TN govt schools may get more students as parents struggle with private fees

Teachers part of state government's planning committee for schools, apprehend surge in admissions of students whose parents have made losses in business or income

School
The MP government constituted a commission that aims to provide employment to labourers who returned to the state after March 1 due to the lockdown (Representative Image: iStock)

After the lockdown is lifted, government schools in Tamil Nadu are expected to witness a surge in enrolments as many people, including those returning from other states, may find it difficult to pay the fee of their wards in private schools due to loss of income.

Apprehending such a situation, the Tamil Nadu school education department has formed around seven groups comprising senior government schools teachers from across the state, to prepare post lockdown guidelines for the functioning of schools.

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“It is observed that a lot of people from larger cities including Chennai are moving to their native places due to lack of employment opportunities and the scare over the pandemic. So, we would definitely see a surge in admissions in government schools when they reopen,” a senior teacher, who is part of the committee from southern Tamil Nadu, told The Federal.

The teacher, however, says that the students aspiring for a switch may not be from private schools alone. “They might have already been studying in a government school somewhere in the state and might want switch to another in their native district,” the teacher said.

Unique identity number will make admissions easy

The committee’s apprehension about a spike in admission is driven by a similar pattern seen after demonetisation in 2016.

“But, we feel the number of admissions would be much more than what it was post demonetisation,” another teacher, who is part of the committee in the western region said.

The teachers say there might be difficulty in admitting the students if they had left their original certificates in their previous schools. But, they may get admission if they show their unique identification number, exclusively allotted to every student all over Tamil Nadu.

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“If students can give the identification number, we can admit them in any school across the state, as all the data will be included in the number. In the same application, we also plan to include data whether students have undergone COVID-19 test or not and if yes, what was the result of the test,” the teacher said.

The committee is also working on other guidelines to be followed after the re-opening of the schools for the next academic year.

Govt schools, parents’ only option now

The committee’s foresight seems to be partially true, as most of the businessmen-turned-workers to whom The Federal spoke shared their plans to shift their children from private to government schools, citing loss in business or income due to the lockdown.

In one such instance, P Karthikeyan, owner of a lathe workshop at Edayarpalayam in Coimbatore, who now makes a living out of selling vegetables, plans to shift his younger daughter to a government school from a private school.

“I had hoped that I would be able to recover the loss in business caused by demonetisation, but I could not. So, I shifted my first daughter to a government school after she completed her Class X, two years back as I could not afford her private school fee anymore,” Karthikeyan said.

“I had left my younger daughter, who is now studying in Class VII, at the private school. But, when the lockdown was about to start, I could not pay her last term fees of around ₹5,000 and paid it after borrowing money after the school management started to put pressure on me. Next year, I cannot take a chance as I am completely clueless about my business and I would admit her in a government school for Class VIII,” he added.

No less than private schools

Educationalist Prince Gajendrababu says while parents from poor economic backgrounds were earlier opting for government schools, it was the state government which diverted them to private schools by allocating 25 per cent seats for poor people.

“Even during the normal days, poor and middle class families were not be able to afford private school fees and they have been paying it by borrowing money. It was because of the state government’s bad move to allocate 25 per cent of seats for poor students on private schools,” Gajendrababu said.

He, however, says that government schools has its perks, as it is where children learn to connect with society.

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Tamil Nadu’s school education department secretary Dheeraj Kumar, who said the expected surge in admissions at government schools needs to be assessed, asserted that the quality of education in government schools of the state is on par with private schools including infrastructure facilities.

“People are opting for government schools as we have better infrastructure including smart classes for teaching and CCTV cameras for the security of the students. The curriculum change in the schools has brought a difference in the minds of the people,” he said.

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