Private schools of Punjab have good infrastructure but lack commitment to poor students and teachers
UNQUALIFIED TEACHERS, low salaries, no free education for poor students and lack of infrastructure mar the implementation of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act in India. Punjab is no different in this respect. A study by the Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies points out deficiencies in the current system and little effort being made to rectify them.
As many as 931 private schools in Punjab have been closed for non-compliance of the RTE norms and the process of de-recognition and closure of 219 such schools has started. Various elementary/primary schools in the state were neither following any uniform curriculum nor having proper building infrastructure. There was also no accountability of the student-teacher ratio in these schools, ultimately resulting in deterioration in the standard of education.
As many as 931 private schools in Punjab have been closed for non-compliance of the RTE norms and the process of de-recognition and closure of 219 such schools has started.
How much, how many
According to the report, there were 9,125 private schools functioning in Punjab during 2013-2014, majority of them operating in the big four cities of Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala. Over all, there were 32.94 private schools per lakh of population in the state. Almost all private schools were co-ed (99.11 per cent) with just 0.78 per cent for girls and 0.11 per cent exclusively for boys.
Least number of private schools was noticed for primary standard (15.58 per cent) due to low profit margin and high cost of operation. This skewed preference does not bode well with the aim of universalisation of elementary education as more primary schools would mean more seats for younger ones in more areas.
Infrastructure wise, almost 67 per cent schools had 16 or more classrooms and only 7.40 per cent had less than six classrooms. However, they may have lacked other facilities like laboratories and minimum playground size. Around 70 per cent schools had facility for filter water including reverse osmosis at 23.96 per cent schools.
Over all, there were 32.94 private schools per lakh of population in the state. Almost all private schools were co-ed (99.11 per cent) with just 0.78 per cent for girls and 0.11 per cent exclusively for boys.
Enrolment misses the mark
The data regarding enrolment in private schools collated by the state government does not distinguish admissions for children belonging to economically-weaker sections (EWS). In private schools, maximum proportion of enrolment was noticed in general category of Punjab (78.23 per cent) as compared to 'Others' which may include SC/ST/EWS (21.77 per cent). This combined share is very low when compared to 25 per cent share of EWS students envisaged by RTE Act. In rural areas, the proportion of ‘Others’ in private schools rises to 25.56 per cent while in urban areas it drops down to 18.30 per cent.
With most private schools making it compulsory for parents to buy school uniforms, stationery and books from their own shops or those by their partners, the education for poor students becomes inaccessible unless proper implementation of RTE is ensured. Though the Act does not recommend any penal action against private school if they fail to do the needful, the obligation to reserve 25 per cent of seats has to be aided by the state government and the local bodies.
Boys had a higher proportion of enrolment in private schools (55.57 per cent). The share of girl students kept declining with each level of education. While they made up 42.33 per cent of total strength in primary section, it dropped to 41.60 per cent in elementary classes declining further to 41.27 per cent in matric section. The secondary school saw a tad better share at 41.50 per cent for girls.
Unqualified, underpaid teachers
There were over 1.18 lakh teachers in private schools of Punjab with females making most of the work force. Though teachers were equally distributed between regular and adhoc/contract service, private schools in some districts had only contract teachers as they cost less. However, this impacts the quality of education as lack of security and job perks lead to high attrition rate and less interest in work. This also results in majority of teachers taking tuitions with the school acting as a platform for negotiation.
Teacher appointed after the enactment of the RTE Act must have minimum qualification laid down by the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE). They also need to clear the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) for appointment. Those who, at the commencement of the Act, don’t have minimum qualification must acquire it within 5 years of the commencement of the Act. However, 47.67 per cent of teachers in private schools of Punjab were found to be unqualified or under qualified. Only 22.64 per cent teachers were found to be graduates with B.Ed while 29.69 per cent were post graduate with B.Ed and/or M.Ed.
The average salary of the teacher of private school in rural areas of Punjab was estimated at Rs.6,303 per month irrespective of the qualification and experience. The minimum salary was Rs 2,200 per month while the highest monthly salary went up to Rs 18,000 but that was reserved only for teachers who are either part of the management or ownership.
Majority of the teachers were having monthly salary between Rs 2,500-5,000, which is less than the emolument prescribed under Minimum Wages Act of 1948. In addition 13.06 per cent of the private school teachers were getting a salary package of even less than Rs 2,500 per month. Nearly three fourth of the teachers were paid their salary through cash and 12.30 per cent received it through cheque. Only 14.27 per cent were credited through NEFT/DBT.
The average salary of the teacher of private school in rural areas of Punjab was estimated at Rs.6,303 per month irrespective of the qualification and experience. Majority of the teachers were having monthly salary between Rs 2,500-5,000, which is less than the emolument prescribed under Minimum Wages Act of 1948.
No other perks were provided to the teachers in the private schools of rural Punjab. Teachers also reported that they have to sign two salary bills- one as per school record and the second as per actual payment. Even in case of DBT/Cheque payments same method is adopted in majority of the schools.
RTE recommends pupil-teacher ratio of 30:1. In primary section of private schools in Punjab, the ratio of 12:1 was observed while it increased to 15:1in elementary school. In Matric schools, the pupil-teacher ratio was 22:1 rising further to 26:1 in secondary schools.
Apparently, almost all the schools were overstaffed. Better pupil-teacher ratio in privates schools can be attributed to the appointment of variety of teachers who act as substitute teachers; recreational activity teachers; homework note-book checking teachers and so on.