Time to change - are government schools listening?
It was on my mind for quite some time now and this morning while reading an article in The Economic Times – “Privatise.Let Entrepreneurs run schools”, I felt that I should share my experience. My current stint at a nonprofit makes me visit government and government aided schools at least once every week if not more and every time I return with a heavy heart. These schools are definitely different from the schools that you and I have been to. Different in all aspects – infrastructure, discipline, cleanliness, teachers, administration, exams and above all “being a school”.
It was my first visit to a government school of South Delhi in August 2013 on a rainy day. My car couldn’t be parked within the school premises because of the water logging. I got out and stepped on a puddle and then looked up to see many more of those where the kids were playing. Lots of noise, no teachers around, not sure if any classes were being conducted, almost every student was outside playing in the rain. I couldn’t recall ever seeing something like this in my school. Broken doors, dilapidated window panes, lack of desks and chairs, no fans even in the scorching heat of Delhi, poor sanitation facilities - in a nutshell this explains the so-called “infrastructure” of these schools.
As a student, for me, school was a place of worship (and it still is), where every day I learnt something new and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I looked forward to being at school, but I am afraid that most students in these schools disagree with me. In most of these schools, “discipline” is a word that the school administrators have never heard of, so probably implementing it is out of question. Most teachers are not bothered about conducting classes and students just loiter around, waste their time and disturb the other classes (if at all there are some classes going on). Students have not learnt the value of time, they never return to their classes as soon as the bell rings after a break. The teachers themselves never enter a class on time. The students’ role models themselves seldom practice the right virtues, so who should they emulate?
Why is there a lack of motivation in the teachers – is it low paying salaries, excessive work load, school administrators’ failure, or simply because of lack of knowledge? Does the government take enough measures to hire the right candidate? Does the teacher have adequate knowledge (not just degrees) to teach a particular subject? I am afraid, a lot of times the answer is “no”. I have myself seen notebooks of students of Grade 12 where they have received full marks for a wrong depiction of the “price elasticity curve”. These students again grow up to become teachers some day and pass on their incorrect learning. This is a vicious loop and if not corrected today, the future of our country is not in very safe hands.
The last government implemented the “no students fail- come what may” policy to prevent stress in kids but ended up causing more stress than ever. Every student is promoted till Grade 8, even if they are not eligible and all the students are aware of this. So why study? The foundation is so weak that when they reach Grade 11 & 12 (the most crucial years of one’s life that shapes your career) they fail to write simple words like –"we", "she", "their" correctly in English. Forget about English, Grade 12 students do not know the meaning of past, present and future tenses in Hindi and trust me, I speak from experience! Almost all the students cannot write grammatically correct sentences without making spelling mistakes in Hindi; English is a far stretched dream. How can we expect these students to do well in their graduation or post graduation when the textbooks are all in English?
I am not favoring the private schools and I do not own one. However, it grieves me to see such a condition of the government schools in Delhi. If this is the situation in the capital of the country, it scares me to think what it is in the Tier-II, III cities, not mentioning the rural areas. As a student, would I be keen and excited to attend a school like this? The answer is definitely “no”. Despite this, there are students who have the potential and are fighting well to create a place for themselves in the mainstream education system. Whose prerogative is it to bridge the gap between equally able students from opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum? Does “right to education” of a child mean this? Is the education minister listening? It’s time to wake up and create some change; else all our generations to come will always be citizens of a “developing nation”.