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No New Admissions in Class I: The Sorry State of 534 Karnataka Schools

The rooms meant for class I in 534 government-run schools in Karnataka remained locked throughout last academic year. The reason? There has not been even one admission for class I in those schools last year. Apart from that, only 20 students joined from classes I to VII in 9,503 schools in the state. The situation is said to be worse this year.

The officials fear that they will have to shut down the schools if the situation continues. 146 schools in the state have already been closed or merged in the past years, reducing the total number of schools to 48,909 in 2014-15.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan officials cite the reasons for lack of admission in class I as Urbanization, the state’s mother-tongue policy, and implementation of RTE Act. “Most parents prefer living in urban areas and want their children to study in English-medium schools. Besides, government schools have a poor image,” they said.

K Anand, DPI director (primary education) says that parents prefer private schools. Parents consider admitting their children to government schools only if they fail to get an RTE seat in private school.

The department is now thinking of changing the RTE rules. “Some states first ensure children are admitted to government schools. Only when this is not possible, the state sets aside seats in private schools under the RTE Act. We should, perhaps, implement something like this here,” an official said.

ES Ramamurthy of Shikshana Trust believes that the Government is encouraging the false belief that private schools are better than government schools through the RTE scheme. “By saying 25% is reserved for you in private schools, they are telling parents this is what you should aspire for and we will help you get it,” he said.

“Instead, the government should work to improve the image of their schools. We need to bring the quality of education on par with that in Finland and Belgium, where the concept of private schools does not exist for a child under 15 years. To do so, we need to decentralize schools and set correct goals. Officials in Vidhana Soudha set goals for teachers – they decide what chapter should be taught on what day and when the syllabus should be completed,” Ramamurthy said.

Some educationists say that the goal of the teachers these days is just to complete the syllabus than making the students understand the concepts or preparing them to be fluent in a language. This could also be a reason for parents not admitting their kids to government schools. “Set different goals for teachers and ensure the community is closely involved in what is happening in the school. Only then teachers are held accountable, and everyone participates in ensuring the child’s growth. That is the way forward for improving standards in government schools,” one of them said.

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