Opportunity to recast school system

Shortfall in student strength in schools

: The shortfall of 2.5 lakh students in Kerala schools — determined as the difference between the number of students shown in the rolls and the numbers present during a subsequent one-day verification by government officials — this academic year may well turn out to be a golden opportunity for the State government to recast the school system in terms of the number of schools, infrastructural facilities and the redistribution and retraining of teachers.

This year, the one-day verification in schools revealed that a total of 40.92 lakh students were studying in government and aided schools from Class I to X.

Declining trend

From an all time high of 59.04 lakh students in 1990-91, the numbers in these schools have been steadily declining over two decades.

The Kerala Education Rules mandate a 5 per cent allowance for students being absent on the day the verification was done.

Usually the debate over such shortfalls each year is fashioned around the number of teaching posts which would be rendered redundant due to the reduction in the number of students, how the public education system is being abandoned by parents and students in Kerala and how schools following the ICSE and CBSE syllabi are the obvious beneficiaries of such an ‘exodus.'

This year too there has been speculation that as many as 3,000 teacher posts may have to be slashed consequent to the fall in the number of students.

According to sources in the government, a realistic estimate would be less than half this figure, after allowing for marginal variations in the actual student strength and adjustments against retirement vacancies.

If the 1:30 teacher-student ratio demanded by the Right to Education Act is implemented, this figure will get reduced further.

The staff strength is fixed by adding 5 per cent of the roll strength to the total number of students determined during the one-day verification.

Staff fixation

Based on this calculation, the student strength for staff fixation this year would be 43.07 lakh; a reduction of 1.2 lakh students compared to the previous academic year.

Against the backdrop of the RTE, the State government has already asked an agency to map schools in the State across various parameters, including distance from students' homes, concentration of schools, infrastructural facilities and teacher strength.

This, top government officials told The Hindu, could well lead to a comprehensive recasting of the school system wherein new schools may be created, some merged and some bifurcated.

This would also enable the government to determine accurately the nature of teacher-shortages across schools and to redeploy and re-train teachers where necessary.

“The major reason for the downswing in students is a fall in the state's population,” said member of the Planning Board C. P. Narayanan, “consequently, there are only lesser children in the school-going age. There is no ‘exodus' from public schools.”

  • 40.92 lakh students in Class I to X
  • Teacher posts likely to be slashed

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