Quality education worth fighting for

Tuisem A. Shishak

“A good educational system may be the flower of economic development; it is also the seed” (Jerome B. Wiesner).

“Education is the key that unlocks the door to modernization” (Frederick Harbison & Charles A. Myers).

“. . . education must encompass both the tested wisdom of mankind and training for life in a particular community and culture” (Lucian W. Pye).

Political climate affects attitudes towards education.

We carry on the colonial overtones into the systems of teaching and learning. Therefore, it is argued that modern schools and universities owe their origin to Western colonization. This is to misread history and to deliberately misinterpret the same. No, the modern educational system was introduced, vetted, and developed by the Christian Missionaries because of their love for God and man. Long before the commercial ventures reached India, the early Christians had started teaching units or schools, especially in the West coast of India, and even other parts.

One cannot be very sure that Western colonization then is at the background of modern Indian educational system. The two are separate processes. Colonization was commercial. The spread of knowledge through proper education was an independent, religious (through schools and colleges) activity based on the idea of love for God and man, and the total commitment to that ideal. The colonial masters did not much encourage education. And the establishment of Christian schools and colleges was a challenge to colonialism.  

Therefore, the need for quality-school-and-college education must be approached independent of pre-conceived prejudices.

Since the colonization of India by the West (Britain, Portugal, The Netherlands, etc.) over two centuries ago, quality education from primary to college has been provided mainly by private and church-related institutions.  India’s leaders in every field of endeavor have received their education in these schools and colleges.  Many of the most outspoken critics of Christianity  have been educated in private and church-related schools and colleges.  Those who are  enemies of the Christians and the Church are likely to be sending their children to church-related schools and colleges.  In Nagaland and Manipur most of the politicians, government bureaucrats, professionals, businessmen, government school teachers, and even lower middle class in society send their children to such schools and colleges.  This tells us that government schools have failed to provide decent education to the public. Due to moral corruption in high places, the burden of educating our children all over India has fallen on the shoulders of private and religious education institutions, many of which, though committed to education, are struggling for lack of resources. As a result, some, if not many, private and church-related schools are not doing better than government schools. The state or central governments do nothing to encourage them.  In the meantime, what do we do?  According to Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Patkai Christian College (PCC), the first Christian liberal arts college in Nagaland, was established in 1974.  For years I watched prospective students coming for entrance tests.  In general, students from Manipur were weaker in English than their counterparts in Nagaland State; as a result, Manipur students struggled in written and oral tests. Some fifteen years later I realized that their weakness in English was due to the poor academic background in government schools. A few years ago I went back to my childhood school at Shangshak village (Ukhrul District), which is now a government high school. From the road  (a few hundred yards away from the school compound) I saw the backyard of the school building through holes in both front and back walls. On closer look I realized the village cows had been in charge of the night shift for a long time; the village boys and girls occupy the rooms during the day but not before cleaning the mess left by night occupants. What a stinky academic environment! Then some teachers (nearly half of the faculty) would show up late; some of them make jokes because they have not prepared their lessons or they just aren’t qualified to teach. Normally Maths., Hindi, and Meitei language are taught by Meiteis of the Valley; many of them spend long weekends at home; others hardly come to teach but draw salaries from Imphal office. Tribal teachers are a little better, but they are also irregular in teaching; too many follow the example of the Meitei teachers: enjoying their salaries while seldom teaching. These delinquent teachers seem to have some understanding with the higher-ups. I have been told that many teachers appoint unqualified proxy/substitute teachers by sharing part of their salary with them. Imagine the kind of students coming out of such academic ghettos.  No wonder many high school graduates who enter college for class 11 are really only 9’ers, not prepared even for higher secondary education.     

They say the education department in Manipur is the most corrupt department; I think every department is corrupt, but I don’t know which is the worst. I must admit the Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE) is functioning better than its counterpart in Manipur. I sympathize with those underground Meiteis who are concerned about corruption in Manipur. I know they have penalized some teachers and government  officials.  Some whipping, some fine is all right, and even some jungle training will be good for delinquent and corrupt government servants (politicians included). But I would caution our underground friends not to resort to violence to the extent of maiming, crippling or death; this will never eliminate corruption in human society. I am all for disciplinary  action against delinquent and corrupt employees, even to the extent of dismissal, imprisonment, etc. with due process of law. In the interest of our children and our future, our underground friends should never disturb functioning of educational institutions, hospitals, churches/mosques/temples/pagodas. It is most appalling to hear of Catholic school fathers being shot in the process of extortion. Let us not forget the contribution of the Catholic Church toward children’s education in Manipur. Closing down of all the private and church schools will adversely affect quality education in Manipur. Here we are all losers. Educational institutions must be protected by every group (underground and overground) to permit our children to learn to read, write, and do arithmetic in a fear-free atmosphere. Remember that “little Lungnila Elizabeth.” 

Concern for the rural poor, not able to receive decent education like the children of the rich, compelled me to begin dreaming, praying, and planning in the early 1990s for a private school comparable to the best schools in India.     

 The vision became a reality in February 2001 when Patkai Christian Academy (PCA) was started with classes 1-3 at “Changraphung”, Shangshak B.P.O., Ukhrul District, Manipur.

With the birth of PCA I had to start thinking about which education board in India the School should be affiliated (accredited) to.  PCA was born at the time when BJP and its coalition partners were in control in Delhi. I couldn’t reconcile myself to BJP’s interference in education; they were accused of trying to change contents in history textbooks to suit their ideology.  Some people called it the “safronization” of education.  I feared for the “safronization” of the Central Board School Education (CBSE) system.  I wanted my school to stay out of that controversy.  Some friends said CBSE would prepare students better for competitive exams in India. I was convinced, however, that internationally the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (ISCE) system is as good (maybe better in some disciplines) as the CBSE. Those who do well in the ICSE (class 10) and ISCE (class 12) exams can do well in any college, even overseas. Government interference, if any, in the ISCE system will be minimal. The academic standards in both the ICSE and ISCE levels are high; the syllabi of both contain enough elective courses for students to choose from.  And the syllabus is updated bi-yearly. Hence the decision to seek affiliation to the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (formerly “Overseas Cambridge School Certificate Examination), New Delhi.

Realizing that the period in which PCA is established is marred by bloodshed and violence in North-East India, the Academy’s motto is: Love Truth and Peace. “Love” here is used as “verb.”

The ISCE Board in Delhi is not directly involved in PCA’s education program up to class 8.  This meant PCA had to seek recognition from Manipur Board of Secondary Education (BSE) at two stages: 1) class 5, and 2) class 8. Without much fuss we got recognition for class 5. But for class 8 recognition, our staff sensed that the director of school education expected “something” from PCA which I would never agree to. Reluctantly, the education department issued the recognition certificate for class 8. Today many professing Christians in the government service are spiritually bankrupt, having no qualm of conscience while practicing corruption. The Church is losing her testimony among the Imphal Valley non-Christians.

In 2004 we began applying for affiliation to the ISCE board in Delhi. We were told there wouldn’t be any problem provided we got  the no objection certificate (NOC) from the Government of Manipur.  We applied for NOC., and the Government rejected saying:

 “Whereas some of the schools of Manipur are seeking affiliation with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), . . . and Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (ISCE) . . . in lieu of affiliation with the Board of Secondary Education (BSE), Manipur;  And whereas, for seeking affiliation with the CBSE or ISCE, a school of Manipur requires a ‘No Objection Certificate’ of the Government of Manipur; And whereas, as a result of affiliation of more and more schools of the state of Manipur   to the CBSE, ISCE and NOS, the number of candidates enrolled for the HSLC examinations of the Board of Secondary Education, Manipur in the past few years has been decreasing fast; Now, the Governor of Manipur is, therefore, pleased to order that Government shall not issue ‘No Objection Certificate’ to the schools of this state for affiliation to CBSE or ISCE.”

By orders and in the name of Governor, Sd. 7/1/2004 (P. Bharat Singh) Commissioner (Edn/S), Government of Manipur.

While I sympathize with the Government of Manipur for the shrinking population of high school seniors, I suggest that the Government of Manipur root out corruption in education department and begin providing quality education so that the private schools will not be eager to seek affiliation outside the State. We tried to reason with the authority concerned, but to no avail.  We decided to take the Government to court on this issue.  The Advocate N. Kotishwor Singh of Imphal accepted our request to fight in our behalf. In April 2005 The Gauhati High Court issued this order: 

“This court is of the firm view that the right of the minorities guaranteed under Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India to establish and administer the said minority’s unaided institute, i.e. Patkai Christian Academy, of their choice by affiliating to the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations, New Delhi cannot be denied by the State Govt. by issuing the impugned order dated 7.1.2004 inasmuch as the reasons for denying or restricting the right of the minorities to establish and administer unaided minority’s institutions . . . do not come within the reasonable restrictions which can be imposed by the State Govt. . . . Accordingly this court has no alterative but to squash the impugned order 7.1.2004 and direct the respondent . . . to issue “No Objection Certificate” in favor of the minority’s institution, i.e. Patkai Christian Academy, so as to enable them to affiliate to the Council of their own choice, i.e. the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations, . . . expeditiously, preferably within a period of 2 (two) months from the date of receipt of this judgment and order.”    

Sd/     T. Nandakumar Singh (Judge).   After fussing for seven months the Govt. issued a letter on November 26, 2005, addressed to The Secretary, Council for the Indian School  Certificate Examinations (ISCE), New Delhi:                  

“I am directed to state that the Headmistress of Patkai Christian Academy, Shangshak, Ukhrul has applied for issue of ‘No Objection Certificate’ for seeking affiliation to Council for The Indian School Certificate Examinations (ISCE), New Delhi. 

In this regard, it is to inform you that the state Government has no objection while seeking affiliation of Patkai Christian Academy, Shangshak to your Council.”

Sd/ (R. K. Angousana Singh) Commissioner (Edn/S), Government of Manipur.

We thought the struggle was over, and the rest would be a smooth sailing, we were wrong. The Devil himself seemed determined to obstruct us all the way. 

We informed Delhi Board of the court verdict, but the ISCE office took its own time to process our application for affiliation. The whole process was like someone coming on foot from New Delhi to PCA in Ukhrul District. It seems to be a part of Indian culture to dish out piecemeal information. From the beginning the whole required information was never given. Every time our Vice Principal Mr. Yangahan Phungshok  telephoned the ISCE office, he was told something different. We requested them to send an inspection team but they kept asking us to do this and that. Had they sent us in black and white all the essential requirements for affiliation from the beginning, the job would have been completed months earlier. Many of the things they told us to do were non-essentials which we could have discussed and solved on site with the visiting team. Our Vice Principal felt harassed and completely frustrated; he even suggested that we try CBSE, instead. I said, “We will fight to the last. Pioneers suffer so the future generation may rejoice.” 

We appreciate the involvement of two MPs (Mr. Mani Cheranamei from Manipur and Mr. H. T. Sangliana from Karnataka) and Mr. Ramnganing Muivah, IAS. in the affiliation struggle. And the end  results:

Council For The Indian School Certificate Examinations

Certificate of Provisional Affiliation.

“This is to certify that PATKAI CHRISTIAN ACADEMY, Changraphung, B.P.O. Shangshak, S.P.O. Litan, Dist. Ukhrul—795 145 has been provisionally affiliated to this Council for a period of three years to prepare and enter candidates for the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (Year 10) examination.  This provisional affiliation will expire on 31st March 2009.  The school must obtain permanent affiliation, before this date, failing which the school will not be permitted to present candidates for the examinations conducted by this Council”.

Sd/  Neil O’Brien (Chairman) and Rita Wilson (Deputy Secretary)

(PS.:  No backdoor dealing was involved in the affiliation). 

If formal educational institutions are meant for providing quality education, then the role of affiliating boards (State, Central, UGC, CBSE, and ISCE) should be minimal. 

For the benefit of all concerned, let me list the areas in which the affiliating organizations—any state school or college education board, the Central Board of School Education (CBSE), the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (ISCE), the University Grants Commission (UGC), etc—should concentrate their efforts with regard to affiliation, recognition and monitoring:

1.  In Essentials, Strictness:  Here the affiliating organizations could be strict. What are these essentials?

1)    Proper registration of the institution and formation of the Board of Trustees or Governing Board.

2)    By-Laws containing essentials.

3)    Minimum Service Rules.

4)    Minimum and realistic size and number of school infra-structure (campus with buildings and other facilities) to meet the academic and social needs of the school or college community.

5)    Minimum qualifications of teachers.

6)    Provision of Contributory Provident Fund (CPF)

7)    Provision of Gratuity Fund.

8)    Maintenance of acceptable academic standards.

(PS.: Application of some of the above essentials to village or rural schools may not be practicable).

2.  In Non-essentials, Freedom:  Here the affiliating organizations must give the freedom to individual schools and colleges to plan and implement in accordance with local circumstances and needs.

1)    Pay-scales and allowances can never be uniform; they are bound to vary from region to region. However, minimum scales of pay may be recommended by the affiliating organization.

2)    How the faculty and staff payments are made (either by cheque or cash) must  be left to the concerned institution, not the affiliating organization.

3)    Management of the Contributory Provident Fund (CPF) must be left to each  institution. The institution concerned knows what kind of arrangement would  be most profitable and suitable for its employees. Hence every minority and  religious education institution has the constitutional right not to accept the  government or semi-government Provident Fund (PF) being imposed on it.  The government PF agent tried a few times and even threatened Patkai  Christian College with penalty if we didn’t join the PF; I was ready to take   them to court but they never came back.   These are some of those non-essentials in which affiliating organizations should not interfere.

4)    Insistence on every teacher having a B.Ed. degree. I have found that most of the teacher candidates with a B.Ed. degree have second class in bachelor’s or master’s degree whereas most of those who got first class in bachelor’s or master’s degree are without B.Ed.  I think every school should be given the freedom to hire first-class degree holders and then require them to complete B.Ed. within a specified time period. This way you get teachers who have scholarship.  Getting a B.Ed. degree does not automatically make one a teacher, let alone a scholar.  For the most part interest in teaching or commitment to teaching is already there before one has any type of teacher training.  What’s the big deal on requiring B.Ed. for every teaching appointment? Instead, why not insist on getting a scholar teacher and then require him/her to obtain B.Ed.? I would do this way because I am interested in quality education. Even scholarly teachers with professional training alone may not make their school the best because there are still such things as dedication, commitment, honesty, integrity, hard work, etc. which are vital ingredients in making the teacher a good one. 

It is absolutely important that all the minorities in India know their educational rights guaranteed in the Constitution of India, Article 30:(1) & (2):     

1)    All minorities, whether based on religion, language, shall have the right to  establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

2)    The State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.

The emphasis is on our right to “establish” (to bring into existence; this includes the right to establish a university) and “administer” (manage) educational institutions (schools, colleges, and universities) of our “choice” (as we consider most beneficial to minority communities). If the minorities, whether based on religion or language, have the constitutional right to establish educational institutions, then they also have their constitutional right to seek affiliation to any education board in India. Since no government (state or central)  has the legal right to stop any minority group from establishing and administering educational institutions, it has no legal right either to deny affiliation or to prevent their affiliation to any board outside their own state or province. 

Currently I know of just two parallel school education boards apart from the board each state has:  CBSE and ISCE. Already several schools in Nagaland State and Manipur are affiliated to CBSE; Jubilee Memorial School (JMS) in Nagaland and Patkai Christian Academy (PCA) in Manipur are affiliated to ISCE. Both the CBSE and ISCE boards are located in New Delhi. Current debate and controversy over the affiliation of private schools in four districts of Manipur to the Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE)  is unfortunate. I am interested in quality education, not politics. If private schools in Manipur are seeking affiliation outside the state for quality education, the government should not stand in the way. Good education received by any child in Manipur is for the benefit of the state.

The minority institution has the right to select and appoint its teachers without outside interference whatsoever, except meeting the minimum required academic qualifications. There shouldn’t be any outside selection committees of the Government, University, UGC, or any other affiliation Board in the selection and appointment of teachers, headmasters, principals, members of the Board of Trustees or Governing Board, and students. Here I quote part of what I wrote to Dr. B. D. Sharma, then Vice-Chancellor of the North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU) on 26 July 1982:

“Dear Dr. Sharma: Since our last Academic Council Meeting on June 24 and 25, my mind has been disturbed by the North-Eastern Hill University’s (NEHU) new draft for the ‘Ordinance on Affiliation and Management of colleges admitted to the privileges of the University.’

Most of the provisions of this ordinance are unrealistic, arbitrary, and unconstitutional. Most of them are applicable only to Government and University constituent colleges, not to private colleges established and administered by linguistic and religious minorities. I feel that those responsible for the draft of this ordinance are very naïve since no private college can function as a private college if the University or the state, which has no part in the establishment and financing of that college, controls everything.

As head of Patkai Christian College, a church-sponsored institution, I would like to draw your attention to Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India, which says: “All minorities, based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”

. . . Article 30(1) confers two rights: (a) the right to establish an institution, and (b) the right to administer it. I understand the word “administer” to mean the right to manage and conduct the affairs of the institution. Art. 30(1) guarantees the minorities the fundamental right to administer educational institutions established by them in a manner of their choice by having freedom to constitute the Governing Board/Board of Trustees, appoint the faculty and staff, admit students of their choice, use their properties and assets for the benefit of their institutions, and exercise all such rights that go with administration.
Governing Body:

‘Section 33-A(1)(a) of the Gujarat University Act (50) of 1949 as amended by Act 6 of 1973 provided that every affiliated college shall be under the management of a governing body which shall include amongst its members, a representative of the University nominated by the Vice-Chancellor and representative of teachers, non-teaching staff and students of the College.  This provision was challenged in the Supreme Court in Ahmedabad St. Zavier’s College vs. State of Gujarat (A. I. R. 1974, S.C. 1389) as violative of the minorities’ fundamental right to administer their educational institutions guaranteed by Article 30(1) of the Constitution.  The Court by a majority held the provision to be inapplicable to the institutions run by the minorities whether linguistic or religious. The right of administration is day-to-day administration and choice in the personnel of management is part of such administration.’ 

Appointment of a Principal:

Kerala High Court (A. M. Potroni vs. State of Kerala, A. I. R. 1970, Ker. 196):

‘The post of the Principal is of pivotal importance in the life of a college. Around him wheels the tone and temper of the institution; on him depends the continuing of its traditions, the maintenance of discipline and the efficiency of its teaching and the right to choose the Principal is perhaps the most important facet of the right to administer a college. The imposition of any trammel thereon except  to the extent of prescribing the requisite qualifications and experience or otherwise fostering the interests of the institution itself cannot but be considered as a violation of the right guaranteed by Article 30(1) and 19(1) (f) . . . The management must by and large have a right to choose a proper and fit person to man the post. Thus a provision by which outsider could be appointed or a junior member of the staff be preferred to a senior member, the assessment of which has been largely left to the management would be justifiable. But a provision which compels the management to appoint only a teacher of the college and thereby exclude any outsider being appointed unless the management declares all the teachers of the college unfit, would be clearly in derogation of the powers of the management and not calculated to further the interest of the institution. Any reservation of a whimsical discretion to the educational authorities to grant or refuse appointment of Principal would be violative of Article 19(1)(f) and Article 30(1).’

Appointment and Selection of Teachers:

To ensure qualified teachers, the University . . . may impose regulations . . . prescribing the minimum academic qualifications, experience, etc. . . . the Academic Council of NEHU should prescribe the basic qualifications for persons to be appointed as teachers in all the affiliated colleges.  However, the ultimate power of assessing the merits of candidates should be with the management and not with any outside authority.

The power to affiliate cannot be used by any university:

(i)    to interfere with the day-to-day administration of the institution . . .;

(ii)    to require that all appointments or dismissals by the Governing Board must be subject to the approval of the University;

(iii)    to constitute or reconstitute or suspend the Governing Body; or to require its approval for constituting of that Body;

(v)    to displace the domestic jurisdiction of the Governing Body in settling disputes between members of the teaching staff and to refer to a tribunal;

(vii)    to provide for compulsory affiliation, so as to impose on a minority institution a script or medium of instruction other than their own.’ (See St. Xavier’s college vs. State of Gujarat, A. I. R.1974  S. C. 1389, pars. 14, 16, 18, 36, 41, 42, 56, 90, 93, 248;  . . . ;

I do not think that an educational institution like Patkai Christian College, established and administered by a religious and linguistic minority, ceases to be an institution of its choice the moment it is affiliated to the North-Eastern Hill University . . . and thus becomes subject to the control of the University in certain matters. . . an institution which is converted into a Government-subsidized school may not have any legal right to seek protection afforded by Article 30(1). On the other hand, it cannot be held that the right under Article 30(1) is available only so long as the community is in a position to run the institution with its own resources and that if they seek State aid, they must submit to any terms the State may impose. . . . in developing countries, no institution can run efficiently without . . . some aid from the State. . . . in case of such aid, the State or the University or the University Grants Commission may make regulations to ensure that the aid is utilized for the purpose for which it is granted. . . . Surrender of fundamental rights cannot be exacted as the price for aid given by the State. . . . Article 30(2) says: ‘That State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.’

. . . Any NEHU ordinance that is contrary to the letter or spirit of Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution will be challenged in the court of law by church-run colleges like Patkai, and this will ultimately hurt NEHU.

My humble submission is that the Academic Council of North-Eastern Hill University concentrate its efforts on basic academic aspects of affiliated colleges by developing some effective mechanism for (1) maintenance of decent academic standards, (2) recognition, affiliation, etc. of new colleges, (3) minimum qualifications of teachers, and (4) fiscal accountability of any aid from the State or the University or the UGC.

The views expressed in this letter are, I believe, shared by all the private colleges presently affiliated to NEHU. I realize all the problems you are facing in your efforts to make NEHU the kind of educational institution that will truly meet the needs and aspirations of all the tribal peoples in the North-East region. We pray that God will give you His grace and wisdom to carry out your complex responsibility as the Vice-Chancellor of the North-Eastern Hill University.

Sincerely yours,

Tuisem A. Shishak, Principal

Patkai Christian College, Nagaland

26 July 1982.

(The proposed ordinance was never implemented).

A university’s primary objective for any affiliated college should be the maintenance of a standard of academic excellence.

Without having good schools, the scheduled tribes, scheduled castes, and other backward classes in India have no future. And without freedom to establish and manage their own schools to meet their educational needs, the minorities in India whether based on religion or language will never become educated communities. However, “freedom’ to establish and administer can only mean “freedom” to do better than government schools and colleges. We must fight for our constitutional rights. Struggle for anything worthwhile can be expensive. The private and church-related schools must form a consortium, pull their resources together and fight for their educational rights guaranteed in the Constitution, and not allow the dominant culture to impose their will upon us minorities.  The rich among tribals, other minorities, and even the wealthy among dominant culture should invest their money in helping all those who are still deprived of their constitutional rights.  
So God help us!

Tuisem A. Shishak, Ph.D. 
Founder Principal Emeritus, Patkai Christian College--Autonomous (Nagaland)
Founder Principal,
Patkai Christian Academy (Manipur)