Monday, February 15, 2016

The State of Public Schools in Kerala

The camera team from the television channel arrives at the school gate. There are three teachers, but no children to teach. They ask where are the children? This is a school, right? And, it isn’t a holiday, right?

The teachers are flustered. It’s obvious they haven’t faced the camera, in their lives, so far. They stammer and mumble that all the children have gone to a wedding. So the school is empty and the teachers have nothing to do. All the children have gone to a wedding? So how many children do you teach here? Five? Yes, five! Three teachers for five students? Yes, you are right!

That’s the state of Kerala’s public schools today according to a report in the television channel Asianet. In public schools funded by the government there are no students to teach because all the students have to gone to private schools. The government pays the teachers an atrocious salary (by city standards) to do nothing. A teacher gets around Rs 15,000 when they join. And they get a big pension – half of their salary – when they retire.

The reason is that the standard of teaching in public schools in Kerala is abysmally low. Teachers don’t bother and the children don’t care. Parents who send children to these schools are the poorest and the reason they send children here is because they get a good mid-day meal with rice, vegetable, and egg. Besides, the teachers arrange to bring children to school by sending their own cars. They also offer enticements like uniforms, bags, books, umbrellas for free. Because, if these five children don’t show up in school, their jobs are gone. They may be transferred to somewhere worse than the boondocks.

This is how education works in Kerala, the 100 per cent literate state. So, why don’t they improve the standard of education in public schools? Who is bothered, as long as Gulf income is there, who cares? Now with all oil at a new low when the Gulf workers return, imagine the situation.