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Decline of government schools

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Jyotirmoy Sarma

(The author can be reached at [email protected] and phone: 8638382413)

All over the world in every field of life, the private sector has its own importance. In a developing country like India, the private sector is playing a major role in promoting education. Private schools are usually run on commercial basis. The government schools as per the RTE Act of 2009, are providing free education to children between 6-14 years age group. Not only that, they also provide free uniform, free textbook and mid-day meal to attract students to come to school. Surprisingly, in the present day context, students are opting out of India’s government schools and migrating to private schools in large numbers.

According to a new study, between 2010-11 and 2015-16, student enrolment in government schools across 20 Indian states fell by 13 million, while private schools acquired 17.5 million new students. Now, the question that arises is what are the factors that impact decisions of the parents to send their children to private schools?

Just because we have schools doesn’t mean we have education. Inclusive and good quality education is the foundation of education, which makes the students capable to face the outside world with confidence. Parents want the best for their children, and one way they try to achieve that is by sending their kids to private schools. Government schools lack in terms of ‘quality education’ — such is the opinion growing among parents and guardians.

According to Mahatma Gandhi, ‘education means all round drawing out of the best in child and man — in body, mind and spirit’. Private schools engage children in more extracurricular activities and inter-school competitions, impart social and communication skills, thus improving their ‘personality’. Apart from a few good exceptions, these activities are less or absent in government schools.

Education is considered as one of the best investments. It is the key to generation of income and consequently to economic growth. Vocational education is given more importance in private schools as compared to government schools. Vocational education helps students realize their potentialities and helps them in the long run to earn in this highly competitive world. Therefore, spending a huge amount of money in private schools is considered as an investment in one’s children.

Guidance and counseling programmes help learners to improve their academic performance and pursue the right type of education. In private schools, long-term planning begins early. Counselors in the school meet students to discuss their interests and to develop personalized education plans. Most private schools have at least one counselor available for students every day during school time. But, there are only 213 of them for over 1,100 government schools that cater to over 15.5 lakh students.

Infrastructure plays a budding role in creating a favourable environment for a child’s growth. Sending children to government schools where the building looks run down and the playground urgently needs repair, can never create a feeling of satisfaction in parents. Well, even children won’t feel satisfied in a place that lacks physical comfort and other basic facilities like libraries, laboratories, hygienic toilets, etc. At private schools, we find incredible resources to support student’s learning in the classroom, playground, laboratory, activity centres and beyond.

Discipline turns ability into achievement. Private schools have reputations for maintaining high standards for discipline, which is lacking in most government schools. A good student-teacher ratio in private schools enables the teachers to provide individual attention to students.

Parental Involvement is the key to the success of a student. Private schools lay importance on the involvement of parents in the education of their children. They notify parents about all the school programmes and report on their child’s progress. They describe and explain to the parents the curriculum, tests used to measure the student’s progress and the expected student outcome. Time to time parent-teacher meeting is conducted. And not only that, teachers also pay home-visits if required. No such kind of parental involvement with the teaching staff is seen in most government schools.

We need to embrace technology to make learning more engaging. Because when students are engaged and they are interested, that’s where learning takes place. Private schools lay emphasis on technical education like in information and communication technology (ICT), use of audio-visual aids and many more. Government schools lag behind in providing such education to students.

Hence, governments need to take steps to attract students. Appropriately qualified and experienced staff members who can manage proper and hygienic mid-day meals, toilets and the surrounding classroom environment should be appointed. The position of Principal should be given to a capable and responsible person. Regular inspection should be done in such schools. Proper infrastructure and more opportunities should be provided to the students. All the factors that promote the student’s learning should be given due importance. The latest teaching methods should be quickly and readily adopted.

Let us not forget that in neighboring country Bhutan, the best students compete to get into government schools. Why? Because following the example set by the King of Bhutan, the ministers and senior bureaucrats, indeed all high and mighty, send their wards to government schools as part of a deliberate policy. This has ensured that funds are no constraint for development of such schools, and that they have the best resources, both human and physical. This is an example that can be relevant to Assam as well, where government schools are languishing badly.