ujarat under the leadership of its dynamic Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is considered one of India's best visionary leaders, has started an aggressive campaign to bring about a change in the current education system by concentrating on rural areas. Since 2009, the Gujarat government has undertaken Gunotsav, a unique exercise to evaluate and grade the quality of primary schools in the state. Based on their performance in three basic areas of reading and writing skills in Gujarati and English and their competence in mathematics, the schools are graded; an evaluation conducted for the first time in India. Gujarat is often cited as a development model for others states. Mr Modi recently reiterated that Gujarat's primary education should also become a model for others to emulate.
Gunotsav, the three-day annual state-wide campaign for qualitative improvement in primary education, became immensely popular with teachers, students and parents. Gunotsav-2011 has concluded, but the state government has pledged that the campaign for qualitative improvement of primary education in Gujarat will continue. The Chief Minister personally visited numerous schools to investigate the basic facilities and tested the intellectual capabilities of the students. He also emphasized that schools should highlight the importance of extra-curricular activities.
Schools have been graded based on quality of education and other facilities. The state has taken upon itself the responsibility to raise every school to an A-grade ranking.
The Gujarat government knows that recruiting well qualified teachers, building classrooms, computer labs and other facilities, enrolling students and reducing dropout rates are important factors to achieve success.
The soul of education is its quality and that is why the state government has initiated the Gunotsav campaign. The complete strength of the government machinery has been deployed to ensure the success of the campaign. The Chief Minister, the Chief Secretary and more than 3,000 Class-I & II officers visited 9,000 primary schools and prepared a report based on 70 different criteria including the state of education and infrastructure (libraries, classrooms, quality of mid-day meals). They also interacted with parents.
Gujarat government's two previous novel campaigns, Shala Praveshotsav and Kanya Kelavani Yatra, launched under the leadership of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, have already resulted in a 100% enrollment in primary schools, with 80% eligible students being on continued roll, which is a substantial reduction in dropout rates.
The state government has also decided to appoint 1.32 lakh assistant teachers through transparent recruitment procedures and build 75,000 classrooms with computer labs. Provisions for water and electricity will also be provided in all the 32,746 primary schools in the state.
To make the campaign more transparent and effective, the government has decided to set up an independent third-party evaluation.
Although the campaign is still in its early stages, the success rates are quite high. 12 lakh children were found below average during the last Gunotsav. Teachers took Upachaar Varg (remedial classes) for three months by allocating extra time to these students. When these children were evaluated by the UNICEF subsequently, 85% of them had improved and reached a satisfactory level.
It must be remembered that Chief Minister Narendra Modi has said, "I strongly believe that, any child, a tender bud, who does not have an opportunity to bloom cannot be in anyway inferior to his fellow children. God has given enough ability and strength to everyone. The need is to nurture those characteristics; the need is to guide the child in such a way that he is never lost or goes astray on the road ahead. What is required is to create an atmosphere wherein a teacher becomes attached to his student, feels the passion and responsibility to foster his or her student, like a gardener feels for his or her garden. We need to take the teachers out of the old rut and orthodox thoughts through inspiration and motivation. We need to make them understand the significance of their roles. Gunotsav is an endeavour to create such an environment."
Nilesh Shukla is the Deputy Director of Information, Office of the Resident Commissioner, Gujarat Government, New Delhi.