How Government Schools in Kerala Is Changing the Way We Look At Them

A proper and good education is very important for all of us. It facilitates quality learning all through the life among people of any age group, caste, creed, religion and region. It is the process of achieving knowledge, values, skills, beliefs, and moral habits.

With a staggering population like that in India and abundant of socio-cultural and politico-economic problems, education seems to be the only ray of hope for a better and brighter India. And to achieve this, both the government and people should work hand in hand.

There is some kind of stigma attached to the concept of government schools in India. Although the alumni that government schools in India have produced has achieved well in every spectrum of life including politics, business, administrative services, entertainment or sports, the bad opinion about government schools in India is here to stay,  even in the 21st century.

This is to some extent, has logical and statistical backing, given the sorry state of affairs associated with government schools in India.

Some of the popular stigmas associated with Indian government schools are:

  1. Poor infrastructure
  2. Located in difficult terrains which are away from easy accessibility
  3. Lack of quality teachers
  4. Corruption in the development of schools
  5. Poor quality of mid-day meals
  6. Uninterested parents regarding their children’s education

While most of the factors mentioned above hold some water with regards to government schools in various parts of the country, the image is very different in one state of India.

Popularly known as God’s own country, Kerala is an outlier in the Indian education system. Given its high literacy rate and good governance model bundled with good Samaritans from the state who are donating crores of rupees for the development of education, Kerala has done a commendable job in improving the conditions of primary and second education in the state.

The fact was proven by the Annual Status of Education Report (2018) which was published in January. The study, which covered 596 districts, 17,730 villages, 354,944 households and 546,527 children aged between 3 to 16, finds Kerala to be doing really good when it comes to education in comparison with the rest of the states in India.

What are some of the basic things that a government school should have?

  1. Quality and competent faculty

    Primary and secondary education is increasingly dependent on teachers. Hence it is of utmost value that teachers are well trained and prepared to help students in their curriculum and pedagogy

  2. Infrastructure

    When we say infrastructure, we are not just talking about the quality of the building. Digital infrastructure is an important aspect of education today. Virtual classes, cloud computing, online examinations are some of the things that educational institutions are adopting rapidly and government schools should not be left behind.

    For all-round development, there needs to be a good infrastructure for extracurricular and Co-curricular activities for the students. This includes sports ground, auditoriums,  digital library, computer and science laboratories and pieces of equipment for club activities.

  1. Government support

    To run a school, it requires a lot of bureaucratic hurdles to be passed over.  Getting approval for each and every event and changes that take place in the school on a timely basis is important. Hence, full unconditional support to the on-ground school management from governmental bodies in running the particular government school is important.

  2. Social and societal support

    In India, we have no less than 135 crore people and according to statistics, every 5 seconds a baby is born. The staggering amount of work that goes into educating each and every person in the country is paramount. This is not possible by governments and others concerning bodies alone. There must be strong support from people to make India a highly educated nation.

What are some of the success stories of Kerala government schools?

  1. Government Vocational Higher Secondary School for Girls Nadakkavu, Kozhikode has secured second place in the Government Day Schools ranking list. The school had ranked third in the list in 2018 and has consistently done well in the rankings since 2013.
  2. GVHSS has set a model in the public sector education in the state and has been one of the most sought after schools in Kozhikode. With top-notch infrastructure and IIM trained faculties, they have changed the way people perceive government schools in India.
  3. Kendriya Vidyalaya of Pattom in Thiruvananthapuram has been ranked in the fourth position in the same list. The school had secured the fourth rank last year as well while it was the topper in 2016 and 2017 rankings.
  4. The percentage of enrollment in government schools when it comes to the higher secondary section, the numbers are high compared to the private schools. The number of children being enrolled in high schools and higher secondary schools run by the government is 58.5 per cent compared to 34.3 per cent in private schools.
  5. Teacher’s training programs were introduced through IIM Calicut. All these improved the self-esteem of the students as well as teachers.

What are the various steps that the Kerala government took to improve the schools?

  1. Public-private partnership

    Kerala improved many schools across its villages mainly from the funds released by education bodies. Along with these, they tied up with individuals from Dubai, Adu Dabi who were keen to help the government in improving these schools. Also, funds from the United Nations and other such international bodies were used effectively

    Experts from the field have suggested this strategy helped with good cash inflows for the government to improve the schools on the scale.

  1. Good governance

    Corruption, red tape bureaucracy and lack of transparency from the government side have always been a throne in India’s development model. Be it education or infrastructure, these problems have always haunted India in every spectrum of administration. The government took drastic steps in this regard to make sure the funds actually reach its intended purpose.

  2. Effective awareness campaigns

    Reaching out every nook and corner of the state and educating parents about the importance of education for a stable future paved way for an increase in attendance in schools. Creative campaigns were conducted in this regard, including advertising and digital marketing campaigns, so that enough people are educated about it.

  3. Amenities

    Not only did the quality of mid-day meals increase, but other amenities were also added into the fold to attract students to schools. Free uniforms, bicycles and free laptops for high school students were some of the measures that the government had to take to help improve the quality of education in the state. All these policies help in improving the quality of education.

What are the barriers that India faces in education reforms?

  1. Poverty

    This is undoubtedly the number one reason for the abysmal state of affair for primary and secondary education in India. Thousands of government schools get closed down every year due to lack of attendance. And poverty is the reason behind it. India is the second-most populous country in the world. And this population boom is mainly seen in rural areas. Parents have kids in the hope that he/she will earn money for them or work with them once they come of age. The concept of educating them is never in their mind. Poverty and quest for survival do not let them have the privilege to send their kids to schools.

  2. Gender discrimination

    Although female feticide and the female mortality rate has come down in India, educating girls in certain rural households across the country is still an alien concept. Boys might be sent to schools, although even that is rare, sending girls to schools is seen as a waste of time and energy by the rural community. The whole thought process is such that girls need to learn household chores and be married while boys earn money and take care of their parents in a later stage. This is dangerous precedence in India which is being fought by the government with various campaigns and efforts like Beti Bacho Beti Padhao Andolan.

  3. Lack of facilities and overcrowded schools

    This is due to lack of interest shown by authorities and in some cases lack of funds directed by governmental bodies. Improper infrastructure at rural schools such as small classrooms, inadequate teaching equipment, lack of playgrounds and unclean toilets, is a big reason to drive away students.

  4. Having no teacher, or having an untrained teacher

    Teacher effectiveness has been found to be the most important predictor of student learning. India is determined to fight the countrywide teacher crisis at hand. There aren’t enough teachers to achieve universal primary or secondary education, and many of the teachers that are currently working are untrained. As a result, children aren’t receiving a proper education. There are 130 million children in school who are not learning basic skills like reading, writing and math.

What can the rest of India learn from Kerala’s governance model to improve the state of government schools?

  1. Adopt healthy public-private partnerships so that all the stakeholders take an active part in improving the schools
  2. Use the MLA and MP funds properly and judiciously. Also, raise public funds in addition to allotment funds from the government
  3. Conduct massive awareness drives across rural parts of the state to make people realize the importance of kids education. Parents not sending their children to school was one of the main reasons for abysmally low attendance in government schools. This was tackled well by the Kerala government.
  4. Provide good quality, healthy and nutritious meals to children to help them cope with the education imparted to them
  5. Tie up with institutions like IIMs and IITs to train teachers and share a valuable resource with the school
  6. Open and transparent governance in the education department so that there is no misuse of funds and corruption involved.
  7. Build good infrastructure for schools so that all amenities like Wi-Fi, computer, playgrounds are provided for all-round development of the child’s future.

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