Published: 01st June 2022
Is the Tamil Nadu government sidelining government-aided schools?
An average of 147 students study in each government school while 338.5 students study at government-aided schools
The government-aided school managements want the state government to treat them on par with government schools considering their long traditions in imparting free school education to the poor and marginalised students of the economically backward region.
Government-aided schools are the educational institutions run by the private management, including minorities, availing salaries for the teachers from the state exchequer. They impart school education to more than one-third of the students in Tamil Nadu.
According to official sources, Tamil Nadu has over 37,211 government schools and 8,403 government-aided schools which respectively educate 54.71 lakh students (65.79 per cent) and 28.44 lakh (34.20 per cent) students. Of the total of 3,12,683 teachers, as many as 80,217 teachers work in government-aided schools alone across the state.
An average of 147 students study in each government school while 338.5 students study at government-aided schools. The government schools have 6.2 teachers on an average, and 9.5 teachers at aided schools. The teacher-pupil ratio at government and government-aided schools respectively shows 1:23.7 and 1:35.63.
In addition, over 48.69 lakh students study at private schools which have an average of 392 students in each school, the sources said.
For a long time, the students of the government-aided schools have been enjoying the privileges extended to government schools including the 14 kinds of "welfare kit", laptops, bicycles, and the noon meal schemes. However, they began feeling the pinch after the implementation of the National Education Policy, 2020.
What do they say
Tamil Nadu Primary Teachers Federation (TNPTF) state general secretary Mayil informed TNIE that the Tamil Nadu government had refused to extend the 7.5 reservation for the students hailing from government-aided schools in medical college admission through NEET exam, engineering and agriculture studies, and Moovalur Ramamirtham Ammaiyar Higher Education Assurance Scheme which provides Rs 1,000 monthly assistance for girl students completing Classes VI to XII uninterruptedly to pursue their undergraduate courses like degree, diploma and ITI, for the students of the government-aided schools.
Moreover, aided school students have been ignored from 20 per cent reservation for the Tamil medium students in government employment, and the morning breakfast scheme, he pointed out. "The government-aided schools provide free education to the students of poor background in order to uplift the society from poverty. Denying privileges and welfare schemes is a gross injustice to the government-aided school students," Mayil said.
Roman Catholic Diocesan Schools Father Joseph Stalin, told TNIE that this apart, the past state government had already quit the grants provided towards the maintenance of the school buildings, 10 year ago. The government has also stopped approving appointments of the eligible teachers in the place of vacancies and emptied out of teachers' retirement from services since November 2018, even though aided schools educate more than one-third of the students, he added.
A manager of a minority institution that runs 100 plus schools across Tamil Nadu concurred that at least 500 teachers working in the vacant places have not received their salaries yet. The state government have been denying approvals for new appointments citing surplus teachers in the aided institutions, but actually, government reports have found the teacher-pupil ratio to be 1.35, which is higher than the government schools, he argued, while stating the matter is sub judice.
Kottai Shanmuganathan, of the society governing the 150-year-old Sri Kumara Gurupara Swamigal Higher Secondary School, told TNIE that many aided school managements are willing to hand over their schools to the government, because of the lack of policy-wise support from the government, he added.
Speaking to TNIE, VS Kamalika Kamarajar, the granddaughter of late former Chief Minister Kamarajar said that Kamarajar, being revered for enlightening the society through school education, encouraged philanthropists and well-wishers to start schools in the economically backward regions with the esteemed ambition to replenish the need of government schools in the remote places, she said adding that it's the state's responsibility to extend the welfare schemes to the students of the aided schools on par to government-run schools.
One Richard, father of an MBBS aspirant girl from Sivathaiyapuram in Thoothukudi, said that his daughter falling in Backward Class (BC) caste category could not get admission into government medical college despite having a required score of 7.5 per cent quota, because she studied in a government-aided school.
She studied in an aided school since the government school is located five km away from his house, he said pointing to the fact that the government did not plant state-run schools wherever aided schools are functioning.
State Platform for Common School System (SPCSS -TN), general secretary PB Prince Gajendra Babu told TNIE that the NEP, 2020 had rung the death knell for the scope of the government-aided schools, as there is no mention of the financially-supported private management schools in the New Education Policy containing 66 pages. It aims to weaken the public-funded education institutions.
The intention of the NEP is to gradually to do away with the government-aided schools, he alleged. The Tamil Nadu government which emphasises social justice and fights against NEET exam now, should note that the government-aided schools predominantly educate the underprivileged students free of cost, he said.
Every government-aided school carries a history of their great forefathers' dedication to spreading modern education to the socially oppressed and distressed communities, the educationist pointed out. As education is a concurrent subject, the Edapadi K Palaniswami led-AIADMK government allying with the BJP led-central government paved way for doing away with the aided schools, and the successive DMK government under CM MK Stalin follows the same suit.
To uphold the Dravidian model, Stalin should treat the government-aided schools on par with the government schools, Babu insisted. Recalling that the Kalaiarasan committee recommended 10 per cent reservation for government school students, and the state only gave 7.5 per cent reservation, educationists, teachers associations and the private management urged the state to allocate the remaining 2.5 per cent reservation for the aided school students in medical, engineering and agriculture college admissions.
A senior official told TNIE that there has been official resistance to considering the aided schools on par with government schools. However, a committee has been formed to draft a separate educational policy for Tamil Nadu and will discuss the issues of aided schools as well, he added.