Seeking to allay fears over the Karnataka government’s model school initiative, school education and literacy minister B C Nagesh said on Wednesday that model schools were still at the pilot stage and that no students would be forced to join them.
Nagesh also told indianexpress.com the education department had decided to retain students aged three-six years in their existing schools.
After Nagesh announced that 13,800 schools in the state had fewer than 25 students, there was speculation that all these schools would be shut down and students transferred to newly designated model schools in nearby panchayats.
According to the school education department, the plan is to have one model school in every panchayat and encourage students from neighbouring panchayats to join it.
“The concept of a model school is to have at least 25 students in each classroom and provide a teacher in every class. We have 13,800 schools in the state with fewer than 25 students. It is important these students face competition from other students in a different school. Moreover, the model school project is not about building new schools but developing existing schools and expanding their resources. I also reiterate that there is no question of shutting down any schools as part of the model school project,” said Nagesh, who has plans to include 7,000 schools in the initiative in the coming days.
Nagesh said that over the past ten years, many schools were established in villages considering the growing population. In a state where the distribution of student population is uneven across its 48,000 government schools, however, it is difficult to provide facilities and resources to schools with fewer students, the minister suggested.
“A lot of schools were built over the years with state funds and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan funds because of the high number of children. However, many villages are showing a downward trend in the child population or many are preferring private schools. This is resulting in low admission rates in primary schools and it becomes difficult for the government to exhaust our teachers and resources in schools where there are hardly five or ten students,” said Nagesh.
According to education officials, the model school initiative is facing resistance from villagers, parents and some teachers, who are advising students against shifting to neighbouring schools.
As for the concerns over transportation issues that parents have raised, the minister said. “We will approve transportation facilities only where the school development and monitoring committee is active, financially sound and can arrange vehicles using the Member of Legislative Assembly Local Area Development scheme. These vehicles can also be rented out and also maintained through the help of CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds,” said Nagesh.
The minister, who experimented with the transportation of students from one panchayat to another in his constituency of Tiptur, said, “The experiment was unsuccessful because there were not enough students. A lot of villagers and local leaders are spreading falsehoods on this experiment. The shortlisted model schools also have shortcomings such as lack of teachers, additional classrooms, computer labs etc. These will be remedied gradually in the coming days,” he said.
Nagesh also said that students’ demands for spoken English classes had also prompted the government to introduce model schools. “Schools with fewer than 10 students lack sports equipment, labs and other facilities and do not offer spoken English classes. So we want to expand facilities existing in neighbouring schools and encourage students to avail of them,” he said.