Merger of Tamil Nadu government elementary schools sparks concern over school closures

Tamil Nadu government school teachers fear that this is the first step towards closure of elementary schools with poor enrollment.

Published: 22nd August 2019 04:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd August 2019 04:38 AM   |  A+A-

Students in a government school.

For representational purposes ( File Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Elementary classes in government schools within the same compound as middle, high or higher secondary schools, will be monitored directly by the management of the higher classes, according to an order issued by the school education department on Tuesday.

While this would mean these elementary schools can access the resources provided for the higher classes, government school teachers and activists fear that is the first step towards the merger of low strength schools, which may lead to shutting down of elementary schools with low enrollment.

Over the last two years, the State government has been contemplating merging of "sub-optimal" schools, with less enrollment, with neighbouring schools having higher classes. This has received a lot of criticism from activists who say that most schools that have poor enrollment are situated in remote areas -situated within 1km of settlements- as required by the Right to Education Act. Elementary school teachers and activists believe that this order weakens the role of the elementary school administrator and facilitates shutting down of such "sub-optimal" schools.

The order claims that schools monitored by the school education department have both adequate faculty and infrastructure such as playgrounds and labs, while many schools monitored by the department of elementary education are stagnated in growth as they are run only by two teachers and do not have enough facilities for students.

Through this order, the administrators of the higher classes, can directly monitor the elementary schools, provide access to their infrastructure and send graduate and post-graduate teachers for substitution when elementary school teachers are absent.

However, the leader of Tamil Nadu Government Teachers Association PK Ilamaran says that this will remove the authority of the elementary school headmasters who are trained specifically to handle the psychology and pedagogy of children in that age group. "Once the role of the elementary head diminishes, they will be thrown out from their post. So even if they close down those classes, there will be nobody to question the government," he charged.

He further said that the government is trying to reduce the manpower in elementary education by allowing higher class teachers to substitute for primary school teachers.

Further, this will increase the stress of higher class teachers and administrators, according to the headmaster of a higher secondary school in Chennai. "Higher secondary schools have a different agenda. Here, the goal is academics. Students have to clear the board exams," he said suggesting that headmasters will not be able to focus on elementary school students.

When Express asked school education director S Kannappan if the order would affect isolated elementary schools that are not situated in the same compound as higher classes, he said, "exclusive elementary schools will not be affected by this order. However, if a school has all classes from LKG till class 12, the primary school will have better access to facilities compared to isolated schools."

S Karuppasamy, the director of elementary education told Express that at this point, the order will not affect any teacher or headmaster posting.


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