At the height of the COVID-19 recession, 36-year-old Venkateswaralu, a marketing executive of a private firm, took a Transfer certificate (TC) for his son studying in a corporate school and joined him in a state-run school. The financial crunch during the pandemic and the impressive series of initiatives the State government took to improve the quality of education in its schools persuaded him to take the decision.
Thousands of other parents also made such a move during the COVID-19 lockdown period because of the financial crisis of the time when they couldn’t afford to pay even 60% of the school fees demanded by the private schools, which switched from classroom teaching to online classes then.
But, the glory of the state-run schools has been limited to only two years, with parents preferring private schools to government schools for their children now.
According to Education department sources, approximately 5,000 students from more than 400 state-run primary schools have migrated to private schools in Prakasam alone.
While the improved financial situation can be cited as a reason for this, the series of rapid educational reforms taken up by the State government without preparing the students for the same seems to be hurting the schools’ performance.
The merger of classes Three to Five with high schools, imposition of English medium teaching and phased introduction of CBSE standard of education in these schools and imparting Byju’s e-learning programme into the curriculum have not gone down well with the stakeholders.
Even though the government school students in the remote village of Bendapudi have floored one and all by speaking American English, most students in the state-run schools found it difficult to read even a few sentences fluently in English.
The teaching staff who themselves studied in Telugu medium and put in long years of service teaching in Telugu medium are seen struggling to teach in English medium, opined M. Nageswara Rao, educationist.
In another folly, the State government released the ‘Ammavodi’ financial assistance to the students’ mothers in June, while the schools started only in July.
“The delay in the opening of schools also affected the school admissions,“ said Andhra Pradesh Teachers Federation President Ch. Manjula. She also noted that the digital classes at state-run schools had failed in the past.
Meanwhile, some parents are disappointed that even after the merger of classes with High Schools, the teaching is still of the same standard, unlike what is mentioned in the G.O. 117. They are also disappointed over the inadequate infrastructure for the new batch of students.
Private Schools revamped
The private schools, on the other hand, are teaching integrated syllabi by combining the State, CBSE and ICSE study material. “Thus, the students are better prepared to perform in the final examinations,” says Y. Anil Kumar, Dean of a corporate school here.
The functioning of things has also returned to normalcy in private schools as they resumed classroom teaching and extra study hours in the morning and evening.
On the other hand, the state-run schools are running low on student strength, and the government primary schools are being converted into single-teacher schools. The state-run school teachers are also burdened with non-academic work, including reporting on students’ attendance, mid-day meal distribution, sanitary condition in schools, etc., to higher-ups via online Apps.
‘‘We are not against e-learning per se. But a majority of the students in government schools cannot afford smartphones, which could also be misused,” adds school teacher S. Venkat Rao.