Guwahati: 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.

Replying to the discussion, Education Minister Ranuj Pegu said the quality of education in the state, especially at the secondary level, is suffering due to the absence of trained teachers.

Pegu said that only 38 per cent of teachers in the state’s secondary schools are trained.

He pointed that 2,500 lower primary and middle schools were being developed into centres of excellence’, while 209 schools that are more than 75 years old will be granted Rs 3 crore each for infrastructure development coinciding with the nation celebrating its 75th year of Independence in 2022.

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The minister added that 22,921 vacancies of teachers at the primary and secondary levels will also be filled up.

Earlier during the discussion, opposition Congress MLA Bharat Chandra Narah said. “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,”

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.

Pointing out that the literacy rate in all neighbouring states is higher than that in 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.

Ruling 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 institutes.

UPPL member Gobinda Chandra Basumatary said the literacy rate in Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) in the state is very low at 61 per cent and the entire education system in the region is backward.

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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 per cent 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.

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.

In reply to the discussion, the education minister said that lack of training among teachers has an adverse impact on laying the foundation of education.

Pegu said he has raised the matter before Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan during his recent visit to New Delhi.

The minister said he has requested the Union minister to ask the NCERT to allow teachers of Assam’s secondary schools to sit for B.Ed examinations through open schooling so that the quality of teaching in the state can improve.

Pegu further said the state government was taking steps for improvement of education at all levels, right from the pre-primary to the university level.

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