CHENNAI: Enthused by the apparent success of the models practised in other big city Corporations like Mumbai and Ahmedabad, the Chennai Corporation is calling for private educational partners to come on board to help stem the declining number of students in its schools.
Speaking to City Express, senior officials commented that the strategy was in line with the announcements made in the 2014-15 budget proposal, and hastened to add that this initiative should not be misconstrued as privatisation of public schools, but as an attempt by the civic body to compete with the private schools.
“The partners will be brought on board to help address specific issues. For instance, one of the factors behind parents opting private schools over us is because of the desire to see their ward improve his/her English language skills. Although, we impart English language training, it is not proving enough. That is where the private partners come in as they can help improve the quality,” said a senior official.
According to officials, private schools that cater to the lower middle class are the reason behind the alarming drop in student strength in its schools. Such measures to improve and innovate would catch the attention of the parents, they added.
The civic body is also contemplating to introduce more kindergarten schools in order to increase the number of students who would opt to remain in the system and continue to receive their education from the Corporation-run primary and secondary schools. “We have about 60 kindergarten schools in the city which are doing so well that we have had to add sections to the classes. Perhaps, by adding kindergarten divisions to more of our schools, we can improve the numbers in our primary and secondary school divisions, where the problem of low strength persists,” said another senior official.
At the secondary school level, the authorities are facing one of the most important issues — dropouts.
Officials admitted that counselling alone was not proving to be enough. “Most of the dropouts happen between classes six and eight. We have so far come up short in assessing the reasons behind the issue,” said an official. Lowering strength at its schools, said an official, was also the direct effect of slum evictions.
Most of the schools that stutter from declining strength were dependent on the children of these evicted slum dwellers. When these schools became non-functional without children in them, the Corporation’s Health Department was permitted to take over a few of them and convert them into night shelters for the homeless.
“The Health Department has initiated the transformation of schools to shelters at 12 locations as per a resolution adopted in the last council,” an official said.