The government of Jammu and Kashmir deserves appreciation for launching the ongoing "enrollment drive" whose noble goal is to increase the number of students at government schools. As per media reports, the big initiative, on its previous occasions, met with a remarkable success —up had gone the number of admissions at these schools. One hopes that more children will be enrolled now.
It was on March 15, 2023 that the enrollment campaign got underway. The initiative reveals the seriousness and concern of the School Education Department (SED) towards further improvement of the government schools; it also reflects the gravity of the situation which has thankfully led to this outstanding move from the department concerned.
To make the best of the ongoing drive and rekindle hopes of a bright future in the public at government institutions for their children, it is expected that the execution is carried out on a mission basis. Once public confidence is won, things will fall into line by themselves.
Pertinently, an enrollment drive by the SED was initiated towards the end of 2020 across the J-K UT; teachers were visiting people's homes to convince parents for admitting their children in government schools. The unique step was very successfull: reportedly more than 40000 children came as new admissions.
Conducting enrolment campaigns indicates that the SED has correctly diagnosed the ailment: roll decline and the threat of its depletion. Major factors, playing a massive role in decreasing admissions in the government schools —especially upto the lower secondary level, are noteworthy.
Many analysts opine that we have an expansive network of government and private schools in every area, every town, every village and every habitation/mohalla across Jammu and Kashmir. In this situation, the school-going children of a particular habitation get unevenly distributed — mainly on the basis of quality education provided at a school. And it hits admissions at government schools.
True, establishing new government schools and upgrading the existing ones has employed lakhs of youth apart from upping the literacy rate. Yet, citing more private schools as the rationale for the less admissions at government schools is a poor argument. Government institutions hold promise of balancing the scale. And taking up their number of admissions.
Notably, the enrolment also declines at private schools purportedly because of the sky-high expenses—which parents allegedly fail to bear— or because of the dozens of these schools available in every habitation.
On one hand, the multiple number of private schools means a healthy competition for better performance and symbolizes progress in society. On the other hand, the rising number of such schools means people have many options to choose — a determining factor of admissions.
Two, our education primarily focuses on getting a government job. When we get it, we naturally heave a sigh of relief and with the passage of time begin to take things for granted. It can be safely stated that this happens with almost all government jobs, including those of the government school teachers. So with no/little pressure to perform, the performance of government schools lags behind private schools — a situation hitting the enrollment there. In case of private schools, the situation is altogether different.
The teachers in the private sector find no reason to take things for granted: they realize that their job, though low paid, depends on their performance. Consequently, they use their blood, sweat and tears to produce the best results which can satisfy their employer. Underperformance is a ticket out of the school.
You often hear people saying that when so and so government teacher was working at a private school, he/she was brilliant at teaching. But why does that teacher not perform satisfactorily at a government school now? The major cause is he/she feels no pressure to perform at this school. It is the pressure to perform that plays a big role in pushing private schools ahead of their counterparts in the government sector.
Three, students at government schools are required to be directly admitted in the first standard whereas those of private schools are admitted in kindergarten (KG) classes, a preparatory stage for entry into primary education. In KG classes, students learn basics like alphabet and numbers. This well prepares them mentally for primary education.
But the children of government institutions are required to straightaway learn words, sentences and big numbers in the first standard. That they find very difficult to learn, leaving them weaker and backward in learning than their counterparts at private schools; this situation makes parents hate government schools and they withdraw their children from there, cursing government school teachers.
To address the constant enrolment decline, the J&K administration needs to come up with these steps to regulate role in schools: KG classes need to be formally permitted for government schools. Such classes will lay a solid foundation for primary education.
Transfer —after two or three years —for teachers including the Reheber-e-Taleem /RET pattern teachers of all categories , is the key to attract plenty of admissions . The transfer will motivate ReTs to work with renewed interest and strength in the changed environment; and it will provide parents with new teachers whose services they approve at schools.
Believe it or not, the decades of stay at the same schools by ReT teachers has won for them public hate, wrath and mistrust; plus the underperformance (real or imagined) of ReT-managed elementary schools has pushed people away from them. Resultantly, people no longer are willing to admit their children at such schools. Transferring ReTs is likely to prove an admission -friendly strategy.
Most importantly, the big and bold moves like the current enrollment drive are very vital — not only for inspiring people for trusting government schools but also sending a positive message across that the SED is capable and committed for doing the best for the well-being and welfare of people.
(Author is a Columnist and Teacher by Profession. Email: email@example.com)