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Consolidating small schools without compromising access

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Photo source- Deccan Herald

By- S Giridhar,

There is a history and trajectory which we must remember. Twenty years ago we did not have a school in every village and children had to walk miles to the nearest school. Enrolment in 2001 was just around 70% and more than 40% children dropped out by Class V. Since those days and with the thrust provided by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, we have a school in virtually every habitation. Enrolment for the past few years has reached close to 100%. The Right to Education Act 2009 has also played its part. The dropouts at Class V in 2001 was over 40 % but today, even by Class VIII, dropout has reduced to less than 20%.  At the same time, while enrolment and retention issues have been addressed, the issue of children’s learning remains wickedly unresolved. Even as a number of things have been suggested and tried, there is now a consensus that the way forward is only a long haul — one where the country must invest greatly in teacher education, their continuous development while also understanding their situation and challenges.   

In this context, one of the proposals to ensure better quality schooling is the merging of very small strength schools. It is seen as a means of consolidating scattered resources so that issues of multi-grade teaching are addressed, there are teachers for every class and subject and with an optimum pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) etc. One recognises that very small schools with 10 to 12 children across five classes is unviable; one also knows that an ideal school scenario where we have 130 to 150 children in five classes with five teachers is almost utopian. It is between these two extremes, that one must appreciate, lies the proposal to consolidate schools. To begin with, we must view the proposal of merger of very small strength schools not with the knee-jerk fear that they are ‘shutting down schools’ but as a considered plan of ‘consolidation’. Having said that, any such consolidation must ensure that access is never compromised. It is, after all, only the commitment to ensure access that has enabled enrolment reach close to 100%. One sweeping policy will not fit all contexts in a large, complex and diverse country like ours. If in remote locations, hilly terrain, harsh desert etc., primary school children have to walk three kilometres to a school it will certainly compromise access and deny children their schooling. On the other hand, merging schools that are nearby could be an obviously implementable decision. Therefore consolidation will require individual attention, an appreciation of the local context and the wisdom to know where to consolidate and where not to consolidate.  

If such careful consolidation is done, one can reason that while ensuring access, one could also achieve a better quality of education. At a PTR of say 30:1, with teachers who can teach Math, Science, EVS, language etc. for each class, the quality of learning is bound to improve.

The challenge for the single teacher is immense. She or he may manage the children of ages 6 to 11 across five classes very skilfully, but at the end of the day, it is a very stressful and sub-optimal pedagogical situation. Obviously, even among single teachers, one will find 15 to 20% of them are absolute heroes. They work sincerely without supervision, leveraging the autonomy they have, trying to enrich the learning experience of their students as much as possible. But this is not because of the system, it is just an individual’s answer to his or her own conscience.

There is enough evidence in India and other countries that the quality of education in private schools is not better than in government schools. There is a misconception in the community that certain visible symbols such as shoes, ties, computers, learning English indicate better learning for children. Sometimes a migration to the private school is just the social pressure to match a neighbour even if one’s financial resources are strained. Government schools may often have better iinfrastructure, better-qualified teachers. However, many of the government schools that are doing their job sincerely are not effective in projecting to the parents and the community, their efforts and in demonstrating the learning of the children. If they were to do this, the community would gain a better appreciation and then make informed choices of whether to stay with the government school or migrate. 

At the end of it, the core point is that public education/government schools must be strengthened and supported if we aim to have an equitable society. For more than 50% of India, eking out subsistence livelihoods, government schools are the only road to a better future. Otherwise, we will have only a greater disparity and inequality.

posted Aug 30, 2018 by Gowri Vimalan

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Picture Source: News World India


In a bid to improve the quality of education, the Karnataka government is considering a proposal to make compulsory for state government employees to send their children to government schools rather than private schools.

Primary and Secondary Education minister N Mahesh was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying, “We are considering bringing in a policy on the basis of a report to encourage enrolment in government schools.”

“By making government employees enroll their wards in government schools, we hope to make them stakeholders in the betterment of these schools,” Mahesh added.

In order to implement the proposal the Karnataka government is seeking a legal opinion.

“We have asked for legal opinion to ensure that we do not go against some judgments of the Supreme Court, where it held that state governments cannot dictate the choice of the school of the children. We are looking at ways to overcome this,” Mahesh said.

The move is based on the Kannada Development Authority (KDA) report published in September 2017 that suggested “those who draw a salary from the government have to mandatorily send their children to government schools and not private ones. And there should be a provision to punish those who flout this rule.”

In the month of June, it was proposed in Karnataka to pilot English-medium classes in 1,000 government schools. 

According to a survey during 2011-15, the total enrolment in government schools fell by 11.2 million, whereas in private, it rose by 16 million.

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Photo Credits: TOI

BENGALURU: It's common for politicians to do nothing but crib about the dwindling number of students in government schools. But a politician-official partnership in Hubballi-Dharwad has managed to arrest this negative trend with a simple strategy: starting pre-primary (kindergarten) classes in government schools.
The move has yielded positive results as the student intake in Dharwad Urban division has increased by 2,247 students in 61 government schools between 2015-16 and 2017-18. Inspired by the outcome, the government is contemplating starting kindergarten classes in all government schools across the state next year. The finance department is currently evaluating the proposal.

MLA, Hubbali-Dharwad (West), Arvind Chandrakant Bellad, whose brainchild it was to start kindergarten classes in government schools, said: "We realized that not many parents were putting their kids in government schools because the entry-level age for first standard is five years and ten months. So, parents preferred to send their kids, who have attained three years and ten months and out of playschool, to lower kindergarten (LKG) in private schools. The usual tendency among parents is to continue their kids in private schools and, hence, the number of kids in government schools was low. We decided to bridge the gap between playschool and first standard by commencing kindergarten classes in government schools."

The move was not an easy one, given the legal hurdles and financial implications involved. Bellad started with the government school at Kelageri village near Dharwad by taking members of the school development and monitoring committee (SDMC) and local education department officials into confidence."We decided to pool in resources and rope in teachers from outside for kindergarten classes. It worked and the number of admissions gradually shot up. The same model was replicated in 36 out of the 63 schools in 201415. It was extended to 40 schools in 2015-16 and 61 schools in 2017-18."

The education department officials too joined hands by redeploying staff."Some schools had teachers who had little work and some had physical training teachers with less work load. Such teachers were engaged in kindergarten. Of course, they were sensitized about the needs of kids and the larger goal of getting and retaining more students in government schools. We also got teachers from outside by paying them a monthly honorarium of Rs 3,000-4,000," said Bellad. What has made these kindergarten popular among parents is the fact that emphasis is being laid on teaching English along with Kannada.

Education department officials recently briefed primary education minister Tanveer Sait about the initiative and he was quite appreciative of it

By Rakesh Prakash

+1 vote

BENGALURU: While modern educationalists  believe that extra-curricular activities play an important role in moulding GenNext  and sports administrators  dream of producing  world class talent,, the situation on the ground is rather dismal.
As per the latest government data, only five of the 778 elementary and secondary government schools in the Bengaluru educational division have playgrounds. Primary and secondary education minister Tanveer Sait shared it in the legislative council on March 24 to a question raised by Ganesh Karnik (BJP). 

According to the state's sports policy, at least 1 acre for a primary school and 2.5 acres for an upper primary school should be available for use as playgrounds. If playgrounds are not available, the Karnataka Knowledge Commission said schools should allocate space for common playfields and playgrounds within 2kms.

Irrespective of the correct number, the fact remains that many government schools do not have playgrounds. In most such schools, students don't engage in outdoor games or physical training due to lack of playgrounds.  
The unwritten rule, according to official sources, is that schools without playgrounds must focus on indoor games and theoretical aspects of sports. "The physical education subject, compulsory in schools, is 50 per cent theory and 50 per cent physical activity. In the indoor games category, most schools without playground teach yoga and simple exercises for healthy living,'' said an official.  

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              SHOWING THE WAY: Mallesh D Harivan gives his students a lesson in plant life during a class in Gadag recently

Photo Source: Times Of India



When Mallesh D Harivan, a teacher, joined the Government Lower Primary School in Adavisomapur, a remote tribal hamlet in Gadag, in 2003, there were only 68 students on the rolls. The school — a Class 1 to Class 5 institution — consisted of just two classrooms and Harivan was determined to increase the number of students on roll as well as to improve the facilities in the school.

Harivan had spent five years teaching in Savanur before moving to Adavisomapur and that experience came in handy. Now, the school has 103 students on its rolls and Harivan had added three more classrooms. The government has recognized his efforts and will confer the best teacher award on him at a ceremony in Bengaluru on Wednesday.

“In this tanda (hamlet), parents of students migrate to other places in search of jobs,” Harivan, 49, told TOI. “Their children would accompany them. With the help of other teachers, I began visiting each house in the tanda to persuade parents to send their wards to school. The response was slow, but steady.”

With the numbers increasing, Harivan decided to expand. He collected Rs 3.5 lakh in donations from friends and acquaintances and built three classrooms. To promote extra-curricular activity, he started a ‘no-bag day’ on every Saturday. Every two weeks, students are taken to the library to encourage them to read.

“Now that I’m in-charge of this school, I will also teach Kannada in very unique way,” Harivan said.

Shankar Hugar, senior lecturer, District Institute of Education and Training, Gadag, said, “Thanks to Harivan’s hard work, many dropouts have re-joined school. Together with government funds, he also collected donations people around to help poor students get notebooks and shoes. He has brought innovative teaching methods to this small school.”

He pays for classroom activities

For the past 13 years, CS Sathish, a teacher at Government Lower Primary School, Mullur, Kodagu, sets aside a portion of his salary every month for what he calls “classroom activities”. He believes his students will learn what they are taught far more quickly through this initiative. He has created a number of science modules on solar energy for example. Recipient of the district-level best teacher award last year, Satish’s teaching career began in Bagalkot. “I teach all subjects,” he said. “Every month, I save some money for classroom activities. I believe in using creative modules to help students learn whatever I teach quickly.”

Awards for teachers

The state government will present 20 primary school, 10 high school and a special high school teacher with Best Teacher awards for the year 2018-19 during Teachers’ Day celebrations at the Banquet Hall, Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Wednesday. Chief minister HD Kumaraswamy will present the awards.

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               A school in Chikkaballapura district in dilapidated condition. - B H Shivakumar

Photo Source: Deccan Herald

By: Reshma Ravishanker, DH News Service

At a time when shutting down schools seems to be an option that the government is contemplating to tackle the issue of decline in enrolment into government schools, education experts believe that finding alternative solutions is the need of the hour.

From having the educated in the locality assist the existing teachers to provide better incentives, several ground-level challenges need to be addressed. Experts believe it is in the same ground where the problem is breeding that the solution could bepicked up from. Involving community efficiently and empowering local youth to teach in government schools could be tentative solutions to addressing the problem of single teachers in schools, believe experts. Nagasimha G Rao, a child rights activist from Bengaluru who has been battling the cause of Right to Education (RTE), sees this from the perspective of a teacher. “When appointments are made, not all posts in rural areas are filled. This could be one of the primary reasons for posts to remain vacant,” he says.  He attributes the vacancies to a few persistent issues. “Some teachers when the postings are made realise that they can’t travel to remote areas. Some of them do not report to work at all due to this. In such places, guest teachers are appointed and the school is run,” he adds. 

In other places, the number of enrolments into schools itself is low. In such places, the government finds no need to appoint additional teachers, he says.

“As per the Right to Education norms, the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) ought to be 30:1. When there are 20 students in a school, one teacher would suffice if one were to go by this norm,” he says adding that this, however, would only do injustice to children. “Even as the PTR is met in most schools the difference arises as a single teacher is expected to teach students from multiple classes simultaneously. She is not only teaching different age groups of students but also different subjects, which as per the RTE act ought to be taught by subject teachers. Locals who are well-read and youth from the same village can be empowered to teach. The School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC) has to identify them. If they are given good incentives and certificates, they will be motivated to come and teach these children.” 

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