Raipur: Chhattisgarh government’s decision to open English medium schools in the state has proven to be a success so far. The first phase in which 52 schools were opened last year saw high number of applications due to which the admission process, that would have otherwise continued till December or January, had to be closed by November.
Officials of the Chhattisgarh School Education Department said affordability, quality education with qualified teachers, library and well-equipped computer and science laboratories are the reasons parents want to get their children enrolled in these schools. Many experienced teachers have also turned towards these schools to get well-paid jobs, officials said.
Alok Shukla, Principal Secretary, State School Education Department said, “The effort to set up government-owned English medium schools became extremely popular in the first year (2020) itself. Further admissions were stopped after enrollment of about 28,000 students before November due to jostling between the parents for admissions and heavy influx of recommendations.”
“The quality parameters of these schools were determined keeping in mind private schools and their students’ performance. It will not be proper to compromise with the quality of education by providing admissions to more than available,” added Shukla.
So far, 52 government-run English medium schools have been opened across the state under the name of Swami Atmanand, a well-known educationist and social activist from Raipur. Born in 1929, Atmanand was a Gandhian and a follower of Ramakrishna Paramhans. He built several ashrams in the state and across the country.
These schools were formally inaugurated on state’s foundation day on 1 November 2020, but the admission process had already started in August. The government received around 60,000-65,000 applications within two to three months, but only 28,000 students were enrolled owing to limited number of seats.
Ashutosh Chaure, Deputy Director of the School Education Department, said, “About 500 seats were fixed in every school for admissions in 1-12 standard for the academic session 2020-21. On an average, 40 seats were prescribed for each class in one school. However pressure started mounting due to rising number of applicants resulting into halting of whole admission process.”
Bhupesh Baghel government’s decision to set up English medium schools resulted from persistent public demand owing mainly due to parents’ inability to meet the high fee structure of private schools.
“English learning has become indispensable for the children to keep pace with modern world. There was a huge demand for government English medium school from parents. Also, Chhattisgarh government believes that no child should be deprived of opportunity for education of his or her choice mainly for parents’ poor inability to pay the cost. However, there no hurry in opening new schools as we are moving in a planned way. Other editions of the schools will be rolled out only when entire infrastructure is put in place” said Shukla.
Parents seek recommendation for child’s admission
Contrary to the popular notion that people have against government schools, parents missed no opportunity to reach political leaders to secure berths for their wards in these schools.
Leaders of Congress-led Chhattisgarh government said many parents called them up seeking help for children’s admission.
Raipur Congress MLA Vikas Upadhyay said, “It was quite surprising for me that almost 100 parents – from many districts including Raipur – sought recommendation from me to get their kids enrolled in government English medium schools. Apart from enrollments, parents also demanded opening of more such schools.”
Congress spokesman R.P. Singh said, “I recommended nearly 50 names for admission in these schools on parents’ requests. If the experiment of Government English medium schools succeeds, then, I must say, 25 per cent private schools in the state will have to be shut down in the coming years.”
Govt plans to open more English medium schools
Emboldened by the demands for admission, state government is planning to open more such schools from academic session 2021-22, which will begin from 16 June 2021.
The first 52 schools have been opened in all 28 districts across the state, with maximum of them – 10 – in Durg district. Four schools have been opened in both Bilaspur and Balrampur districts, while Raipur and Korba districts have 3 and 2 schools respectively. Bemetara, Surguja, Gorella-Pendra-Marwahi and Korea districts have two schools each. Other district headquarters have one school each.
Chaure said, “Department will send a budget proposal for opening 156 new English medium schools in the state. Admission process will also be completed before 15 June 2021, before the commencement of new academic session.” Currently there are more than 55,000 primary, middle and higher secondary schools in Chhattisgarh, but all of them are Hindi medium.
Free education from Classes 1-8
Senior officials in the state Education Department told ThePrint that “Education in government English medium schools will be free from classes 1 to 8. For classes 9-12, there will be a modest fee of Rs 500- 600.”
The officials stressed that the level of education in Government English schools will be better than private schools. “Chief minister himself has insisted on several occasions that quality and standard of Government English medium schools should not be lower than private schools in any aspect. That is why special emphasis has been laid on the selection of teachers. One of the main reasons behind the enhanced credibility of these schools is the quality of teaching staff,” Chaure said.
The Bhupesh Baghel government decided to set up its own English medium schools taking cue from Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi model early last year. The government was chasing a deadline of June 2020, but the process got delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Experts say that Chhattisgarh government’s concept can be a milestone with a huge potential to give a face-lift to the school education system in the state. “It’s a big gateway for common man to ensure free or affordable quality education to his child, at par with any public school of the state. These schools, well equipped with modern facilities and high quality teaching staff, will emerge as trend setters and milestone for other state governments as well. However, it needs strong will by the state government to maintain the zeal with which it has been started”, said Gautam Bandopadhyay, state convenor of Right To Education Forum, Chhattisgarh.