Presenting a sorry picture of the state of education in municipal schools, a study has found that the total enrolment in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) institutions have fallen by 23 per cent – from 4,04,251 in 2013-14 to 3,11,663 in 2017-18.
The report, released by Praja Foundation on Wednesday, adds that a time series analysis shows that if the current trend of fall in enrolment continues, the BMC will have no students by 2027-28. As of 2017-2018, 426 BMC schools had a student strength of up to 100, which is 35 per cent of the total civic schools. In the past 10 years, (2008-09 to 2017-18), 229 schools have closed down due to no enrolment or students getting transferred to other schools, of which 48.5 per cent were Marathi medium schools and 39.7 per cent were other medium schools, such as Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.
Education was made a Fundamental Right by the 86th Constitutional Amendment, 2002, and implemented through the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009. “The Act was aimed at benefiting the weakest and marginalised sections of our society and they are the ones who are bearing the brunt of an unaccountable and inefficient education department,” said Nitai Mehta, founder and trustee of Praja Foundation, adding that the corporation’s education department has “orphaned” education.
While the number of schools with up to 100 students has increased in the past five years – from 311 in 2013-14 to 426 in 2017-18 – 229 schools have shut down in the last 10 years due to no enrolment or students getting transferred to other schools.
“The municipal corporation’s education budget has been rising, an increase of 36 per cent from Rs 1,540 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 2,094 crore in 2017-18,” said Milind Mhaske, the director of the foundation.
Despite the increase, in a household survey commissioned to Hansa Research, 94 per cent of the respondents said they would want to shift their children to private schools.
To enable participation of parents, experts, service providers (teachers) and local elected representatives (corporators) in school-level decision making, the RTE Act made the provision of school management committees (SMCs), which would enable a bottom-up approach in suggesting improvements and budgeting at the school-level. However, sample data of attendance in SMCs shows that in 85 per cent of schools, in 2016-17, and 83 per cent schools, in 2017-18, elected representatives did not attend even one SMC meeting.
Reacting to the findings of the study, Deputy Education Officer Prakash Charate told The Indian Express: “The reduction in the strength of students is mainly in Marathi and Gujarati medium schools. Strength in the English schools has increased. This is a trend in all schools, not just BMC schools. Since 2007, 84 English schools have been started and secondary education has started in 179 schools. Most schools that were only up to Class 8 have been extended till Class 10. Presently, 210 schools offer education till Class 10. In the coming days, there will be nearly 300 schools up to Class 10,” he said, adding that the BMC was focusing on improving the quality by way of introducing facilities such as mini-science labs, computer labs, sports guidance and art and music education.
He, however, conceded that attendance in the SMCs was poor, stating that meetings were mainly presided over by parents. “Earlier, corporators used to preside over meetings and also attend those. But now, they cite lack of time (as reason to not be present),” he said.