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In a slew of decisions to further improve the functioning of schools in the state, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday gave in-principle approval for legislation of  Teachers Transfer Act in the Vidhan Sabha, while announcing Rs 500/month increase in the salaries of Mid-Day Meal workers and distribution of another 2.14 lakh smart phones to Class XII government school students this year.

The enactment of a legislation will give legal sanctity to the Teachers Transfer Policy, introduced by his government in 2019 to make the entire process transparent, efficient and corruption-free, said the Chief Minister, pointing out that since the policy was brought in, not a single complaint of corruption had been received with respect to transfer of school teachers. Under the policy, which has now also been extended to non-teaching staff, of 1.12 lakh teachers, so far 21600 teachers had availed the benefit.

On the issue salary hike for MDM workers, the Chief Minister said it was a long pending demand of the workers, who had got a hike last in 2017. The move will benefit 42000 MDM workers in 19000 schools.

The Chief Minister further announced that the process of distribution of 2.14 lakh more smart phones will commence within three months, with budget allocation already made for 2020-21. The proposal will be cleared at the next meeting of the state cabinet, and orders for the phones will be placed immediately thereafter to enable distribution to commence within the time-frame, said the Chief Minister. The proposal for procurement of smart phones for these students had already been sent to the Department of Industries, he added.

Pointing out that 1.75 lakh students studying in class 12th had already been provided Smart Phones during 2020-21, the Chief Minister said in addition, 3502 Tablets had already been provided to the students of Government schools, while Rs. 5.25 crore had been kept aside for e-Libraries.

Asserting his commitment to the implementation of all the 20 manifesto promises with respect to school education before the end of his term, the Chief Minister directed the School Education Department to formulate a scheme, and draft a formal proposal, for introduction of NCC training as a subject in all schools in a phased manner, beginning with the border schools. This, he said, was important to inculcate discipline among students, especially in current times.

Reviewing the functioning of the School Education department at a virtual meeting, the Chief Minister said while 15 of the 20 promises had already been fully realised, two had been partially implemented, with only three pending. These will be implemented also before the end of this government’s term, he said. While appreciating the achievements of the department, Captain Amarinder directed School Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla to further push the pace of reforms further, with increased focus on digitalization and upgradation of rural education infrastructure. He assured the department that paucity of funds would not be allowed to hamper its functioning as education was one of the core sectors of his department.

The Chief Minister, while appreciating  that every government school in the state, both urban and rural, has been provided drinking water amenities and toilets, said that similar facilities should be ensured in all Anganwardis also in the next two months. He also ordered immediate steps for setting up computer labs in primary schools, for which Rs 50 crore had already been provided in the budget for 2020-21. Notably, 2512 middle schools, 1709 high schools and 1894 senior secondary schools have already been provided with computer labs by the state government.

School Education Secretary Krishan Kumar informed the meeting that 250 schools would be upgraded in 2020-21, with a draft policy for the same already sent to the Finance Department for approval.

In a detailed presentation, he disclosed that 17778 teachers were recruited during the previous government from 2012-2017, while out of the 32425 posts, 12761 recruitments have already been made and 13768 are under process, while 5896 new posts would be advertised soon. Apart from this, a separate cadre has been created for six border districts and a large number of contractual teachers had been regularized.

Enrollment in the government schools had registered an increase of 15.07% with 27.20 lakh students enrolled during 2020-21, he said, also noting the increase in pass percentage of Class X & XII students of government schools, who were now faring better than in private schools.

The Secretary Education pointed out that Punjab was the first state to universalize the pre-primary education with enrollment of 3.29 lakh students. Similarly, English as a medium of instruction has been introduced in 14957 Government Primary, Middle, High and Senior Secondary Schools covering 3.71 lakh students.

In his presentation, Krishna Kumar further revealed that of 19298 government schools, 12976 schools have already been converted into smart schools. Further, out of total 68263 smart classrooms, 41336 classrooms have already been converted into smart classrooms while 13459 were in the process of conversion and the balance 13468 would be converted shortly.

Under the Green Boards and Furniture Drive, all the primary schools have been provided with furniture besides covering 21.8% of the Pre-primary sections and the requirement for middle, higher, senior secondary schools would be completed during 2021-22.

The Education Secretary also listed out other initiatives, including amendment to rules for direct and transparent recruitment of School Headmasters, Principals and Block Primary Education Officer, the Sports Policy for schools, introduction of skill development under vocational education, among others.

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