Reimagining the idea of public schooling
Last year, during enrolment drive, which off late has become a sort of annual ritual, we undertook a massive door to door campaign to woo the public and encourage them to admit their kids in the nearest govt schools. Not many were convinced.
At some places our mere presence was responded with an uncanny smirk. It seemed as if the people have lost the confidence on public schools, particularly elementary schools. And the most common refrain among the general public is that none of the Govt teachers enrol their own kids in the schools they teach in, and draw huge salaries from.
This is quite bizarre given that govt has hugely invested in the educational sector by recruiting a large number of young and qualified people and at the same time opening hundreds of schools under the Sarva Shikhsa Abhiyan scheme.
There is a Govt school after every kilometre here, and yet the public seems so disinterested and demotivated. Parents with modest income do everything possible to manage the financial resources and ensure that their kids study in a private school. It is the marginalized community that may be out of their sheer helplessness or lack of resources get their kids to study in public schools.
We boast of having the most qualified human resource in our govt schools, and from mid day meals ,uniforms textbooks everything being free. Why is that our schools are failing our society and look so deeply uninspiring? There are many inherent causes for this mess and solutions aren’t so impossible if there is a genuine will to act.
Too many schools
One of the main reasons that Govt schools are facing dwindling enrolment year after year is mushrooming of schools. Granted that at some point of time we needed primary /middle schools almost every mile as envisaged by SSA scheme in its effort to ensure universalisation of elementary education (UEE), but over the years it has increasingly become evident that it is almost impossible to maintain the bare minimum enrolment and provide state of the art infrastructure in these schools due to paucity of funds. To run these institutions the nearest well- established High Schools were literally plundered by divesting their elementary rolls for newly established SSA schools. Many of these schools were established with utter disregard to feasibility, and were opened just for the sake of it. A good percentage of these schools at present are either lying abandoned or running as functionally defunct entities or have been leased to other departments. There was a time govt high schools were well populated with students and were institutions of pride in villages and towns. Today they seem to be hollowed out and haunted. Time has come to turn the clock back and an effort to consolidate and economise our resources is earnestly needed. We need to resurrect our High Schools back to their lost glory. These schools aren’t helping the department and clubbing of these schools with nearest high schools will also ensure rationalisation of staff and Grade II teachers who have played a stellar role; they will also get a chance to seek transfers within the zone in these High schools. Many of these teachers are highly qualified and their services can be utilised to teach secondary and high secondary classes.
Over the years young people from reputed universities have got recruited through SSB in the department. To maintain competitive spirit in these teachers, the seniority-based promotion to the next higher scale should be done away with. If the public service commission recruits lecturers every year, the in-service teachers can be incentivised by giving them marks based on their service records, instead of summarily promoting them purely on the number of years spent in the department and confirming their promotions decades later. It will attract new talent, maintain the academic vigour in teachers and the unemployed youth; society at large will not be so hostile towards Govt schools.
The teaching learning infrastructure in Govt schools is inadequate and outdated to say the least. And we owe it to our poor kids to cater their educational needs with latest methodologies in teaching and ensure their schooling in our institutions remains interesting and enriching. Audio visual aids, smart classrooms, updated curriculum, and interactive classrooms can help our schools to remain relevant and competitive. It should be our endeavour to provide same facilities and competitive academic ambience to our enrolled students that is prevalent in leading private institutions. Marginalized students shouldn’t feel at disadvantageous end while studying in our schools, which at present have rudimentary infrastructure.
Education in private schools has become a costly affair for a vast majority of people here, who have modest earnings. There is a common disgust among the public towards Govt schools at the moment, but somewhere in the heart of hearts a great yearning about public schools to assert themselves is also palpable. It provides Govt schools a much needed opportunity to invest its efforts, improvise and build the momentum in their favour. We need to rebuild the interface with the public, seek their opinion understand their needs reinvent and remodel our schools. It is doable and a sincere effort in reimagining the idea of public schooling will help us in finding answers to the questions that everybody is seeking from us.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.