Sikkim education reform commission and the need to have the state's education board

Sikkim education reform commission and the need to have the state's education board
Photo Credit: Down To Earth

The liberal and reformative gateway for India’s education system was opened with the announcement of the New Education Policy by the Union Government in July 2020, the last time we saw the changes in the education system was in the year 1986 when the National policy of education was launched then. The 21st-century reformation to overhaul the education system in our country and to make the school and college level education more holistic, flexible, inclusive, and multidisciplinary was the need of the hour. On the other hand, so far the diversity of the country is concerned it is also more pertinent to bring reforms as per the need of one's states and region.

As far as Sikkim is concerned there haven’t been any sweeping changes in educational policy. It also cannot be ruled out that so far the state of Sikkim is concerned our policy framers needs to envision more particularly Sikkim centric education system. The present government of the state has moved towards the right direction in setting up the state's own Education Reform Commission to revamp the existing education system of the state and to bring the sweeping changes as per the needs and circumstances of our state.

Therefore the Sikkim Education Reform Commission which is proposed to be set up in lines with the new education policy of the country should closely look into the aspect of making Sikkim the knowledge superpower and focus on the promotion of socio-economic and cultural values and overall the preservation of the distinct identity of Sikkim and in the other hand just as the new education policy among other things aims in developing a sense of respect towards the country constitutional values and promotion of regional languages, the Education Reform Commission should also devise a mechanism and recommend in setting up of a formal learning centre for different major languages of Sikkim and its promotional aspect and orchestrate for making e-contents of various literary figures and works of literature of our state. 

Sikkim’s Distinct identity.

Being a Sikkimese we must not lose sight of the fact that the State’s merger with the Indian union is a conditional one wherein it has been categorically stated that all the proclamation of the Chogyal, the old laws, and the distinct identity of the state would be specifically protected and thereafter conferring this condition a special provision in the Constitution of India was inserted. So here the question comes that how do we let the common citizens and the students know about the socio-economical and the cultural facets of Sikkim if the same is not taught in our school syllabus, how can the newly established Sikkim Education Reform Commission fill this lacuna to address this issue and further how has the National Education Policy launched by the union government allowed the states to frame the education policy by respecting the spirit of the diversity and federalism.  

Respect for the diversity and the local context.

Since education falls under the state list the respective states have the liberty to make laws on the subject of education and also the new education policy was framed in a liberal context wherein it has distinctively given leverage to the states to make its laws as per the local context. Under the spirit and concept of federalism if the states are given enough leverage i.e like the one given by the new education policy through the medium of education then we all can be sure that the chances of thriving the diversity of the country in one hand and the growth of cooperative federalism, on the other hand, will be at peace.

We as Sikkimese always contemplate that why we are not taught about Sikkim in our school days, why is it that the state's socio-economic, history art, and culture are being buried and why students are left with no option to read and research on Sikkim and its people. Making our students and citizen know and read about Sikkim will not let them forget other subjects but will further help them shape about one’s role and responsibility towards the state of Sikkim.

So the lacunae can be filled not just only with the incorporation of syllabuses and the curriculum of Sikkim but through a systematic and statutory overhaul which can be made by the Sikkim Education Reform Commission. For this, it is also imperative for us to see whether any legislative precedent exists or not and to see the intention of the legislature of the state.

Sikkim Board of School Education Act, 1978

It always becomes important for us to see the intention of the legislature of the state and on what circumstance any statutory act has been passed. In the year 1978, the 1st cabinet headed by the then Chief Minister Lt. Kazi Lendup Dorjee had passed important educational legislation that certainly can bear the torch for the reformation in the education sector of the state in contemporary times. Though the veracity of this act is not known on whether this act is still in the statute book or whether it has been repealed but still, the text of the act is so significant and its relevance in today’s circumstances is so important that the act, in entirety, cannot be avoided. The framers of this legislation have completely respected the supreme identity of Sikkim and have further given the upper hand to the state in the policy decision of the educational subject.

Therefore as per this Act, it stipulates for the establishment of the Board of School Education (Sikkim State Board) to prescribe curricula textbook and other instructional materials for schools and to conduct the examination at the school level in the state of Sikkim. 

Formation of State Board

However, it has become very important for us to constitute state government administered autonomous state board in lines with the 1978 Act passed by the Sikkim Legislative Assembly which could play a vital role in regulating the education sector till the secondary level education and further consider incorporating local level syllabus and curriculum that could envision Sikkim centric education system and make Sikkim the knowledge superpower and further focus on the promotion of Sikkim’s socio-economic and cultural values and overall for the preservation of the distinct identity of Sikkim.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the State Board.

Several states like Kerala, Uttar Pradesh has their board wherein the curriculum is framed and examination of Secondary and High Secondary are conducted by the state Board itself. To preserve the distinct identity of Sikkim the education Reform Commission should formulate a mechanism by giving authority to the State Board wherein exclusively Sikkim-related syllabuses are taught in the secondary level education as per the existing policy framework of the union government.

On the other hand, even if we see the 1978 Board of School education the act has given the state board the upper hand in the decision taken by the Central Board of Secondary Education. The act therein has distinctively given the power to the state board that if the state board deems fit and necessary to replace the decision taken by the Central Board of Secondary education then the state board shall be well within their rights to replace the decision taken by the CBSE.

The State Board and the New Education Policy.

With the pedagogical structure in the new education policy being 5+3+3+4 consisting of Foundational years for the age group of 3-8 years then preparatory stage for the age group of 8-11 years after that the middle stages for the age group of 11-14 years and then the secondary stage for 4 years which will cover school education from classes 9-12 years. Hence it will be very necessary for the state education reform commission to look into the aspect of incorporating the local level syllabus into the secondary stage which consists of education from class 9 till 12. On the other hand, why is it necessary for the Reform commission recommended state Board to do so is because the New Education Policy itself is in the favour of having a multidisciplinary study wherein it has given the secondary level students to pick and choose any set of subjects from the education curriculum to import the flexibility and critical thinking.

By Pramit Chettri. The author is the Supreme Court Advocate and hails from Malbassey, Budang Village in West Sikkim.

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