In 2017, when he was ridiculed for making it mandatory for the teachers to send selfie with the students every Monday, Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde resolved to go ahead with his plan more aggressively.
He is bearing the fruits of his resolution today as the number of out of school girls in the state has come down to 5.1 per cent which is much below than the national average of 13.5 per cent.
The Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) conducted by an NGO Pratham has revealed that Maharashtra has taken a giant leap in terms of infrastructure, quality of education, sports facilities and enrollment in the rural schools.
Tawde tells India Today that the initiative like ‘selfie with students’ is one of the reasons behind the success.
Q. The report states that 99.2 per cent children are enrolled in the schools in rural Maharashtra. How did you bring them to the schools?
A. The credit goes to the teachers, school coordination committees and the residents who created an atmosphere where everyone felt an urge to study.
They are like a family now and no one in the family wants to be left out.
They succeeded in creating an education friendly environment in their villages.
They collectively raised Rs 350 crore through public participation across the state to improve the infrastructure. That worked out.
Q. Your Pragat Shaikshanik Maharashtra mission is much talked about. Did that help in enhancing quality of the education?
A. The mission is highly successful. I believe in three points. If you see, you will know, if you write you will understand but if you do you will adopt.
We teach mathematics and languages through various games and audio-visual medium.
We have focused on practical more than the theory. We have one teacher who visits the weekly market and teaches mathematics to the children there.
As a result, our students’ understanding of mathematics has gone up by 30 per cent whereas they understand languages 15 per cent more than the earlier.
Q. Are the rural teachers well versed with the modern technology?
A. They are not only well versed but also know how to use the technology effectively.
The first thing I did after assuming the charge of the office was allowing the use of mobile phones in the class rooms.
Not every teacher misuses the phone. One teacher has developed a mobile application for smooth study.
One teacher introduces world map to his students using his mobile phone and the audio-visual system installed in the class room.
Q. What is the result?
A. In last two years, 33, 000 students have switched over from English medium private schools to Marathi medium Zila Parishad schools.
They have experienced that the education in ZP school is getting better.
We are at par with the private schools. You will be surprised, if I tell you that parents in some areas stand in queue from midnight for securing admissions in ZP schools though there are some good private schools nearby.
Q. You claim the ‘selfie with students’ initiative helped in identifying the out of the school children. How?
A. The selfie helped us identify which students are not attending schools regularly.
When we investigated about the absent students we came to know that they had migrated with their parents in search of employment.
We traced them in the specific villages and sent them to the local schools even if the migration was temporary.
In Jalna district alone, 300 out of school children were sent back to the school.
Gondiya, known as an undeveloped district, has become the first district in the state where there is not a single out of school child. We also have appointed Bal Suraksha Dal to identify the out of school children.
Q. What is this group? Who are they?
A. The Bal Suraksha Dal are groups of teachers, members of school co-ordination committees and adolescent children.
They have been tasked to identify whether there is any out of school children in their area.
We have trained them in behaving with the children. We also take care of their travel expenses. They are our eyes and ears.
Q. Then why 5.1 per cent girls are still out of school?
A. The percentage has come down significantly. I admit it is a matter to dealt with seriously.
These are the girls who stay far away from the schools. We are providing them transport so that they can reach the nearby school without difficulty.
I hope the situation will change soon.
Q. Maharashtra is above the national average when it comes to quality of education and infrastructure. But it is lagging behind Haryana, HP and Kerala?
A. They are small states where the number of students is in several lakhs.
We have two crore students in Maharashtra. It is always a difficult task to take care of everyone.