Apr 6th 2015 : The Times of India (Adarsh Jain,TNN)
50% primary schools in rural TN run with 2 classes
While free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14 is a Constitutional commitment, Tamil Nadu does not have even the basic infrastructure in place to fulfill this commitment. Close to 50 percent of primary schools in rural Tamil Nadu have only two classrooms, reveals District Information System for Education (DISE) statistics.
Primary schools accommodate students from classes 1 to 5, and according to the norm, each class should have a classroom dedicated to it. However, DISE data reveals that 47.18 percent of primary schools in the state have only two classrooms. This effectively means that students from different classes receive their schooling in a single classroom. The situation is marginally better in urban Tamil Nadu where 18 percent of primary schools have only two classrooms. Classrooms are basic infrastructure for any school, and the lack of adequate classrooms directly impacts quality of education. Vasanthi Devi, an educationist, says that in most rural schools, there are only two teachers. "Often, one teacher is absent, leaving the other to handle students from all five classes in a single room," she said.
Students rarely get the attention they need and deserve. "It's not possible for one teacher to handle five subjects for all five classes. Most often, only one subject is taught for one class while the other students are allocated some work or reading activity," she added. A government school teacher from a remote part of Western Tamil Nadu said, "There are 120 children in my village primary school near Avinashi. There is just one 1000ft classroom partitioned by cardboard to accommodate all these children." The teachers have no choice but to make all students sit together and impart common lessons. There is no progressive learning happening in most rural schools, she added.
This is reflected in the Annual Survey of Education Report published in January 2015. According to the report, 43.8% of Class 1 students in rural schools cannot identify capital alphabets in English. And, only 33.1% of Class 5 students can read sentences in English.
The lack of infrastructure is an added burden for teachers. A government school teacher of a rural school on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border said that teachers are stressed out trying to handle children of different classes at the same time. Besides, they hardly have time to prepare for multiple lessons.
Balaji Sampath, founder of Aid India, an NGO that works with rural schools, says that because of the one school-one kilometre policy, the number of primary schools have increased. This reduces the number of children in each school. Given this situation, the minimum need is only two primary teachers per school. "It's time to move away from this system and have one good school for a cluster of villages that can accommodate 500 children. This will make it easier to impart quality education