My America Tour -7
Telugu Original : Avula Gopala Krishna Murty (AGK)
English Translation: Komala Venigalla
We have to observe and study deeply the education system of a country to see whether it has a better future and can create the opportunities to prove themselves the best citizens.
Americans are of the opinion that their education system at all levels is devised for strengthening their democracy. They say that it is framed in terms of democratic ideology.
So we can observe and measure their education system according to their standards.
Their education system is centered around the importance they give to the individual. Elementary and secondary education are devised to make a person a complete being. Education helps the individual to play his role efficiently in the democratic set up. He should be able to think and come to proper decision on his own. He must be able to respect other person`s individuality and must be able to deal with different opinions of others keeping the development of the individual in view. American system of education has been framed from that view. They claim that their education helps people to be responsible citizens. Their aim is to give good education to all its children . They have decentralized education system and they assert that they are not against the people who have different opinion.
In America they have 50 thousand school districts in all their 50 states. These districts are managed by Boards. These Boards are the elected bodies in those districts.Their education system is decided by those boards basing on the budget allocation of the states. The boards are responsible for income and expenditure.
By 1870 there were 20% illiterates in America. Slowly that figure dwindled by 1959. Only disabled and the very old remained in that category.
There are 7900 public libraries, 2000 college libraries and 42 thousand school libraries apart from great number of private libraries and many more established by various organizations.
Books are published and sold on a large scale. They help the promotion of education.
Their education institutes are established in interesting way. 65% of colleges, universities, technical education schools are run by private and also church managements. These institutions are run by the boards elected by special charters. The syllabus courses and text books are decided in consultation with the teachers who work there.
The public education institutes are run by the government and the municipalities. Trusty boards are decided upon either by Senate or municipal mayor, or governor or their elected members. The courts have supervisory rights over them.
These institutions enjoy full freedom. There is very little protest against such freedoms. Americans aim at practicing the freedom in all their education institutions.
By 1962 there are 99% of students in between the ages 6-13 in the elementary education. 88% in high school students are between 14 and 17 years of age.
They have six years of (3 primary 3 elementary level) primary and 6 years of secondary education system. Every citizen should complete secondary education being in school for 12 years. Thus education is free and also compulsory in all States.
There were one crore and 10 lakh students in secondary education in 1962, 39 1/2 of young people between 18 and 21 years are in colleges making the number 37 lakhs by 1962. They were expecting the number to go up by 3 or 4 lakhs more.
After the secondary education the students an pursue their studies for 2 year junior colleges. Such colleges are found everywhere. There are almost 6000 such colleges. More than 4 lakh students study there.
The number of students in different colleges is increasing year by year. By 1962 the degrees issued are 6 lakh 23 thousand.
In the secondary schools books are given free of cost- this is done in many states. All schools have canteens, State and Federal government allot special budgets for providing food. They also give special fund for advising and consultations to students.
There are special education schemes for war-veterans and the old people. One crore 10 lakh war veterans availed grants in the scheme. Federal government spent 9000 crore rupees under this scheme. Every person is directly paid in the name of allowances.
By 1962 one crore senior citizens benefited by their special education scheme.
Elementary education is almost similar in all the States. High school education is divided into two systems. those who wanted private college education have a different scheme, a different for those who are in technical education. General education is common to all. Those who go to junior colleges the system is not much different.
700 colleges out of 2150 are under State municipal administration. 60% students study here .It is almost free education. Nominal fee is collected in some. 500 institutions are under private management, 800 are under church managements.
Each university is treated as university city. There are different schools of education in it. A trust Board manages them. Science, arts, degree , under graduate courses , medicine, general education schools are all built in one campus. Head of such a university is called Chancellor or President.
In such institutions, education meets high standards. They have sports, dance, music, theater arts and creative writing. Then student unions play prominent role.
Their essential expenditure 1,13,500 crores of rupees nationwide. They spent 1500 crores for building construction in 1962. They don’t hesitate to spend but insist on maintaining students.
They call the head of the school Principals, we call head masters. Our head masters are responsible for the accounts as well as teaching. The principals in American schools take care of teaching and discipline. Superintendents look after free collection, salary disbursement and other accounts. Superintendent is like our manager. He has nothing to do with teaching and discipline. Like our headmasters their principals do not work like head clerks. Each superintendent is allotted some schools to look after.
The whole country is divided into Education districts. Voters of each district elect 5 or 7 members for their Board-one being the President. All schools in that district come under the management of this Board. This Board is responsible for all matters of education there working as the middleman for government, people and the institutes. Government bears 20 or 25 per cent of the expenses. The rest is from the taxes and donor funds. Only a nominal special fee is collected from students-private colleges collect more fee than the committee colleges.
Education board of the district prepares estimates of expenditure in a school year and prepare reports for budget proposals. For each school this budget proposal is prepared.
The budget proposals are referred to the people for their approval-it is called referendum. The referendum quotes extra quotes the extra amount they need that year and seek their consent.
If people vote in favor of the proposal of the Board the proposals are accepted , if not the proposal meet a set back. The previous year budget approval stands as it is. Only the extra proposals have to be voted by the people.
I observed and found in different states those in the past 25 years , the additional proposals of school board were never met negative vote. In all the states the district education boards were voted in favor by the people because they are for education and want their children to get best education. This is one of the ways of life in America. They believe that their democracy is principally based on foundations of education. We can see that in practice.
Even we contribute for elementary education in India. Every farmer pays education tax too along with land tax. He us forced to do it and they are not aware that they paying for education.
In America people voluntarily pay their taxes. This system has nothing to do with government. Their willingness to pay taxes is to be greatly appreciated. Of all the education districts in America, New York district is the best . Los Angeles comes next. Under New York board there are 550 schools, 117 high schools, 7 junior colleges, 27 senior citizen schools and the rest are elementary and kindergarten schools. 725 thousand students study in them. I had at length discussed with the Board president Meriteen Gols. Their interest and dedication to education is laudable.
The district education board spent rupees 79 crores in 1955, rupees 76.50 crores in 1958, 63 crores on building construction alone. Their budget for 1963-64 happened to be 170 crore rupees compared to our state budget!
The state government gives 30% of the budget, 70% is borne by the people who volunteer to pay taxes and vote for referendum.
The state government has no control on this Board. They may occasionally give some suggestions. Their education boards are completely autonomous.
The courses, the syllabus, the standards are decided by the Board. Teachers play great role in syllabus framing and selection of text books. In this the Board or the government do not interfere. They practice autonomy imparting education.
Everywhere I went and met the teachers I used to ask their opinion about nationalization of text books. They used to reply that it was a very horrible system. They used to ask me whether we have that horrible system in India.
When I said that we have `horrible system` in India, their response was , ` we heard that Nehru is a socialist, how did he give his consent to this system? I could see how shocked they were.
I told them that with Nehru`s consent only the system works there. This is one his aims- I said.They remained in utter amazement and could`t remark further.
Some asked me what was my opinion about nationalization of text books. My reply- ‘We humanists oppose this system. We are working against it in our country`. One teacher asked me whether we can change the system through law courts.
About the teachers—- Every teacher should have a B.A, or B.SC degree and also should have the certificate or license to teach the subject he opts for. There degrees are a must for the teachers from elementary to Higher education. Teachers with higher degrees ,it teach in schools, get a little higher pay.
The basic salary of an elementary teacher is rupees 26,000. He will reach to rupees 50,500 salary as he puts in more years of service. If a teacher has M.A degree he gets rupees 100 more every month and a Ph.D holder gets an annual increase of rupees 2500.
Each teacher gets a thousand rupees increase every year . Within 13 or 14 years of service they will reach the maximum pay scale. Like our Provident fund they have retirement fund. 8% of salary is deducted for this fund apart from regular tax cuts.
These pay scales differ from Board to Board . But no body gets less than rupees 22,000 annually . Teachers working in big cities get more pay basing on the standard of life there.
There are 22 lakh teachers in various schools. They play prominent role in Nation building.
When I was in Chicago , New York teachers served a strike notice under the leadership of united federation of teachers. There were 40 thousand teachers in New York.
There is a law regarding these strikes. In case of strike any citizen can get a stay order from the court against the board that teaching should not be stopped for children. A citizen has that right Their conviction is that in no way student should suffer.
There were 203 colleges years ago, but now there are 2150 colleges and one in 1500 youth go to college. Now 2 in 5 people study in college. Under Abraham Lincoln`s Land -grant proposal the government allotted 70 lakhs 30 thousand acres of land to the colleges. This change took place in the past 100 years time.
There is no comparison between our budget and theirs. We have differences in the basic system itself. We can bring in some changes to cut short the differences.
Our dependence on government has been slowly increasing. Taking advantage of this the government is asserting its total control. You may say that it is not wrong in the people`s government. The question is whether the government is hesitating to give administration rights to the people. Amid these doubts the government usurped the authority.
Our law makers are thinking of amending constitution allowing more control to central government. That is the major difference between us and America.
The Los Angeles education board had included 345 courses in their syllabus.
What I observed in their universities is that they divide each course into several areas and offer teaching. In our universities they divide it into 20 to 40 sections and teach intensively.
Whether their system is good or bad, we cannot afford such wide choice in a course.
American television plays a great role in teaching. Our radio does that in India. But in television a student can see the teacher at work giving the lesson so is case with dancer or singer.
They have television in each house, some have in each room.
Experts give lessons in television at fixed timings. The teacher uses blackboard in his television lesson. Children can sit in their homes and listen to the lesson , they can take notes. If there is a request from them that a particular lesson needs repetition the television company complies with it and repeats that particular lesson.
Certain Radio stations take the lessons from the text books in those areas and teach daily basis. With this the companies are known to the student community and such radio companies get a strong hold.
There is possibility of answering questions posed by the students. This system makes teaching easier and effective.
This kind of teaching is done in America from elementary level to higher level. Even college students are able to the get benefits by this system.We should adopt this new aspect from them.
(to be continued…)
Komala Venigalla, wife of Sri Inniah Narisetty is a retired Assistant Professor of English from Ambedkar Open University, Hyderabad. Written on Modern Women covering various aspects of their lives in contemporary world. Traslated M.N.Roy’s Memoirs of Cat into Telugu. Contributed articles to Misimi Telugu monthly.