While there is much enthusiasm over the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutional validity of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, a lot more sensitisation seems necessary when it comes to the children studying in reputable schools across the city.
Though many feel in principle, this is a commendable step that will counter the ‘poor literacy rates and the socio-economic divide' that they study about, they are conflicted and confused when it comes to the implementation part. Most of them are grappling with the idea of ‘them' joining their schools and its implications.
Navneet Bhattad, a student of Lady Andal Venkatasubba Rao School feels students and teachers will have to adapt considerably, and that it would increase the burden on the teachers. “The communication gap will fail us all. Sometimes, teachers would have to explain everything again and again. Why should I go to school to learn things I already know?” he asks.
Will they have extra classes, extra benches and facilities? How will my school allocate extra budget for them and will his parents be able to afford the tuition I go to? – are concerns that bother him. “Shouldn't the government empower government schools or encourage livelihoods, instead of mandating that everyone goes to school,” he wonders.
There are other apprehensions too. A. Narayan, of P.S. Senior Secondary School, says: “Our school has a certain culture and our parents have sent us here expecting children from similar backgrounds. It is a good thing that we will get exposed to people from different backgrounds, but we might not turn out the way our parents want us to.” For instance, he explains, “We perform Sandhya Vandanam at homes; we don't bring non vegetarian food to school. Now we will have to face the world right away.”
Kaustub Narendran of P.S.B.B. Senior Secondary School (K.K. Nagar) feels there might be issues of adjustment in the beginning but “it will help both sections to know each others' life styles and relate to them effectively.” “But now that everything is getting equalised, will the government do away with reservations in colleges?” he asks.
Kaushik Swaminathan of Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School is happy with the Act but not with the implementation. “Ideally, they should have a year of training in English and basic mathematics so that they are not left out in the class room. If the quality of education gets diluted, the existing students will lose out.” “I think the private schools can do their bit by sending their teachers to train teachers in government schools, instead of being forced to admit children. This way, both sides will be benefited and no one will feel left out,” he feels.
Writer and social historian V. Geetha feels the thinking is a result of most reputed schools having a uniform profile, filled with students from upper-caste, upper class backgrounds that has ghettoised the education sector. “Children just learn and pick up what is around them. And, we really don't have a mixed learning environment in most schools.” She is hopeful though, at least about the children. “They learn, and finally figure out ways to get along with each other. It is the school management and teachers who need to be sensitised the most,” she says.
However, there are some children, who feel, implementation of the Act is for the better. For instance, K.J. Bhagavathi Sampath, a Don Bosco student, feels it would enable students to not only get to study languages and subjects together but also engage in sports activities.
“We have mixed age classrooms in our school. Now, we will have people from mixed backgrounds too,” says Srinidhi Madhusudhan, a student of Abacus Montessori School. “We keep complaining that they don't know. This is one way we bridge the gap and while they learn from us, we might end up learning more from them,” she adds.
Keywords: Free and Compulsory Education Act