A Note on State Institute of Educational Management and Training (SIEMAT)

 

 

By Dr. N.V. Varghese, paper presented in a Seminar on State, School and Community Role of Educational Management and Training in a Changing Perspective held at SIEMAT Bihar, Patna, March 20-21, 1999 and Edited by Dr. Sudhansu Bhusan, Additional Director, SIEMAT Bihar, Patna.

 

1.         Why SIEMAT?

 

            Decentralization of educational planning and management is a major concern in  India. Translation of the idea of decentralisation into an operational practice requires creation of necessary organisational arrangements to make the practice administratively feasible and professionally supportive.

 

            The need for developing organisational arrangements to facilitate educational planning in a decentralised framework was recognised for a long time in India. However, the efforts to create such organisational arrangements were not very successful. Planning competencies are almost non-existent at local levels and now it is recognised as one of the major constraints in translating the idea of decentralised planning into an operational practice. Development of local capacity in planning and management of education requires state level institutions to provide professional guidance and support. SIEMAT can be one of the organisational arrangements to help professionalising educational planning and management activities at the state, district and sub-district levels.

 

            Various efforts were made in the past to create such an institutional structure at the state level. When the State Institutes of Education were established in the 1960s, there was an expectation that a wing specifically focusing on educational planning and management will be created. In the 1980s as a follow-up to the National Policy on Education, there was an effort to create State Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (SIEPA) at the state level. However, these efforts did not materialise. Interestingly, when DIETs came into existence in the late 1980s, a department/branch of educational planning and management was created and hence, an arrangement at the district level became a reality.

 

            In the 1990s the efforts towards decentralised planning in education, keeping district as a unit for planning, took a more concrete shape. With the initiation of large scale externally funded educational projects in primary education, the demand for local level capacity to prepare district plans in education increased. This necessitated developing professional competency in educational planning at the local level which needed support from institutions at the state level. This explains the immediate context for setting up of state level institutions like SIEMAT.

 

2.         Existing Arrangements

 

            Over the past four years efforts are being made by many state governments, especially those State Governments where externally funded primary education projects are in progress, to create organisational arrangement for educational planning and management at the state level. Based on the experience of setting-up of such organisational arrangements, different possibilities have emerged now. These possibilities are :

 

i)    SIEMAT as a separate institute at the state level;

ii)   SIEMAT as a department in the State Council of  Educational Research and Training (SCERT);

iii)   SIEMAT as a part of the DPEP state project office;

iv)  SIEMAT as a cell working under the Directorate of School Education;  and

v)   SIEMAT as a part of the State Institute of Public Administration.

           

All of the above arrangements except (v) are now in operation in many states.

 

3.         Why a Separate Institute?

 

            NIEPA has been advocating setting-up of SIEMAT as a separate institute. This is more so in states which are big and where the number of educational administrators to be trained are large. The need for a separate institution stems from various factors.

 

            Firstly, educational planning and management is a less developed area of specialization in India. There are only very few universities or institutions imparting education and training in the area of educational planning and management. On the other hand, there are many departments and institutions in the country which impart education and training for improving pedagogical skills of educational functionaries (teachers). It may be a better idea to have state level arrangement as a separate institute where the concerns can be centered around developing planning and management competencies of educational functionaries.

 

            Secondly, with the progress in our efforts towards decentralisation of educational planning and management, the number of functionaries involved in the planning process has increased. They require professional support and academic orientation to formulate plans and to develop implementation designs. This in itself is a massive effort, especially in states which are large in size. Moreover, planning process has expanded from the district to the sub-district levels. Needless to add, the demand for professional support is also directly related to such expanding base of planning requirements at the local levels. Therefore, only a separate institute with full fledged faculty and departments will be able to provide regular support to planning activities.

 

            Thirdly, an institutional arrangement relating to educational planning and management needs to take into account all levels of education. It may not be desirable and possible to develop separate institutions for various levels of education. Therefore, while visualising an institute, one may have to keep a long-term development of the educational system of the state in mind rather than the short-term demands put by any particular sector of education. The SCERT by definition deals with school level education. If SIEMAT becomes a part or department of SCERT, then there is a possibility that it may deal only with school level education. This perhaps may not be a desirable arrangement in the long run.

 

            Fourthly, funding and support needed to develop such organisational arrangements are now forthcoming. For example, the DPEP provides a chance to setup SIEMAT as a separate institution. This opportunity may be utilised to realise the long-term objective of the state. It may happen that the institute may focus its attention in the initial stages towards planning of elementary levels of education. Even otherwise, since universalisation of elementary education is Constitutional commitment and a fundamental right in India, any institute dealing with the planning and management aspects of education needs to necessarily focus its attention on the compulsory levels of education However, this immediate requirement need not be the only basis to setup an Institute. Therefore, even when funds from the DPEP are available and even when many of the Institute's activities in the short-run may be related to primary levels of education, it is very necessary and important to keep the vision and mission of the institute focused on all levels of education.

 

            Fifthly, "the immediate demand for setting up such an Institute, as mentioned above, comes from the DPEP; the funding support, too is provided by the DPEP. However, it may not be a desirable proposition to setup the institute strictly within the framework of the DPEP. This is very important because DPEP is envisaged in a "project mode". An institute to undertake research and impart training in educational planning and administration may not be viewed in a project mode. Such an institutional framework needs to be continued even after the project period and therefore, the commitment of the state governments to continue with these institutional arrangements even when the now available external funding support dries away is very important. From this point of view also, it may not be a desirable idea to have the institute as part of the DPEP state project office.

 

            Sixthly, SIEMAT is an academic institution and any academic institution requires an element of autonomy in its operation to develop it into a professional institution. Keeping this institute as part of the Directorate of Education may imply that it becomes a part of the administrative arrangement rather than an academic support system. Unless sufficient autonomy is given to these units from the very beginning, there is a possibility that the very purpose of setting up of these institutions may be lost.

 

            There are strong grounds for setting up SIEMAT as a separate institute. However, it is left to the state governments to decide on the nature of organisational arrangements to be created at the state level. The argument is only confined to the fact that there is a need to have some organisational arrangement at the state level to undertake the responsibilities of capacity development in the area of educational planning and management on a sustained basis and the DPEP provides a good opportunity to realise this objective.

 

4.         On Structure and Functions of the Institute

 

            The organisational structure of the SIEMAT may be related to its expected role. The specific requirements may vary from state to state. Therefore, it may be a better idea not to have a blueprint of the institute developed at the central level. Each state government may develop proposals to setup the institution and evolve organisational structures, taking into consideration the specific requirements of the state.

 

            Some of the expected functions of the institute may be as follows :

 

i)       Support to policy planning at the state level. This can be facilitated through providing an advisory supportive role to the state governments through conducting research in areas of concern for policy making and implementation at the state level and organizing orientation programmes for senior level educational administrators at the state level. For example, issues like evolving norms for setting-up of educational institutions, norms for providing infrastructural facilities in educational institutions, norms regarding recruitment and posting of teachers, norms regarding performance of educational institutions etc. may become an area of concern of the Institute.

ii)      The institute may conduct research studies on various aspects including evaluation research of various programmes initiated by the State government to assess the relative effectiveness of various schemes, including the incentive schemes.

iii)      Organising training programmes, especially for educational functionaries at the district and sub-district levels on various aspects related to educational planning and management and organising seminars on areas of concern.

iv)     Developing local level capacities for undertaking school mapping exercises, micro-planning activities and facilitating participatory process of educational planning and management in association with lower level administrative and academic bodies.

v)      Improving competencies of the supervisory staff to improve the efficiency of the educational institutions and the system as a whole.

vi)     Providing support in handling of data pertaining to various indicators of the educational development on which performance of districts or schools can be assessed.

vii)     Developing competencies for costing of educational plans and mobilization and utilization of resources including preparation of budgets.

viii)    Project planning and implementation including monitoring and evaluation of projects.

ix)     Providing professional guidance to sub-state level institutions dealing with educational planning and management.

 

            In other words, the institute may be playing an advisory and policy support role at the state level, conducting direct training programmes for educational functionaries, indirect training of many of the educational functionaries and conducting research in various aspects related to educational policy and programmes.

            The organisational structure to be developed for an institute like SIEMAT may reflect some of these concerns. Therefore, it is not desirable to suggest the type of departments that institute should have. One of the first SIEMATs established in Uttar Pradesh at Allahbad has five departments. These departments are : (i) Department of Policy and Planning; (ii) Department of Management; (iii) Department of Educational Finance; (iv) Department of Research, Evaluation and, (v) Department of Educational Management and Information System. It is important that the state governments evolve the necessary structure depending on their requirements rather than following any given structure for any state.

 

5.         Who can be the Faculty Members?

 

            In any organisation, the orientation of the faculty members will decide the nature of activities that can be effectively undertaken. It is equally important that the specialisation of the faculty members must match the concerns of the institution. It needs to be emphasised that people with specialization in educational planning and management are rarely available. Therefore, these institutes may not be in a position to recruit people who are adequately trained and experienced in the area of educational planning. However, faculty development programmes and in-house capacity building activities can be initiated in a sustained fashion provided that faculty members are permanent. This is an important dimension of developing an institute. However, the experiences of the existing institutions do not always help facilitating the faculty development programmes for various reasons:

 

            Firstly, in some states the faculty members are drawn from the administrative cadre on a deputation basis who can be called back at any time. These people are educational administrators who may prefer work related to educational administration to academic activities. Moreover, even when capacity is built in individuals it is seldom available in the institute once they return to the parent department. Therefore, the institute may frequently face the problem of not having competent staff in some of the existing academics. In these cases the faculty members of SIEMAT identify themselves with the administrative cadres and many of them are eager to go back to the main-stream  administration than remaining in the institute.

 

            Secondly, in certain situations the faculty members are recruited for short durations, not necessarily from the administration. They are brought on deputation from other institutions or universities and are available only for a limited period.  Even in this case, although they are not called back immediately, they are not in a position to continue in the institute for a long time. Therefore, faculty development programmes are adversely affected.

 

            It may be desirable for these institutions to have a separate cadre of faculty which will eventually be specialised in the area of educational planning and administration. A distinction needs to be made between issues related to educational planning and management and issues related to pedagogical aspects of education. All the states have State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERT) which focuses on pedagogical improvement. SIEMATs are not expected to focus on pedagogical issues. Therefore, pedagogical experts may not be recruited as faculty members in SIEMATs. A more desirable qualification for SIEMAT faculty members may be post-graduates and Doctor level educated people in the area of social sciences with research or working experience in the field of education. This will help them see educational planning from a broader perspective in its inter-relatedness with other sectors of development. Since, specialists in educational planning and management are not readily available, it is important to emphasise the orientation and development of the faculty members once they are recruited and posted in SIEMATs.

 

6.         Focus on Staff Development

 

            The major activity of the Institute will be research and training, apart from policy support which the institute may be providing to decision makers at different levels. However, even this advisory role requires a strong research back-up. Therefore, in the ultimate analysis, research and training become major areas of activity of the institute.

 

            The capacity building in the Institute requires building capacities to undertake training activities and to initiate research studies. There is a close link between research and training which needs to be appreciated in these institutions. The trainees are educational practitioners and the faculty members need not be very familiar with the practice of educational administration. Therefore, it is very important to see that the faculty members understand educational administration from a more objective point of view so that they are in a position to handle quality training programmes to improve the efficiency of educational planners and administrators. For this purpose, research becomes a very necessary and important function of the institute. Action research, field-based studies, case studies, evaluation studies and diagnostic studies to understand the functioning of the system, need to be built into the regular activities of the Institute.

            Capacity building for research activities cannot be organised through short- duration training programmes, although it is possible to train faculty members in a particular research methodology within a short duration. Therefore, based on the theme identified for research, one may have to have close academic interactions with experts in the selected areas working in universities and other research institutions. This may create an initial environment conducive to research activities in SIEMAT. Needless to add, the major form of capacity building in research is learning-by-doing. This can be facilitated only when the institute initiates research studies.

 

            The link between research and training is provided through developing training materials. The training material development should be seen as a serious activity in the SIEMAT, if quality of training programmes is to be improved. The training materials to be developed need to have a research base. Therefore, while developing training materials adequate care need to be taken to ensure that they help in improving professional competencies of the prospective trainees. The training programmes provide an opportunity to try out the training materials before they are finalised as training modules. In this sense, training becomes a learning experience for the faculty members to focus on issues of concern for the educational planners and administrators.

 

            Given the increasing demand, the institute may be forced to organise training programmes during the initial stage itself. Therefore, training programmes may also have to be started along with research activities. In the absence of materials developed, the institute, in the initial stages may rely on training materials developed by other institutions. However, reliance on externally produced training materials may have to be reduced in the long-run. While it is possible to take help from national level institutions, it is more important to develop institutional capacity for these activities.

 

            Most of the training programmes to be organised by the faculty members may be in the area of educational planning and management and therefore, they need to be oriented to educational planning and management issues in the initial stage itself. National institutions like NIEPA can be of help in providing support for faculty development. The NIEPA will be happy to orient the newly recruited faculty members through attachment programmes. The SIEMAT may make use of such avenues to develop competency of the faculty members in educational planning and management.

 

            An equally important aspect of capacity development for the faculty members is development of good library and documentation centre in the institute. Since the area of educational planning and management is not yet well developed, it is very difficult to find useful books at the local level. Therefore, it is important that books in the selected areas are identified, purchased and made available to the faculty members.

 

            Another opportunity is to develop working arrangements with the local level research institutions and universities which are experts in the selected or related areas. Fortunately, India has wide network of institutions and universities from where experts may be drawn into the field of education. Such close interaction with universities and research institutions will provide an encouraging research environment in SIEMATs.

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