, MLAs of the ruling BJP-led alliance and the Opposition parties urged the government to pay immediate attention to the education sector if Assam wanted to fulfil its target of becoming one of the top five states of the country.
The saffron party heads the state government with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the United People's Party Liberal (UPPL) as its allies.
"The Assam government had constituted a committee to give a report on the New Education Policy by December, after which the blueprint was to be prepared by January. But the report is yet to be submitted. Many states have already started work," opposition Congress MLA Bharat Chandra Narah said.
The Education Department in Assam has been receiving the highest allocation of the state budget in the last six years, but it has not been able to perform in proportion to that, he said.
"It is a department to create human resources, but it does not have humans to work. For example, in Lakhimpur district, there is no teacher at all in 100 lower primary schools and only one teacher each in 250 middle English schools," Narah said.
Rafiqul Islam of the opposition AIUDF said 50,465 posts in the Education Department are lying vacant as per the latest data and most of them are of teachers.
"There are some schools where up to 15 teachers' posts are vacant. How can a school function in such a scenario? This is one of the reasons for the very low literacy rate in some districts. Hiring should be made a continuous process and it should be reviewed every three months," he added.
Pointing out that literacy rates in all neighbouring states are higher than Assam, Islam said even Gauhati University is working with a shortage of faculty members as only 2-3 teachers are working in almost every department. BJP MLA Mrinal Saikia alleged that irregularities in appointing teachers have hampered the quality of education in schools, leading to parents now opting for private institutions. UPPL MLA Gobinda Chandra Basumatary said the literacy rate in Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) is very low at 61 percent and the entire education system in the region is backward. Independent MLA Akhil Gogoi stressed that Assam has one of the highest dropout rates in the country across all levels of education.
"At the secondary level, Assam has a dropout rate of 32.3 percent against the national average of 16.1 per cent. For the upper primary level, it is 3.4 per cent in Assam against 2.6 per cent in the country and at the primary level, it is 4.3 per cent in Assam against 1.5 per cent in India," he added.
He urged the government to create more infrastructure, especially in the backdrop of online learning due to COVID-19, and appoint adequate teachers to arrest the rising dropout rate in the state.
"This year, the pass percentage in both class 10 and 12 standards were very high at over 93 per cent. There is a fear that there will be a shortage of seats at the higher secondary level and colleges. So, please take steps to increase the number of seats, " Gogoi said.
Stressing the need to focus on sports during school education, the legislator urged the government to convene a special session of the Assembly to discuss the implementation of the New Education Policy 2020.
"The appointment of teachers should be done in a transparent manner. So, I request the government to devise an appointment policy. Also, please consider the plight of poor students who cannot afford a mobile phone, and are therefore unable to attend online classes," Gogoi said.
Congress MLA Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha said the proposed hiring of people for around 22,000 posts in the Education Department should not be done by making the temporary teachers permanent as that will continue to result in a shortage of manpower. BPF's Durga Das Boro said new colleges should be set up to meet the rising demand, while CPI(M)'s Manoranjan Talukdar stressed the need to create more teaching positions in the state after filling up the present vacant posts.
Diganta Barman of the Congress also said more seats should be ensured to give admission to all the students who have passed board examinations this year.