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Common School System need of hour

Common School System need of hour
Highlights

Chukka Ramaiah: Common School System Need of Hour. Recently, when the Supreme Court directed all public-funded private schools, who got land from government on charity basis, to ensure 10 per cent reservation for weaker community students, most of these schools defied the decision saying that it is not practical.

Recently, when the Supreme Court directed all public-funded private schools, who got land from government on charity basis, to ensure 10 per cent reservation for weaker community students, most of these schools defied the decision saying that it is not practical. Indirectly, what they wanted to avoid was the embarrassment of permitting a rickshaw puller’s boy sit with an IAS officer’s son on the same bench.

As I walk through the streets, be it in cities or towns, my attention is drawn mostly by the advertisements of schools and what they claim to offer .Recently, the first and the only one of its kind, the ‘BangaruThalli’ scheme of our State has also caught my attention as it is displayed on all our State-run buses.

When I reach the suburbs of cities, I see very attractive corporate schools in well-furnished buildings with sprawling play grounds and other facilities. What irks me is that the schools where our right to education is being enforced, the schools where more than half of India’s future is nursed, our government schools of any level and any cadre, are neither advertised nor highlighted.

Even the parents who send their wards to these schools are either apologetic or indifferent. It makes me think that while claiming to strive for equality through education, we have overlooked some basics and that we may at best achieve ‘differentiated equality’ or graded inequality, perpetuating the age old divisions of class, community etc., instead of ‘equality’ where ‘sons of servants and sons of masters, or daughters of servants and daughters of masters’ would walk together, read together and progress together.

The present scenario of our education reminds me that ‘Unequal Schools foster an unequal society ‘. It makes me wonder why in our country, unlike in the U.S, Europe, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Finland and the Latin American countries, there is no demand for bulldozing the inequalities in schooling by strengthening the single school system. It is not poverty or a lack of vision but on the contrary the absolute faith in social transformation through education that has inspired the citizens there to strongly support the Common School System (CSS) and even protest any moves to privatise education.

I don’t need to go into the details of the common school movement, evidently the best educational step for America in the 1800’s as it still defines America’s education today. But what I would like to share here is the obvious benefits the society envisioned and achieved through this movement. Public education is the key in developing a country and improving the quality of life for the people, building their character and making them participatory members in their society. Along with education, the most compelling argument for common schools in the U.S was cultural, for more effectively than any other institution, these schools brought Americans of different economic circumstances and ethnic backgrounds into early and mutually beneficial contact with one another."

Today’s Americans acknowledge that American public schools are responsible for producing a democratic citizenry and in the name of choice and freedom they don’t want to lose their public school system – a system whose doors are open to all. They believe that education is a civil right and it must be provided equally to all. If the quality of education has to go up, one can work for it but not through privatization.

If we allow public schools to fail and charter schools to prosper it is once again the foundation for creating two different worlds. People belonging to one world never interact with another. Then what about our country? Why have we not tried this public school system sincerely even when experts recommended it and when we see the benefits of it in developed countries?

The CSS was strongly recommended by the Kothari Education Commission constituted in 1964. The Commission said CSS is a tool for social transformation. It will weaken the disparity and inequality in education as well as destroy all the discriminatory walls created by caste, creed, class and social economic status or gender bias prevalent in our education system.

The parliament tried to implement it unsuccessfully not only once but thrice in 1964, 1986 and 1991. In 1986, the State Government constituted Acharya Rammurthi Committee to find out reasons which are responsible for not passing CSS Bill. The Committee reported that the variation among masses and classes in our country is ‘highly deep-rooted’. The social segregation is much prevalent in our society, leading them to hate each other or even sometimes fight on petty issues. In such a situation the CSS cannot be imposed. What a miserable State ours is if we cannot cure this malady because it has already overpowered the body!

Even if we do not venture to discuss the establishment of separate schools for minorities as a constitutional right, which is also an issue hindering the CSS, there is one more point from the Acharya Rammurthy Committee which we can rectify, that is, providing quality teachers in public schools to enhance the image of public schools and make them desirable by all categories. Even today, most of our ‘BangaruThallis’ and ‘BangaruThandris’ hailing from the marginalized sections, the most vulnerable sections, are forced to attend schools with zero sanitary facilities, with glaringly unfilled or vacant teacher posts, minimal infrastructure and untrained instructors.

We often hear people comment that the British designed the education system in India to churn out clerks for their assistance. I wonder if we are doing anything better now if we do not erase the inequalities between the public schools and the private, funded, chartered, corporate schools in all aspects pertaining to quality. Our elite parents, our public as well as our educational institutions need to realize the inexcusable sin they are perpetuating by opposing the CSS. Right now, the ever increasing number of private schools clearly indicates that the government has failed to provide common quality education to all and integrating private schools into CSS has become a far-flung dream.

These schools have emerged over the past fifteen years as an instrument for social segregation rather than integration. Recently, when the Supreme Court directed all public-funded private schools, who got land from government on charity basis, to ensure 10 per cent reservation for weaker community students, most of these schools defied the decision saying that it is not practical.

Indirectly, what they wanted to avoid was the embarrassment of permitting a rickshaw puller’s boy sit with an IAS officer’s son on the same bench. So they started evening classes for such students. Neither our hypocrisy nor our class conscious superiority complex seems to have limits. How true Sir Einstein was when he said, “Human ignorance and stupidity is truly infinite!”

It’s the need of hour to implement CSS as soon as possible, lest we face a more vulnerable state that can’t be managed. We need public schools where the teachers do not repeat themselves but upgrade their presentation from time to time, year after year, depending on their students.We need teachers who know their students’ background, are sensitive and know ways of tapping all the students’ potential through the right questions, motivation skills.

We need schools where both the prince and the pauper share the same bench, work in teams, share their experiences in learning and eliminate the rotten and deadly barriers, some visible, some invisible, which have crippled our progress as a democratic nation. We need school administrations to work with a changed outlook, not with a mercenary approach but with a higher purpose and commitment to the nation. The success of the common school system or the neighborhood school system is therefore dependent on a collective vision. Our failure to launch ourselves successfully on this path so far should not deter us from trying with renewed zeal yet again.

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