A combination of two factors, ‘Samacheer Kalvi’ and high fee structure in matriculation schools, seem to be working in favour of government and aided schools against the backdrop of the debilitating impact of COVID-19 on the economy, according to school heads who say they are getting lots of enquiries from parents in lower-middle class families for seats in English medium sections.
Families where the breadwinners have lost jobs due to the pandemic and have been necessitated to relocate to their native villages are more inclined towards admitting their wards in the nearest government schools, the school heads say.
Private schools, in general, collect more fee than the extent fixed by the Committee headed by a reired High Court Judge, parents complain. “I felt it was prudent to shift my children to a government school near my village since the private schools are anticipating a further upward revision of fee,” Kumaresan, who had to relocate to his village after losing his job in a fabrication unit in Thuvakudi, said, adding that in any case, there was no point staying in the town after losing the job.
According to Rajamanickam, a headmaster of a government higher secondary school, students enrolled in English medium sections also enjoy the benefit of government’s welfare schemes: nutritious noon meal, textbooks, notebooks, laptop, uniform, footwear, school bag, crayons, colour pencils, geometry box, atlas, shoes, socks, bus pass and bicycles. There is a growing realisation among parents, particularly those in the lower-middle class category, that the quality of education in government schools is far better, he says.
While the School Education Department’s policy note for 2020-21 states that the government has appointed sufficient number of teachers in government schools to ensure a comfortable Pupil Teacher Ratio - one teacher for every 30 students - a section of school heads seeks to point out that the sanction of teaching posts has to be increased in view of the rise in workload when English medium sections are started. As such, there are no separate teaching vacancies for English-medium sections, a senior official said.
Though the strength of teachers is not an issue during the lockdown period, the shortage will be felt when the in-person classes resume, the school heads say.
As per official information, there has been a continuous increase in enrolment of children in the English medium sections that were introduced during 2012-13 factoring in the parental aspirations. During 2019-20 alone, about 7.1 lakh children were enrolled in the English medium sections, the policy note states.