Prof. Gurbax Singh Shergill Former Principal Khalsa Colleges Amritsar and Chairman P.S. E.B

Singh Sabha Movement in the later half of 19th centenary created a new awareness in the Sikh community of its distinct identity and need for establishing Sikh education institutions in Punjab. The untiring efforts of its founders, Bhai Ditt Singh and Prof. Gurmukh Singh played a historic role in the process of establishing Khalsa College Amritsar, with the combined efforts of the Singh Sabha Lahore and Amritsar. The foundation of this historic institution of the Sikhs was laid on 5th March 1892. Later on S. Sunder Singh Majithia’s visionary efforts made it possible to build its magnificent building designed by Bhai Ram Singh a   world famous architect of his times.

The establishment of Chief Khalsa Diwan Amritsar in 1902 initiated a new process of educational resurgence of the Sikhs. The first All India Sikh Education Conference held in Gujranwala in 1908, made a beginning by opening a school and college at Gujjranwala. Ever since, the achievement of this movement has been so solid, that the Sikh Community once again became the torchbearer for the upsurge of national feelings. The colleges as seats of higher learning established through series of conferences, count in dozens and the schools in hundreds. The role played by Chief Khalsa Diwan during the first half of 20th century assured the Sikhs a prominent place among the progressive communities in India and Abroad. According to news published in Civil and Military Gazette Lahore in1945, the Sikh community was considered ahead of all communities of Punjab in literacy.

After the partition of Punjab in 1947, efforts were made to keep up this lead by reestablishing all the Sikh institutions which were left in Pakistan. Punjabi Suba movement for than a decade for  creating a new Punjab consisting of Punjabi speaking areas after the unprecedented mass arrests and sacrifices became a success in 1966. The main purpose of creating Punjabi Speaking state was to enable the Sikhs and Punjabi’s to be proud of their common identity and make their new home state economically prosperous and achieve excellence in their educational and cultural spheres.

The celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh tercentenary in 1965-66 and Guru Nanak Quin centenary 1969-70, created a new enthusiasm for establishing the educational institutions. Guru Gobind Singh and Guru Nanak foundations came into existence with the liberal help of Punjab government and people’s participations. Many colleges and Public schools were established in the names of Gurus in almost all districts by enthusiastic Sikh leaders of the area. Singh Sabha centenary was celebrated with great enthusiasm in 1974. The concluding centenary celebrations were held at Sri Guru Gobind Singh College Chandigarh, which were attended by almost all Sikh leaders and representatives of all Sikh educational organizations. The Presidents and  Secretaries of Sikh colleges along with their  Principals participated in the All India Sikh Education Seminar and passed a unanimous resolution to establish  a Kendri Khalsa Vidyak Board (KKVB) for coordinating all the Sikh Schools and Colleges with a view  to improve  their quality of teaching-learning  and make joint efforts for creating the awareness of Sikh  identity and teachings of our great Gurus .The application for registration under the Societies act was signed by the top Sikh leaders as presidents of the prominent Managements of Khalsa colleges.  A Photo copy of the resolution is given below.

There have been a continuous galore of centenary celebrations during last five decades of 20th century.

The celebrations of the Khalsa tercentenary, bicentenary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s coronation and more recently the tercentenary of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Gurugadi Diwas were a great success. These historic events were unparallel in the recent religious history of India. In spite of all these great historic events the present scenario of Punjab education and Sikh organizational efforts, presents a dismal picture. Guru Gobind Singh foundation and Guru Nanak foundation have become almost non entities playing a little or no role for the Sikh Panth. World Sikh organization established after a worldwide big show is seen nowhere in Punjab. The mutual bickering of DSGPC and SGPC are posing a serious threat to Panthic unity It has become a pass time hobby of many self styled Sikh intellectuals to raise unwanted controversies in News papers which are creating confusion among Sikh youth and Sikh Sangat. Important issues which can be easily solved through internal discussions are being taken to Press and Courts eroding the supremacy of the Akal Takhat and our right to manage our religious institutions.

The 63rd All India Sikh Conference being held in the historic premises of Sri Guru Gobind Singh College, dedicated to the heroic deeds of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and a commitment to “Quality Education” and “Sabat Surat Dastar Sira” must initiate a process of “A beginning of the new historic  beginnings”. All Sikh Educational institutions should have one common Forum for the welfare of the Panth and our Sikh youth. We must make a firm resolve to give a new lead in raising the standards of education and start a new movement to reclaim our school going youth to Sikh way of life and motivate them to become the torch bearers of Human excellence and progressive Sikh ethos.

The second decade of the 21st century is going to further unfold the new challenges and opportunities for the Sikh Panth. The challenges are enormous and the opportunities unlimited. The most formidable challenge is from the new emerging social and cultural scenario, as a result of new era of globalization and digital revolution unleashed by the video, TV and Computers. Our youth is going astray in the absence of proper guidance and education. A huge back log of school and college drop outs have taken refuse in cheap entertainments and drug abuse. Although the digital revolution is having its effect on youth of all religions, the problem of Sikh youth losing its visible identity is a typical problem of the Sikhs alone. The Sikh Intelligentsia and Akal Takht will have to take a note of this typical problem and find a ‘workable practical solution’. We should not altogether condemn and reject them as patits. A sympathetic and helpful approach is the only way to win them back; our sociopolitical and education system has made them semi literates and unemployables.

The green revolution made most of our Sikh agriculture families dependent on cheap seasonal labour from Bihar and UP. The new prosperity made it possible to send their children to schools and colleges. The deteriorating school education in the rural areas made them semiliterate and unemployable. Success stories of the Punjabi NRI’s and the lure of Dollars made our youth an easy target of immigration agencies. They are now a non working drug addicted idle force.

There is an immediate need to motivate and train them for available jobs or self employment. The digital revolution should be used as a positive force for informing the youth regarding our glorious history. This anomic challenge although formidable, can be met, if the Khalsa Panth once again follows the path shown by our great Gurus, by adopting the stead fast option of dedication of mind and body to the widening horizons of excellence with never ending spirit of “Chardi Kala”. The declaration of 10th Guru Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, “To empower the sparrows to take over the ‘Hawks’, Convert the ‘Jackals’ into mighty lions and bless his disciples to fight single handed against the millions” is a source of our perpetual enthusiasm. Once we are committed to Guru’s call, we can meet all the challenges with our resolute response.

We should also realize that Pen is more relevant than Sword in the present era of Digital revolution and Information Technology. We should also follow the dictate of our great Guru Nanak:- “BkBe goy/ nkg eT[ sk gkoy[ ikD[.. o”r[ dko{ d”t/ p{M? sk t?d[ ;[ikD[..”, must be followed .Let us find the real cause of the stalemate in our religious, social and political situation.

Main problem before us is to save our school going generation through purposeful quality education in our schools, colleges and universities. In spite of our tall claims and even the best efforts by some of our organizations, the present educational scenario is the cause of serious worry and calls for a collective thinking and a bold new approach by the Sikh Organizations and Government of the State.

After making a detailed study of merit lists of Punjab School Board, CBSE and various universities of Punjab for last three academic years  following facts have emerged:-

1)           There are about 900 Khalsa schools and 150 Khalsa colleges in Punjab and their share of top positions and merit lists for last three years is much below the other Non Sikh institutions. Most of them with a few exceptions have below average academic standards. Only a few of them are conscious of their role and identity as a Sikh institution. Most of them seem to interested only in the number of students and the amount of money collected as fees. There is no specific system of accountability of teachers other than the percentage in the Board or the University. These criteria in most cases leads to use of unfair means.Only a few institutions try to identify their merit students for giving them special coaching and guidance to compete for the admissions to top state or national institutions. Number of Sikh students joining specialized courses even in GNDU and Punjabi University is negligible. Their number in Postgraduate classes also shows a steep decline, which is already reflected in rising share of non Sikh teachers in Khalsa colleges.

2)           As far our schools are concerned the situation seems to be more serious. The number of students joining the top medical, engineering and IIT institutions is almost negligible. The share of Sikh students in Punjab merit lists is about 10 percent as compared to our population percentage of 60% in Punjab.

3)            Khalsa schools and colleges must prepare their meritorious and outstanding students for admission to higher competitive courses at national and state level. There is urgent need to combine teaching with special guidance and extra coaching as a part of daily timetable.

4)           While  we are talking about higher scales of employment at National or State level, it is necessary to train the Sikh students also for other jobs in Defense, Police, Railways, Banks, Road transport, Govt. and business offices.

5)           Good efforts made by SGPC and Chief Khalsa Diwan by opening schools under their own education directorates are still in the process of their academic growth and their number is too small.

6)           80% of Sikh population lives in rural areas and about 70% Sikh students from rural areas study in government schools where the standards of teaching and learning are very low. Most of the students passing out of these schools become semiliterate unemployables and prone to use of drugs. Special efforts will have to be made improve the quality of teaching in our rural schools.

7)           The falling academic standards of our colleges affiliated to various universities of Punjab are also a cause of great concern. A comparative study of results and merit lists made on the basis of their academic record and university merit lists shows a falling share of merit positions at graduate and post graduate level. Most of our colleges are the last choice of students at the time of admissions as seen from the cut off stage of various colleges, which further worsens the situation. A close study of last two decades of their academic record shows a rapidly falling graph except a few of them. Their above average or even the top positions in sports and extracurricular activities may be encouraging news but cannot compensate for falling academic standards. The position of some of our Sikh institutions is encouraging for last three years but unstable over a period of time.   The most important reason for falling or unstable academic position in our Khalsa institutions is due to the absence of a sustainable system of academic management, although we have better infrastructure and buildings. The academic contribution of the hundreds of schools and colleges opened by Sikhs at a cost of billions of rupees needs to be properly assessed.

8)           In addition to quality education, the object of these institutions was to propagate Sikh religion and turn out graduates committed to Sikh values and Khalsa discipline, so that some o0f them could devote themselves to the service of community and share the lofty message with others. The actual situation is entirely reverse. Even a casual walk through Khalsa institutions is enough to note the absence of students in Sikh form. Our teachers and managements are indifferent to this situation. There is no provision for religious and moral instructions in most of our schools and colleges. No worthwhile effort is being made to encourage the Sikh way of life. It is our duty to guide and inspire them to be proud of their historic Heritage and Distinct Identity. We cannot blame our children alone, as we have failed in providing the desired Sikh environment in our homes and institutions. Instead of taking pride in their distinct Sikh identity, our students have developed an inferiority complex and are becoming clean-shaven. These institutions which were created to produce ideal Sikhs have become the centre of apostasy.

9)           We have at present two Sikh universities, one known as Eternal (Akal) University at Baru Sahib and another World Sikh University of Guru Granth Sahib at Fatehgarh Sahib. Akal academy schools in Punjab and other parts of India are well known for their religious fervor and quality education. We are yet to see the level of their academic performance at the university level. Sri Guru Granth Sahib University at Fatehgarh Sahib is still in its initial formative stages. Khalsa College Amritsar is also planning to become a full fledged Khalsa university. The idea of the Sikh community to have their own universities is an age old dream. The most formidable difficulty in making these universities as centers of academic excellence will be in recruitment of excellent faculty. There is lack of top level scholars in our colleges and universities. Even the present universities of Punjab are unable to fill the vacancies of their special chairs because of lack availability of high level scholars in Sikh religion and history. Many of the existing private or deemed universities are facing acute problems of faculty recruitment. The main reason is lack of upcoming of scholarly from the schools.

10)        Nishan-e-Sikhi project at Khadoor Sahib is the new hope for the Sikhs under the dynamic leadership of Baba Sewa Singh. After completing the eight story majestic building they have started guidance and coaching center for preparing the students for All India competitions not only for Medical and Engineering, but also for IAS, IPS, NDA and other services in Defense forces, BSF, Police, Railways and Banks etc. The entire expenditure on this project is being financed by Nishan-e-Sikhi Trust. We earnestly hope that their career guidance project will be a great success. They will face the difficulty of coaching faculty being in rural area, which they will be able to overcome with financial backup of Nishan-e-Sikhi Trust. Their example must be followed by SGPC, Chief Khalsa Diwan, Sikh Universities and top college managements of the Sikh Institutions.

Before we move further to find a way out and prescribe the   measures and methods for improving the quality of teaching and guidance in our schools, it is necessary to have an overview of the academic data regarding school education for the year 2009-10 as available from Director General of education.

There are about 29,700 government and affiliated schools in Punjab out of which there are only 900 Khalsa schools which is only 3% of the total The approximate number of students in Khalsa schools is about 1,90,000 as against about 40 lakhs in Government and affiliated schools. The share of Khalsa schools is less than 5%.

A sample survey shows that 65% teachers and 60% of the students in most of the rural area government schools are from Sikh families. The Sikh community and their religious organizations must also create awareness amongst Sikh teachers of their moral responsibility to improve the quality of teaching and guide their students for better learning habits.

The Education department of government of Punjab is responsible for not appointing permanent selected principals/heads in 90% of the schools and also for approx. 40-50% vacant teaching posts during last decade and half. According to new initiative taken by the present government there has been a good improvement in infrastructure and principals and heads have been also appointed in about 60-70% of the schools and percentage of vacant posts is down to 25%. As per information available, all these posts are likely to be filled within next six months Inspection and monitoring system is being made more frequent and rationalization of transfers and number of posts is already in the process.

Main problem which will confront the government schools now will be the absence of any traditions of quality teaching and learning for the last three decades. There has been total indiscipline in the absence of permanent Headmasters or Principals. Majority of teachers could easily bypass their temporary heads of the institution without any specific administrative power. The academic timetable had little meaning because of shortage of subject teachers. Reorientation and in service training will be an up hill task as most of District Education officers and circle Education officers have little or no experience of a Principal ship.

The buildings, furniture, laboratories, libraries and some other physical facilities provided in many schools under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is not adequate in senior secondary schools a lot remains to be done still by the present government in terms of laboratories, libraries, additional class rooms, and making the pre-service and in-service training more effective with a motivational approach. Permanent Teacher Selection Board for filling the posts in time is absolutely necessary.

The Sikh institutions must give a lead and become a Role Model. They should give a lead in creating motivation and awareness among our teachers and students for the need of quality teaching and learning. The parents of the students should be motivated to take keen interest in the education of their sons and daughters and act as a pressure group for making the school teachers more accountable for quality teaching. The local advisory committees which include representatives of parents, panchyat members and retired teachers should also be made more effective through local community initiatives in making the school of their area perform better and become free from unfair means. It is our responsibility also to do away with various types of “unfair means”, “corruption”, “Sifarishbazi”. The general feeling is that if one has to get appointment through sifarish or cash payment, why one shouldn’t get his certificate/degree through similar means.

The number of dropouts in Punjab government school from 8th class is another serious problem which needs attention of our organizations. Due to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan efforts, numbers of students have increased from 1st to 5th and from 5th to 8th. Dropout rate from 8th to 12th class is about 60% which is alarming. From 10th class to 12th class dropout is 22% and from class 1-12th is 55%. According to one study by Punjabi university scholars, hardly 1% students reach at college or university from the rural area.

The Centre Government Act of compulsory and free education up to elementary level for all the students in the age of 6-14 once again depends on the will of parents and efforts of our Sikh organizations. We always pronounce and rightly so that Sikhs believe in shabad guru as written in Guru Granth Sahib. How can this be possible for illiterate Sikhs who can’t read and write in their own mother-tongue? We are already aware of the decreasing habit of reading books by the Sikhs masses. Our high level of illiteracy and low level of reading books and literature is already making us unaware of our rich historical heritage.

The Sikh youth is yearning for adventure and action. We should direct their energies through better education, moral guidance and motivational measures. There is a danger of their idleness being the source exploitation by some self-styled organizations and secret agencies which created havoc in Punjab in late 80s and early 90s. Our youth is already being inducted to drug abuse by some mischievous underground agencies through free distribution of smack and drugs of which we are still less aware. These are the real warning signals. Let the Sikh intellectuals, teachers and social political leaders understand it and find the ways and means to give better guidance and education to Sikh youth not to fall prey to these designs. It is unfortunate that majority of upper and middle class Sikh intellectuals and leaders are evasive to this problem and are preoccupied in other ventures which need less effort and give easy publicity.

In view of above findings it becomes clear that an all out bold and brave effort needs be made by the Sikh organizations to start a mass movement for improving the quality of education being given to our students. Vidya Chetna marches and rallies must be organized to create awareness among parents, teachers, students and public in general. We have a Government in Punjab which claims to be the sole creator of new Punjab. Let us make all efforts to make them realize their responsibility to make Punjab a Model State in the field of Education and take better care of sons and daughters of ‘Front Freedom/Morcha Fighters’.

With the implementation of new education policy of the central Government, middle class examination has been abolished and grading system has been introduced at high and senior secondary level, Punjab School Education Board needs to be totally reorganized on the pattern of CBSE and be renamed PBSE. The Punjab Education directorate should also be reorganized as to strengthen the school level administration with a clear cut responsibility and powers to the principal and making circle education officers more responsible for coordinating the joint inspections of secondary and elementary levels, with their full accountability to the Director General of Education, whose minimum term should be at least five years.

In addition to the above there is an urgent need of our Sikh educational institutions giving a lead in introducing a sustainable system of education management and making their schools and collages as models for quality education. Following measures are absolutely necessary for this purpose.

1)           Immediate efforts as the SGPC and chief Khalsa Diwan to organize a central coordinating body of the Sikhs to be known as Kendery Sikh vidyak board with president SGPC as an ex officio chairman and president of the Chief Khalsa Diwan as Senior Vice President. The major aim of this board should be to bring all the Khalsa colleges and schools together on one platform with a view a create awareness of their distinct institutional identity and mutual cooperation for imparting the knowledge of sikh history and religion  by holding joint guidance camps, seminars and supports meet. One such effort was made at the time of Singh Saba centenary celebrations.

2)           The Khalsa schools under the directorates of SGPC and Chief Khalsa Diwan should adopt the academic promotion project based on a modified version of NCERT schemes of continues cumulative evaluation record system (CCER). The main emphasis should be on self improvement Quotient (SIQ) of each student and merit promotion Quotient for the whole class for the teachers. Merit Promotion Quotient for the whole class {CMPQ} is determined after adding up all (SIQ) and dividing by the number of students in the class. The introduction of the system of merit promotion scheme based on continuous cumulative academic record i.e. CCAR will be a self sustainable system with inbuilt accountability of teachers, students and heads of institutions through their Merit Promotion Quotient (MPQ). The present method of counting efficiency on pass percentage basis is outdated and leads to use of unfair means encouraged by teachers. A separate register        for each subject class teacher has to be kept.

3)           Abolition of 8th class examination may again create a situation similar to the automatic promotion up to 5th in primary schools, therefore it will be necessary for SGPC/ Chief Khalsa Diwan directorate to hold their own middle class examination for maintaining the accountability of the teachers and students. The DAV Management Comity has already started this method.

4)           There is a good number of outstanding merit students with high I.Q in our Khalsa  and Govt. schools who need to be identified  and given special attention with extra merit tutorials SGPC and Chief Khalsa Diwan should hold special scholastic achievement test (SAT) for their students at 8th and 10th level and hold special classes and merit tutorials for the identified merit students, so that they may achieve their best level of excellence at +2 level and compete for top positions in institutes of higher level at National and International level. The Most outstanding students should be adopted as charted students, so that they may be guided and helped to achieve their best possible position in the career of their choice.

5)           The Education Comity of Chief Khalsa Diwan should pass a resolution to setup a high level panel of education experts for a follow up action on the proceedings of this seminar and implementing quality of teaching and learning in our Sikh institutions, so as to become models for other institutions.

6)           The Sikh Education Comity to pass a resolution against the proposed enactment for bringing all the state and private universities and other institution of higher education under the total centralized control of the National Commission for Higher Education. The provision in this bill regarding the absolute uniformity of the syllabus and courses in social sciences and humanity group will be a serious encroachment against the constitution provision of freedom to the right of minorities to manage and open their institutions. A note on behalf of the Quality Education Foundation, opposing this legislation was published in the Tribune.

At the end we strongly appeal to Sikh scholars, intellectuals and organizers of the All India Sikh Education conference to continue the process of collective thinking and action, with a clear objective of making our educational institutions, the centers for quality education and excellence. We must resolve once for ever to do away with the level of mediocrity in our educational institutions and make them centers of human creativity and ever increasing levels of excellence in thought and action. We have to come up to the expectation of our great Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who proclaimed; “ykb;k w/o” o{g j? yk;.. ykb;/ w/ jU eo{U fBtk;” failing which we should also remember his warning  “ ip bZr ykb;k oj/ fBnko” sp br s/i fdU w? ;ko”.. ip :fj r?j ftgoB eh ohs w? Bk eoU fJB eh goshs” Let us ponder upon the above proclamation of the Guru and make a choice between his to (blessing) or ;okg (curse). Once we understand the gravity of the problem, we will be able to find a solution which of course can be achieved through voluntary and dedicated efforts of the Sikh organizations. We have to follow and carry forward the holy torch glowing, with the message of our daily prayer (ardass) “Chardi Kala, Tere Bhane Sarbat Da Bhalla” with a strong faith of “Saada Ang Sange”….

Prof. Gurbax Singh Shergill


Quality Education Foundation

Mob: 9888685884

Updated: June 8, 2015 — 10:21 AM