On Sunday, when the Education Ministry released the latest edition of the Performance Grading Index or PGI, Punjab was right on top in the overall ranking, scoring 929 points out of 1,000 and leaving star performances such as Kerala (fourth) and Delhi (sixth position) behind. Chandigarh stood second, followed by Tamil Nadu.

From ranking 13th in 2017-18 to climbing to the top of the latest school ranking index, from teacher-less schools to smart classrooms, Punjab’s government schools have emerged a winner.

On Sunday, when the Education Ministry released the latest edition of the Performance Grading Index or PGI, Punjab was right on top in the overall ranking, scoring 929 points out of 1,000 and leaving star performances such as Kerala (fourth) and Delhi (sixth position) behind. Chandigarh stood second, followed by Tamil Nadu.

PGI is an index that measures the performance of states and Union Territories in school education across 70 parameters such as learning outcomes, enrollment and infrastructure.

“We have very good teachers who are IT savvy and are keen to deliver. Four years ago, we introduced English-medium schools, right at the primary level, and now our children speak fluent English. We have our results to show for it,” said Krishan Kumar, Punjab’s Principal Secretary, Education, who is considered the man behind the revamp of the state school education system.

Kumar, who had to brave pressure from teachers’ unions as he sought to implement some of the changes, including of teacher postings, says he could go ahead with his plans only because the government backed his efforts. “Besides all the planning and execution, it was political will that made it happen,” he says.

During the pandemic, the Education Department launched its “Ghar Baithe Sikhiya” programme, ensuring virtual classes as per a fixed set schedule with lessons imparted through TV and radio channels, YouTube and WhatsApp, besides live classes through Zoom and Google.

The state, which aced the infrastructure category, obtaining 150 out of 150 marks in the rankings, has converted 67.2% of 19,298 government-run schools into smart schools. The schools, once poorly maintained, now have attractive colour-coded buildings. Its BALA (Building As Learning Aid) programme — developing school spaces such as classroom floors, walls, doors and windows as learning resources — is a hit with both children and teachers.

Kumar says the community pitched in with funds for the infrastructure upgrade. “We asked headmasters and principals to come prepared with a plan. We provided 40 per cent of the funds and asked them to arrange for the rest through panchayats, NGOs, MPLADS and CSR funds. The participation of society helped as they ensured that the buildings were maintained well,” said Kumar.

To push up enrollment, the state introduced the Punjab Education (Posting of Teachers in Disadvantageous Areas) Act and announced a rationalisation policy for posting of teachers.

As per the new policy, every newly recruited teacher is compulsory posted in border areas for two years.

“Under the rationalisation policy, we identified schools that needed teachers and got them transferred from overstaffed schools. This policy delivered results and students from private schools got admitted in government schools,” Kumar said.

Kumar had led an aggressive enrollment campaign, even making appeals from gurdwaras asking people to admit their children in government schools. The state’s government schools saw a 15 per cent increase in enrolment in the 2021-22 academic session.

The Education Department also devised a comprehensive programme for capacity building of teachers, headmasters and principals, with experts from the Indian School of Business holding training sessions, and introduced unique IDs for all employees and students.

Satnam Singh Sandhu, Vice Chancellor of Chandigarh University, said it was heartening to find Punjab topping the school index. “It is not just the rank, but it is about the reforms and the efforts that have been put in to reach here. Krishan Kumar deserves to be congratulated. But we should not rest here. We have improved but we need to do more.”

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