Pratyaya | Building Schools to Shut down later

As per this news report, Government of Andhra Pradesh has decided to close down schools with poor enrolment (less than 10 students). 400 schools will be closed and more than 2000 students in North Coastal districts of the state will be affected in by this move.  There are reports of schools closing down in remaining districts of the state and some reports put the number of schools to be closed at 880. This is not a new phenomenon.  In 2007, Government of Andhra Pradesh found that in Nellore district alone there were 395 schools with less than 20 students.

In Karnataka, a government appointed committee on Structural Upgradation and Reorganisation of School Education found that 42% of the Higher Primary Schools (HPS) have less than 30 students in Class VI and VII and it recommended a merger with neighboring schools.

Learning is a collaborative effort. It is neither academically desirable nor financially viable to run schools with less than 10 students. But the real question is, why did we get into this situation and who is responsible for this? None of the planning agencies will admit this as their failure and worse, they continue to plan on the same lines.

It is clear from District Information System for Education (DISE) reports that the enrolment in public schools has been on a decline since 2007. We have wasted an entire five year plan(11th) building more schools in the name of increasing access, the same schools which we are trying to shut down now. According to Right to Education Act (RTE), it is an obligation for the government to run schools within a kilometer of every habitation. Without addressing the decline in enrolment, access to schools, only to close them later does not make any sense.

There are serious quality concerns in public schools. Some states are still running most of the public schools as regional medium schools, while the inclination of parents to send their children to English Medium schools is very obvious. We have to address these issues immediately and even if we have to close down schools, other options like leasing them to private providers should be explored.