The Other Side of the Picture – 2

(On many issues, we are often fed with one side of the picture that becomes the reality for us for two reasons: anything that is repeated again and again assumes the face of truth over a period of time and in any case we do not ever get to hear the other side of it. This is a series on such contradictions in the Public Education System)

Apples and Oranges

No one who has a few rupees to spare will send his son or daughter will ever send him/her to a Government High School, or would they?  It is one thing to take a risk with Primary schools; the damage can always be undone in the subsequent stage. It is quite different with High Schools and the SSLC examinations, which are pretty serious stuff and one does not afford to take chances any longer. Given the poor image of the Government schools, the data should show that people flock to the Private schools and that the latter fulfill their expectations with commensurate results.

Let us take a look at the picture emerging from the SSLC examinations of last year. Of the 10,800 schools in the State, 1,468 schools scored 100 per cent results. Of these, surprise of surprises, 401 are Government Schools and 108 Govt Aided! It is seen that 959 private unaided schools had also achieved this distinction. The ratio may look a bit skewed towards private schools until you start looking at all the factors in their favor.  Unlike the State run schools, they have the right to be selective in admissions and also have the power to detain non-performing students, both of which they exercise; more crucial is the last year in which many premium schools routinely ‘expel’ those who are most likely to fail and these kids invariably land in Government schools. No wonder the number of private schools scoring a perfect 100 is relatively high. The real surprise comes up at the other end of the spectrum. Forty-four schools recorded zero pass percentage. Of these, four are aided, while another 40 are private schools. There were no Government schools at all in this category!

A detailed analysis of the performance in various brackets shows the following: 

Type Schools >80% 60- 80% 40-60%  <40%
No. % No. % No. % No. %
Govt 3714 1668 45 1162 31 630 17 254 7
Aided 2980 1358 46 900 30 458 15 194 9
Private 4149 2171 52 1042 25 489 12 479 11

One can see that ,except in the 80 plus category where there is a marginal shortfall, the Government schools score over private schools in all others.

That people would prefer to admit their kids in a Private school, which has a zero pass record in preference to a performing Government school in the same vicinity appears strange. It only highlights the fact that perceptions often rule over reality. There is yet another interesting fact that comes up if you take this study further to areas where there are no private schools to contend with and the kids in the area need to enroll only in State run institution. I came across a cluster of this type near Madanapalle in Chithoor District, AP. While the overall performance levels were uniformly high here, I found two schools close to each other, which were producing astounding results. The first had 84 students of which 83 passed; the failed kid had an assignable cause. The average mark scored in this school was 84! The second had 29 and all of them passed; the average score here was an unbelievable 92, the highest being 96! The rub off effect of the talented kids on the rest in the classroom is clearly visible in an environment where segregation of the good from the poor has already not happened through selective induction in parallel streams. An in-depth study, I am sure, will go on to prove the desirability of a Common School System in the quest towards social equity.

Notwithstanding the above, It is true that the best of the Government schools presently do not come anywhere near the best of the Private schools. A comparison between a 95% kid in the former with another with the same score in the latter will show large differences in terms of depth/width of knowledge extending beyond the syllabus content. This proves nothing since the kids in the two segments come from widely differing social strata and have definite advantages and handicaps that go on to define these results. Given the talent, one has to admit that the private stream aspires for and achieves levels of excellence that are beyond the reach of the former. This admission should however not be at the cost of recognizing that the Government schools do an equally good job in providing affordable education of acceptable quality for the masses.

The shrill voices for dismantling the Public Education System are to be viewed in this context. It is a case of apples and oranges; any comparison is odious and we need them both.

E S Ramamurthy



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