Ahmedabad: Enrolment drops even as 2.62 L students shift to govt schools

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The total number of students enrolled in over 33,500 government schools dropped by over 6.89 lakh between 2014-15 and 2018-19. (File Photo)

Over 2.62 lakh students from private schools joined government primary schools in the past five years, but the overall enrolment in schools run by the Gujarat government dropped by 6.89 lakh in the corresponding period, according to the education department.

As per department records, between 2014-15 and 2018-19, a total of 2.62 lakh students shifted from private to government schools across the state. However, the total number of students enrolled in over 33,500 government schools dropped by over 6.89 lakh during the same period.

Most of the shift to government schools was because parents could not afford private school fees, a few because they could not get into them under RTE. A part of the shift was after municipal corporations started opening English medium schools.

Secretary, Education, Vinod Rao, said, “This is mainly because annual birth rate declined in the past five years and over 3.5 lakh cumulative number of students were admitted to private schools under the Right to Education Act that ensures 25 per cent reservation for economically and socially disadvantaged children since 2013-14. But we are hoping that this reverse migration will help sustain these numbers.”

As many as 2,211 new private schools were added in the past five years against 105 government primary schools. Among the shift to government schools across the 33 districts, Junagadh reported the highest number of 17,500 students in five years. Among schools run by municipal corporations, Surat topped among cities taking in around 35,800 students followed by Ahmedabad with 25,900 students.

Mukesh Thakor, a resident of Ahmedabad, has three daughters and two of them were taken out of a private school and admitted to government schools in 2018-19. “The expenses at the private school were very high. I had to shell out over Rs 700 per month for my two daughters who are now in Class VIII and III,” said Mukesh who works in a factory earning a monthly income of Rs 10,000.

Echoing similar problems, Nilesh Dabhi, who works as an office boy in a private company at a salary of Rs 5,000, said, “Apart from the high monthly fee of Rs 750, the school would take separate tuition fee of Rs 650 twice a year and would also demand the fee minimum three months in advance.” His two sons are now studying in Class III and II at a municipal school in Ahmedabad.

When asked if he applied under RTE Act, he said, “I applied for my sons after they completed their pre-school but they didn’t get through. Last year, I submitted the documents thrice but each time these were misplaced from the reception centres.”

Though the shift was spread across classes, the highest percentage was witnessed in the lower primary section. While the state government claims better infrastructure and faculty in its schools over private ones, its attempt in opening English medium schools is cited as a reason for parents shifting their wards, according to the education department.

Nearly 26,000 students shifted to Ahmedabad municipal schools after it opened English medium schools, according to the authorities. AMC-run English medium schools offering nursery and KG were started in 2013, when the first school came up in Shahpur. The numbers rose to 16, 22 and 32 in 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively.

Similarly, Surat Municipal Corporation schools also started offering English medium nearly at the same time as AMC school board while the state education department recently asked every taluka to open one English medium school across the state.

Mohammad Ansari whose younger siblings were shifted from government to municipal English medium school in Danilimda area in Ahmedabad said that when government was offering English medium schools at no cost, there is no point spending exorbitant fee in private schools.

The authorities are also attributing the shift to improvement in the quality of education at government schools as well. “The state government has implemented various projects aimed at improving learning levels of students in addition to improving the school infrastructure,” said LD Desai, AMC School Board Administrative Officer.