With 3.17 lakh new admissions, Punjab’s government schools have recorded a sizeable strength of 26.6 lakh students, a 13.48 per cent increase as compared to the last academic year (2019-2020). The admission process is still on.
This is an all-time high figure after 2013-14, when the total strength of the state’s government schools stood at 26.4 lakh, but gradually started falling every year after that. It had dipped to 23.46 lakh in 2018-19, while there was a slight improvement to 23.52 lakh in 2019-20.
There are 19,175 government schools in Punjab, of which 12,857 are primary schools while 2,658 are middle schools. The state has 1,699 high schools and 1,961 senior secondary schools.
The maximum new admissions has happened in the pre-primary section — 97,460, an increase of 43.21 per cent compared to last year — with a total strength of 3.23 lakh students as compared to 2.25 lakh students in the last financial year.
In higher secondary classes (11, 12) there was an increase in admission by 23.18 per cent with 72,459 students enrolling, taking the total strength to 3.84 lakh as compared to 3.12 lakh last financial year. In primary classes (1-5), there was an 8.97 per cent increase compared to last year as against 8.4 lakh students in 2019-20, the strength is now 9.2 lakh students (76,157 new admissions).
In secondary classes (class 9,10) there was an 8.54 per cent (33,413 new students) increase in enrollment, with the present strength at 4.24 lakh against 3.91 lakh of 2019-20.
There was a 6.53 per cent (37,521 new admissions) increase in enrollment in upper primary classes (6-8), where the present strength is 6.11 lakh against 5.72 lakh last academic year.
Though Punjab’s education department has cited smart schools, better results, better education practices as factors responsible for more students enrolling in government schools, educationists also pointed to repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on employment, financial condition of families, indicating that many are now opting to enroll their children in government schools as they cannot afford private institutions.
Hardeep Singh, media coordinator of the education department said, “This increase in admission has happened due to better education practices, smart schools and better results of government schools. We are taking new initiatives every day and these days, we are doing a ‘Punjab achievement survey’ as well. Hence, good practices are attracting people to government schools.”
Government schools take no fee till class 8 and this fee is less than Rs 1,000 per annum from classes 9-12. However, for 2020-21, even this nominal fee was waived in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In comparison, private schools in villages charge fee ranging from Rs 15,000-20,000 per annum. So people want to save this money as well,” said Gurdeep Singh, who had enrolled his son in class 12 in a government school in Sangrur.
Paramvir Sahota is another student who took admission in the non-medical stream in class 11 in a government school after leaving a private school, while Manmeet Kaur came from a CBSE school to enroll herself in the medical stream in a government school in Sangrur.
Around 1.65 lakh new admissions had taken place till the first week of June. “We get requests for new admissions even now and we have been told not to deny admissions to any student,” said Ramanjit Sidhu, a Ludhiana Government Primary School teacher who also got his son enrolled in a government school in class 11 after leaving a private school. “Many teachers are doing this so as to be role models. If we will not enroll our students in government schools, how can we ask other parents to do so?” he said.
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