The government needs to address the issue of staff shortage and bring in a tight framework to ensure the policy doesn’t turn into mere tokenism.

Are Telangana schools equipped enough to introduce the happiness curriculumImage for representation
news Education Friday, August 02, 2019 - 17:22

In today’s competition-laden world, children face pressure from all corners of the society -- peers, parents, schools, mentors -- to be the best in whatever they do. In the rat race that the children run, happiness is often elusive. For the same reason, in a flagship program that was launched by the Delhi government last year, the law makers introduced an additional curriculum to the children’s syllabus: the Happiness curriculum.

In a 15-day long festival organised by the Delhi government, schools in the state are celebrating one year of happiness curriculum. Several education ministers from various states have already visited the schools and are planning to implement the same in their respective states as well.

Studying how best the curriculum can be implemented in Telangana, plans are on to introduce the happiness curriculum in the state run government schools here as well. Aimed at providing human-centric education to children which includes meditation, value education and mental exercises, the happiness curriculum is an attempt to help students scope with the stress and mental pressure in life.

“Increased text books and competition have made the education system more challenging. The concept of happiness is good as it makes students shed the stress,” director of education, Janardhan Reddy, told TOI, adding that the government is mulling introducing the concept first in government schools and then if found successful, make it mandatory for private schools as well.

Confirming the same to TNM, an official from the education department said that talks are on and a framework will soon be drawn up to implement the policy. The happiness curriculum is already in place in the welfare schools run by the state, beginning from the current academic year.

Happiness classes are held mostly during the first hours in schools. It involves a one-on-one interaction between teachers and students, games or group discussions that can help the children relieve their stress.

While it’s definitely a remarkable initiative to bring in a policy that keeps in mind the holistic development of a child, are the government schools in Telangana self-efficient to carry out a curriculum that will need more skill set and more teachers in every school?

TS government schools well-equipped for a new curriculum?

According to government data (2017-18), there are 20,980 primary schools, 7,688 upper primary and 12,932 high schools in Telangana. For the 18 lakh students in primary and upper primary, there are roughly over 50,000 teachers. For the 38 lakh students in high schools, there are 65,871 teachers in the state.

According to an all India higher education survey conducted by the Union government, the pupil to teacher ratio in Telangana is 17.

“But 17 isn’t an exact number. There are overcrowded classes where students exceed way above 30 (the ideal size) and these are schools where a single teacher may teach multiple subjects. Though the state figures in the top in having a decent pupil-teacher ratio, the number isn’t something to be boast about,” says Ravinder Mutyala, president of Telangana teachers’ union.

Speaking further about the happiness curriculum, he states that Telangana schools are facing an acute shortage of teachers for subjects like craft, art, dance and music.

“Though the initiative is appreciable, what about the teachers’ posts that are lying vacant in thousands of government schools? There are no teachers in most of the schools for extra-curricular subjects, which carry 50 marks each on the final report cards. 503 out of 539 Mandal Education Officer (MEO) posts remain vacant since 2005. Similarly, 50 Deputy Education Officers (DEOs) are yet to be appointed. The happiness curriculum will need teachers who are specifically trained for the purpose. Though it might sound simple, a lot of effort goes into creating an atmosphere where there is joy in learning. There are many hurdles to cross before they bring in a new curriculum for students,” Mutyala says.

Though reports state that the curriculum has found success in Delhi schools, are our schools at par with the education system in Delhi?

Shantha Sinha, a children’s activist and founder of MV Foundation, says that our school structures themselves need a revamp which can bring more students to classes. “Things cannot happen overnight. It involves a lot of exchange of trust between the students, teachers and the community. Our schools need to have better infrastructure so that the children are happy studying here. Delhi has achieved a lot when it comes to revamping state schools. They have state-of-the-art facilities in their schools now. Telangana first needs to equip their schools to perform better, earn trust and only then will the happiness curriculum make any sense,” she says.

While it’s a welcome move to allot one hour every day for the happiness class, it also needs to be ensured that the happiness remains throughout the day and is not just confined to a class or a teacher.

“If that happens, the happiness curriculum would be mere tokenism. But one cannot deny the fact that kick-starting the day on a happy note can bring a lot of positive change in students. They are better equipped to face the entire day in school which comes with its own challenges,” says Hyderabad-based children’s counsellor Radhika Acharya, adding, “But if one is to ask whether this is the only way to create positivity among students, I would say there is much more that could be done -- beginning from making every teacher equipped to create an atmosphere of joy not just during a single hour but for the entire day.”

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