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Editorial

Silver lining for education maladies

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By EMN Updated: May 13, 2014 5:59 pm
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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he news that the Tata Institue of Social Sciences is going to establish an Institute of Higher Studies at Chuchuyimlang in Mokokchung district in collaboration with Nagaland Gandhi Ashram (NGA) and with active cooperation of Chuchuyimlang Village Council is indeed an ‘elixir’ for the beleaguered education sector in the state.
A press release from the NGA stated that a Memorandum of Understanding to this effect was signed between the two organisations at TISS campus in Mumbai on April 29 last. TISS, recognised as a Deemed University by University Grants Commission, is an institute of international repute and has made consistent contributions to civil society and the development sector through its education, research, field action and extension programmes. The institute offers courses on Social Work, Development, Education, Humanities, Environment and other related disciplines.The news item may have escaped the attention it deserves by readers as the current affairs news the past couple of weeks, has been riveting to say the least. But sooner or later the curtains on the circus of politics to the Lok Sabha 2014 will fall on May 16. And skeletons (and there are plenty) of non development will overwhelm us faster than we wish them to.
A nagging anomaly not just in Nagaland but across India has been that of the quality of education or more aptly put gap in access to quality education.
In Nagaland the inadequate access to “meaningful” education is glaring.
So much so that the state loses hundreds of crores of rupees annually on higher education as thousands of the youth leave the state in search of wider and more opportune possibilities in the field of learning.
While it will be impractical for the state to invest its resources in an institute on “oceanography” or for that matter “aeronautics” surely institutes of excellence on biotechnology, agriculture, horticuluture, tourism, ecology, music, arts and culture, design and handicrafts would have stood us in good stead.
Not only will such centres help in documenting our fast disappearing wilderness and ways of life it will go a long way in filling in the gap between requirement and availability of expertise.
The news that TISS is going to be involved with the courses Social Work, Development, Education, Humanities, Environment and other related disciplines at the Higher Institute of Learning in Chuchuyimlang is significant.
For a state to plan its future, research is vital to get the blue print to development correct. In Nagaland, this aspect is not considered as seriously as it ought to be in its development strategy. Had this been the case the state would have proudly displayed its development index as the state of Sikkim does.
Instead development in the state is on a backslide and the state is in urgent requirement of professionals in all sectors of development to after five decades of statehood.
The quality of education available to the residents of Nagaland is a major drawback as to why its people are unable to compete with the best of the best, except for very exceptional cases, which are but a drop in the ocean.
While there may be umpteen number of schools and colleges, the quality of teaching by teachers has proved to be the undoing of many more.
The general level of education in the state is dismal , and institutions of repute are few and far in between. These places of learning cannot cope with the demand for good and quality teaching. And only parents who can afford the escalating costs end up sending their children to pursue higher studies and specialized courses.
The state has one university, the “Nagaland University” which has only known one friend “trouble”. One controversy after another has hounded the centre of learning contrary to the lofty principals after which University’s are established. Its successive Vice Chancellors have been more in the news for other reasons than the institute breaking academic ground
In contrast the proposed campus at Chuchuyimlang envisages to set up a series of Centres of Excellence in a phased manner. The proposed Centres are Institute of Social Work, Institute of Agriculture Development, Institute for Teachers’ Training, Institute for Vocational Studies and Training, Cultural Resource Centre for Naga Art & Crafts and Gandhi Museum and Study Centre comprising Gandhian and Nagaland/North Eastern affairs.
Setting up of Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Social Work which will offer Master of Social Work (MSW) course from the Academic session 2014-15 is also being seriously contemplated. The formal announcement in this regard is expected to be issued in due course. The rest of the institutes are proposed to be established in a phased manner. The campus will be developed at a sprawling 232 acres of land donated for the purpose by Chuchuyimlang villagers without any cost or condition.
It may be recalled that the Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Social Work was established in collaboration with IGNOU in 2010 which has produced two batches of MSW graduates. The institute, however, had to be discontinued due to change if policy of IGNOU to abolish face to face programmes.
The location of the centre at the National Gandhi Ashram is also strategic. The Institute will be poised to play a vibrant and vital role in the entire state and particularly for the central and north districts of the state such as Mokochung, Wokha, Mon, Tuensang and Longleng districts.
The need for such an institute close to these districts need hardly be stressed, as students continue to face challenges in obtaining quality education, and in equal measure access to good teachers.
To make best of such an initiative at Chuchuyimlang the state will do well to adopt a strong one agenda policy in improving the levels of learning at the primary and intermediary levels during the formative years of children.
Investment in sound education has never failed to accrue returns.
Its time Nagaland straps its boots, and amidst a myriad other issues challenging the society atleast get one thing perfectly right. Education is a sheer shot road to the elusive search for progress, that has been bypassing us.

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By EMN Updated: May 13, 2014 5:59:41 pm