The report of the “Commission on Structural Upgradation and Reorganisation of School Education”, headed by R. Govinda, besides recommending restructuring Class 1 to Class 12 into a new model of 5+3+2+2 for primary, higher primary, secondary and higher secondary classes, has also proposed merger of schools which have enrolment of less than 30 in Classes 6 and 7.
Well-known educationist Anil Sadgopal, who has been at the helm of a nationwide campaign on the Right to Education (RTE) Act, feels that the suggestion on “merger” is “retrograde and exposes larger agenda of opening education to the dictates of the market rather than adhering to the promise of the Constitution.”
Prof. Sadgopal argues that suggesting merger (which is an euphemism for closure of an existing school) amounts to skirting more important questions on commercialisation of education.
“It is important to ask why enrolments are low or what mechanism can be developed to control fleecing by private educational institutions,” he says and adds that closure of government schools under any excuse will only further “open gates for corporate capital and religious bodies to enter the education market”.
According to Prof. Sadgopal, several key educational initiatives being funded by agencies such as the World Bank and the increasing thrust on privatisation is not a coincidence.
Prof. Sadgopal says that the committee’s justification for merger that it allows for “optimal utilisation of available resources” amounts to “speaking in the language of the market rather than one of entitlements”.
The panel’s suggestion that schools having 30 or lesser students in Classes 6 and 7 (there are 6,712 such schools) be merged with nearby schools comes on the heels of the government’s decision earlier to merge schools with less than 10 students, which has in the past faced resistance from educational activists.
“We also need to ask what happens to girl students or a person who has a disability when a school in the neighbourhood is closed for whatever reason,” says Prof. Sadgopal.
“I wish the committee had talked about reorganisation of school education more in terms of how to retreat from the path of privatisation,” he says.
However, Prof. Sadgopal feels that inclusion of Class 8 in the primary category, recommended by the committee, is “reasonable and rational” and was long overdue.
“This was proposed in 1966 by the Kothari Commission on School Education. The Karnataka Government should have made this transition then,” he says.
(The report of the commission, headed by R. Govinda, can be accessed on ssakarnataka.gov.in and people can post their suggestions.)