Misconceptions among parents about government primary schools have been keeping children away from them in the state, so much so that 20 of them closed down for lack of students. In the past, when the state was largely agrarian and people earned their modest livelihoods in the primary sector, the aspiration for education was there but latent. The poor did not send their children to school. The better-off sent them to schools run by government or charities. But today’s situation is different. As in other states, parents even in rural Goa prefer non-government and English-medium schools for their children. This is why government primary schools are missing out on enrolments.
Several other factors worked in favour of grant-in-aid schools. Government primary schools lacked basic facilities such as toilets, fans and transport. With the rising population and changing values of personal comforts and hygiene, parents and children wanted government primary schools to provide these facilities. The grant-in-aid schools provided these facilities, as many of them also under one pretext or another collected illegitimate fees from children. Grant-in-aid primary schools also enticed parents with the facility of Bal Rath, the school bus. No grant-in-aid primary schools had the facility of Bal Rath; however, some of the grant-in-aid primary schools, which also run secondary schools and hence are in possession of Bal Rath, used it to attract the primary students. Then there was another attraction: the results of the grant-in-aid schools turned out to be better. The main reason behind this was that they admitted only ‘intelligent’ students who could pass the entrance test. In contrast, government primary schools admitted students without any discrimination, as they did not have a ‘result-centric’ approach to the promotion of the school like grant-in-aid schools. They ended up enrolling even those ‘filtered out’ by grant-in-aid schools. It was not uncommon for grant-in-aid primary schools to ‘poach’ above-average students from government primary schools in their vicinity.
The department of education has tried in the recent years to make government primary schools attractive. They have improved the infrastructure in several government primary schools. Since the number of students is small, students in these schools receive personal attention from teachers, unlike in the packed-to-the-capacity grant-in-aid schools. Also, teachers in government primary schools necessarily complete remedial teaching that is up to 200 hours, which is not followed in most of the grant-in-aid primary schools, as their students prefer taking private tuitions. But in spite of all these efforts, enrolment in government primary schools is poor. The education department obviously needs to rethink how to increase enrolment in them and make them competitive to grant-in-aid schools. After all, great men of science, arts and ideas came out of government primary schools in the past. Infrastructure hardly mattered. But today, as times are changing, government schools must bet on teaching excellence. If teaching is good, even poor learners will improve and the results of the school would be good. Quality of teaching holds the key, not the infrastructure. Before government primary schools can hope to lure students they must frame a strategy to lure good teachers. What that entails, the education department would be the best to know.
McDonald’s in Tehran
The mild waves of joy across the world triggered by the signing of the nuclear deal by six major nuclear powers and Iran in Vienna on Tuesday refuse to die down. The deal is not just a political victory for US President Barack Obama or Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who was elected in 2013. It marks the beginning of the end of isolation of Iran and Iranian people which was caused by the sanctions imposed on the country by the United Nations, US and European Union which found strong evidence of Iran being clandestinely engaged in making nuclear warheads. Iran will have to put to rest for at least a decade most of the centrifuges used to enrich uranium and drastically reduce its low-enriched uranium stock. It will also allow international monitors to visit its nuclear facilities. In a way, the deal became absolutely unavoidable for Iran and world powers in order to join hands against the common enemy, Islamic State. Secondly, Iranians can now travel in larger number to the West again, and western companies may invest in Iran, including long-awaited McDonald’s. Iran will also get access to around $100 billion in frozen assets and will find it easier to step up oil exports which were slashed to one-thirds.