Friday, October 11, 2013

Teacher-Student ratio in Chennai Corporation schools and the medium of instruction

I visited couple of Chennai [corporation] schools this week and have been to quite a few of them in the last year. The enrollment has come down drastically. The High school in Royapettah [Lloyds Road] had only around 200 students or so and the HM said once they used to get upwards of 600-700 students. In the Thousand Lights Middle School, the total number of students in 3rd/4th/5th together came only to 25. Accounting for those students who were absent, it seems like the strength is around 10 per class. In the Triplicane Middle School, 6th/7th/8th total came to 70. That is around 25 per class.

Given that the teacher-student ratio is fantastic - does it result in better outcome in these schools? There seemed to be enough teachers - at least one per class in the schools I visited.

Alternately, where are the kids who should be enrolled in these schools? They have all been pushed to low quality, English medium schools which have by and large bad teachers who are paid probably 3,000 or 4,000 Rs a month. The students are forced to pay probably around Rs 500 a month as fee. With that sort of fee, these schools can't be all that rich. Their infrastructure has to be poor; they probably do not have a playground. On the other hand the Chennai [corporation] schools had reasonable space around, fairly decent flooring, decent furniture, purified water cans, working fans etc.

I have a radical suggestion:

* Suppose we make all the Corporation Schools English medium only [just a renaming - call them Chennai Corporation English Medium Only Schools].
* Charge every student at least Rs. 100 a month.
* Force the students to wear ties and shoes and spanking new uniforms that the parents are forced to buy.

My feeling is, the enrollment will go up significantly - to the level of at least 50 students per class. Use the funds to spruce up the buildings.

This will have two advantages. The parents will now start demanding better quality teaching from the teachers, since now they are paying customers. The low quality local schools will be forced to close down.

The only downside to this whole thing is "English Medium". This will be vehemently opposed to by the Tamil fringe. [I am myself in favour of teaching most/all the kids in Tamil and hence I belong to this fringe, before you jump up!] Ignore the fringe [including me].

Will the Chennai [corporation] school teachers be up to the mark in teaching in English? My contention is, they can't be worse than the roadside low quality English school teachers anyway. These are better paid, D.T.Ed/B.Ed trained teachers anyway.

At least you will save the public schooling system and save most parents from paying 500 Rs or more per month for lower quality education. We can think about how to revive Tamil, and how to improve the quality of education later.