CHENNAI: The pandemic seems to have had a hitherto-seemingly-impossible change in school admissions in Tamil Nadu. Admissions to government schools across the State has shot up to unheard-of numbers till now. Get this — over 4 lakh more students enrolled between 2018-2019 and 2021-2022!
But celebrations would have to wait, as the School Education Department is now facing 2 challenges.
Firstly, retaining these students and enabling them to study till Class 12. Secondly, recruiting thousands of teachers to meet the demand, especially at the primary and middle school levels.
Data from the department reveals that in 2019-2020, the number of students admitted in the government and government-aided schools was about 66.4 lakh from the primary level to higher secondary standards.
As admissions will continue in State-run schools especially at the primary and middle levels till November this year, at present, the total number is expected to touch more than 71 lakh.
A senior official from the school education department says “The main factor for the increase in admissions is that families, especially from the lower and upper middle classes, suffered a financial crisis due to the pandemic-induced lockdown since March 2020. There are several who are yet to recover.”
Due to this, many parents in the low-income group in Tamil Nadu are unable to pay the fees that private schools demand. “Though many private schools offered instalment to pay fees, many parents couldn’t afford it. So, the only option left was to enrol their kids in government schools. This shot up the number of admissions in both government and government-aided schools,” he explains.
According to the official, in 2020-2021 academic year, around 2 lakh new admissions had been registered in government schools. “In 2021-2022, provisionally, the fresh enrolment rose to 4 lakh,” he points out, adding that this data was based on the total number of students in the government schools.
There have been several reports in the media that 9 lakh new students are admitted to government schools. “This data is also connected to students in middle schools or other levels in one area and joined high school in other regions,” the official clarifies.
Education department’s steps
Since admissions to government schools have increased substantially this year, school education minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi says that the department is keen on ensuring proper infrastructure in all the schools. “Just in kindergarten alone, around 50,000 children have enrolled,” he adds.
Tamil Nadu’s pupil-teacher ratio is 19 for primary schools, 20.9 for upper primary, and 22 for high and higher secondary levels. Total enrolment of students in a category Pupil-Teacher Ratio equal to the total number of teachers in that particular category recruiting new teachers on a timely basis.
Over 9,400 teachers would be appointed this year through the Teachers Recruitment Board to ensure teachers’ strength, assures the minister. Adds the senior official, “Infrastructure of schools that had secured additional admissions this year will be improved. That includes constructing extra classrooms, toilets and providing additional basic amenities such as drinking water as per the requirement.”
However, TN parents-teachers welfare association points out that the increase in number is temporary, as most students who got admitted from private schools were studying in English medium.
“Due to lack of options, they were enrolled in government schools, which are Tamil-medium. Now that the situation is inching back to normal and economic situation improving considerably, these English-medium students, who joined in the government institutions, are most likely to shift back to private schools again,” avers president S Arumainathan. “Parents want their children to study in private schools because their wards are taught in English.”
Shakti (name changed), a homemaker from Nungambakkam, concurs, and adds, “Our family financially suffered due to the lockdown. So I was happy that my daughter got admission in a government school. But now I wonder whether she would get the full advantage of a student from an English medium school.”
Understanding the challenges of recruiting teachers, a senior official from the TN Teachers Recruitment Board admits that immediate recruitment of over 9,000 teachers in government schools is not possible.
“Procedural delays are inevitable. At present, there are several teachers’ posts vacant in government schools since new admissions have increased in those institutions. As an immediate remedy, temporary teachers are getting appointed in them,” he states.
Permanent teachers can be appointed only after following several procedures, which will take at least a year including the verification of ‘Teachers Eligibility Certificates – mandatory for teaching aspirants in government schools. “Therefore, currently, schools with additional admissions would have to make-do with temporary teachers to fulfil the requirement,” he says.