CUDDALORE: For an average youth fresh out of college, a government job figures top on the list of possible employment avenues, as the emoluments and the cushioning it provides against the economic fluctuations are unsurpassed. But, when it comes to laying the foundation for an academic career in pursuit of the dream job, even a mention of government school is looked down upon. If a government job is held in so high a regard, why do parents give a wide berth to State-run schools while sifting through education options?
The answer lies in a prejudice deeply-ingrained in the minds of the parents that government schools are not up to the scratch, says Senguttuvan, the headmaster of Panchayat Union Primary School at Anandakudi in Cuddalore. “Though we approached many guardians, elaborating the sea of change the government schools have underwent over the years, they were reluctant to admit their wards to State-run institutions, as they believed private schools were better,” he says.
With the academic season off to a start, teachers in the district have been scouting for prospective students for primary schools, but to no avail. Their door-to-door campaigns seem to be doing little to tilt the balance in the favour of government schools. The reason is both socio-economic and psychological, feels Senguttuvan. “In the minds of many parents, fees is directly proportional to the quality of education – more the fees, better the quality. Most give thumbs down to the government schools for the simple reason that education is imparted free of cost,” he says.
With some parents even availing of loans at hefty interest rates to send their wards to private schools, do the institutions actually deliver? Karikalan, a teacher at Government Middle School at Karkudal in Cuddalore, says no. “When financial constraints force the parents to admit their children to government schools in the middle of an academic year, the hype surrounding private schools fizzle out. The performance of most of such students is below par, with many unable to write either Tamil or English,” he adds.
While a lot needs to be done to effect a change in the mindset, some teachers are leading by example. A baby step in this direction has been taken by Tamil Selvi, the headmistress of Panchayat Union Primary School at Ko Athanur. She had the walls of the school painted with colourful drawings interspersed with Thirukkural couplets and the solar system. She even roped in film director and actor Samuthrakani to address a rally in the village in April-end to attract more children.
If Tamil Selvi chose colours, Vasanth, a tech-savvy teacher at government school in Keezhpalayur, transformed the dreary classrooms into smart ones by getting an air conditioner and LCD projector. His efforts won him the Cuddalore Collector’s appreciation.
No story of teachers going out of their way to draw students to government schools can be complete without a mention of R Kannaiyah, the headmaster of a government elementary school in Pudukkottai district. When he came at the helm of Veeramangalam Elementary School near Aranthangi, there were only 37 students from classes I to V. After racking his brain to come up with a concrete plan to curb the dropout rate while increasing the intake at the same time, he struck upon an idea that went on to transform the school. He found out that most of the parents wanted to admit their children to Kindergarten by the time they turned three. As the school lacked the KG sections, the parents were forced to choose private nursery schools.
Kannaiyah began with taking the children coming to the Anganwadi on the school premises under his wings. By imparting basic education to the toddlers, he ensured that they joined the school in standard I once they were five. “Through this method, we had 11 new admissions in 2013-14 and 15 by 2014-15. This year, we have admitted 12 kids so far,” he says.
With inputs from S Kumaresan @ Pudukkottai & S Senthil Kumar @ Coimbatore
Many parents feel fees is directly proportional to the quality of education. Most give thumbs down to the govt schools for the simple reason that education is imparted free of cost Senguttuvan, headmaster