Tamil Nadu’s government schools are facing severe infrastructure and teacher shortages following a massive student enrollment following the Covid-19 pandemic.
State government schools that have been eyeing imminent closure due to student shortages were in for a pleasant surprise after the pandemic as students transitioned from private schools to government.
Sources in the school education department of Tamil Nadu told IANS that the number of students in government schools for students from grades 2 to 12 has increased by 6 lakh.
While parents are glad they don’t have to rush around paying the high fees that private schools are squeezing them out of, the high enrollment rate in government schools has taken a toll on both infrastructure and teacher strength.
RK Ravishankar, a small business man in Chennai, told IANS: “My son is studying in class 6 and I transferred him from a private school where I had to pay a huge fee. Although there is no fee now, I am concerned whether the education given to him is in line with what he got in private school. Government is government and we don’t know how motivated the teachers are to do their best.”
With enrollment increasing, each school has more than 300 to 400 students, leading to an increase of about 30 percent of students in each class.
With the increase in the number of students, teachers are finding it difficult to teach more than 60 students in a class that previously only had 40.
At a government school in Tamil Nadu, students were taught under a tree due to lack of space.
Speaking to IANS, M. Muthupillai, President of the Association of Directors and Headmasters of TN High School and Higher Secondary School, said: “You know, only 60 percent of government schools in Tamil Nadu have good infrastructure. Moreover, teachers are overloaded and all administrative work is done by the teachers.”
He also said that every school should have a non-teaching staff to carry out administrative work.
Teachers’ union leaders also suggested that the government should improve the teacher-pupil ratio from the current 30:1 in primary education to 18:1.
However, there is a big gap between teaching private schools and government schools.
In English for grade 10, private students scored an average of 57 percent, while government students only scored 35 percent.
Private school boards have been unfazed by the massive enrollment from private schools to government schools.
A private school owner in Madurai told IANS that the parents had to move their children to government schools because they had no option.
However, several parents are now considering returning their children to private schools. The reason is mainly the lack of infrastructure and the lack of staff.
Educators believe that students continuing in government schools of Tamil Nadu will benefit greatly as the government has now introduced a horizontal reservation of 7.5 percent for professional courses for students of government schools in Tamil Nadu. This has resulted in several students from poor backgrounds coming under the merit quota to the state’s medical colleges.
The Tamil School Education Department has received Rs 100 crore in the state budget for improving hygiene in government schools. 7000 crore is allocated to develop the school infrastructure under the development program of Perasiriyar Anbhazhagan School.
State school teachers believe that more and more students will attend state schools if the government meets direct infrastructure requirements, including proper seating for children.
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