Not many were surprised when the media flashed visuals of community-supported mass copying in the Class X board examinations in Bihar. One was reminded of the first sentence of the Kothari Commission Report (1964-66): “The destiny of India is now being shaped in her classrooms. This, we believe, is no mere rhetoric.” Though India made its National Policy on Education in 1968 based on this report, it never gave any credence to this futuristic statement. Majority of children are still ‘learning’ in schools that are deficient on practically every count. Around 1950, schools were deficient in terms of physical infrastructure but were high on moral and ethical elements that was evident in the functioning of the education system. Government schools were most sought-after by people of every strata. Even privately managed, recognised and added schools were conscious of their community responsibility and public image. Principals and headmasters enjoyed great respect and reputation for honesty, integrity, and commitment to society and the learner. They were the real agents of social change; they knew the local context in full and kept themselves abreast of what was happening around nationally and internationally.
Schools are the fountainheads of value nurturance, development and internalisation. None can question the role that the head of school plays in imparting ‘man-making education’. Children learn far more from what they observe and see than from preaching. In simple terms, they learn most from their teachers—how they behave among themselves, how they treat their children, to what extent are they regular and proficient in the tasks they are supposed to perform. These are apparently very simple indications, but have the potential to transform generations ahead.
Everywhere one comes across criticism of the decline in the quality of school education, and several factors are rightly held responsible for it. On most of these occasions, the role of an academic and empathetic school leader gets ignored. A dynamic, alert and conscious leader could create wonders not only in enhancing learner attainments but also in bringing the best out of “body, mind and spirit’. Somehow, most state governments do not realise the importance of the role of the head teacher, and remain lethargic in appointing regular heads and principals. Even when selections are made, they are usually based on seniority. Aberrations are rampant because of political intrusions. Once selected, the new incumbent rarely gets an opportunity to equip himself professionally to realise the criticality of the new role.
Parental and community interaction leading to active involvement requires certain skills, which must be acquired. Staff motivation and school development must come high on the agenda of the school head. Consistent support and motivation of the available staff is necessary for human initiative and innovations. Education departments need to re-conceptualise leadership performance in multi-domains and dimensions. A real institutional leader exercises his leadership through affective, behavioural and cognitive performance. One could also perceive school leadership in terms of five dimensions—human, structural, political (building alliances and seeking support), cultural and professional. These need to become major components of training programmes for school heads to enable them to develop a comprehensive view of their being responsible for total personality development of the new generation that would take over the reins of the nation in due course. Once this line of approach becomes an integral part of the education policy, the community confidence in the process of school functioning would get restored. Once it’s done, it would be impossible to see a repeat of mass copying, or parents and community support to copying.
Rajput is a former director of the NCERT