TN School Management Boards Get New Life With Budget Funds
After the Department of School Education is allocated a large amount to improve public schools in the state budget, an effort is made to revive parent-led school management committees to facilitate change .
The government of Tamil Nadu in its recent budget for 2022-23 has allocated a large share to the Department of School Education. A sum of ₹36,895 crore was allocated for the improvement of public schools.
Shortly after the announcement, the TN School Education Department sprang into action and held statewide outreach meetings on March 20 for School Management Committees (SMCs) in 37,391 public schools. Nearly 50 lakh parents attended this meeting.
One of the main issues raised by parents was to put public schools on an equal footing with private schools, not only in terms of strengthening the physical infrastructure, but also to ensure the holistic development of children.
PK Ilamaran, President of the Tamil Nadu Teachers Association, said The Federal that CGEs are useful because when parents are also involved in the management of public schools, it empowers teachers.
Focus on smart classrooms
Under the Perasiriyar Anbazhagan school development scheme announced in the budget, the TN government has allocated INR 7,000 crore to build 18,000 classrooms. “While that may be enough to build new classrooms, it may not be enough to realize the state’s dream of ensuring every school has smart classrooms. This can only be done with the help of SMC. Without depending on the government, SMC members should raise funds to build the necessary infrastructure,” Ilamaran said.
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According to Ilamaran, parents in private schools actively participate in parent-teacher association (PTA) meetings. Although public schools have had SMCs, no one has shown interest in the past 10 years, he added.
“Many parents were not even aware of the existence of CGEs. For the first time, after the prominence given to school education in the budget, there is renewed interest in reviving CGEs. Holding a sensitization meeting was a first step towards the development of public schools,” Ilamaran pointed out.
Strengthen infrastructure to prevent school dropout
The SMCs were launched in 2009 after the implementation of the Right to Education Act. By law, it is mandatory for all public schools to have SMCs. The SMCs are made up of 20 members each, including parents, guardians, teachers, representatives of local organizations, education activists and members of self-help groups. They give sufficient representation to women and persons with disabilities. Members are nominated by the schools for two-year terms.
The basic objectives and functions of SMCs include increasing school enrollment, preventing school dropouts, returning school dropouts to school, and developing basic school infrastructure. The committees are required to meet once a month and take stock of various matters such as the implementation of the reservation, the operation of the school, the preparation and recommendation of school development plans and the monitoring of the use of grants and funds received from the government.
Fallen into oblivion in recent years
SMCs remained dormant in most public schools in the state. The nonchalant approach of the committees did not help either. After the COVID pandemic, they have mostly fallen into oblivion and most schools have not replenished their CGEs.
It is in this context that the SMC sensitization meeting was held in the state. It was decided that from this year, instead of the school appointing the members, the members would be elected by an appropriate election. The elections would take place the first week of April.
The Outlier of Tiruvannamalai
Panchayat Union Primary School in Tiruvannamalai district is one of the few schools that has set a benchmark for SMCs. Its director M Vishali said The Federal many rural schools have benefited from SMCs. According to her, the members of the SMC should visit the school regularly to check the attendance of teachers and students, the expenses borne by the school to create certain infrastructures, etc.
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“When the school didn’t have enough space to create play areas for the children, SMC members picked an area and presented it to local agency officials and did the work. Similarly, classrooms have also been renovated by SMCs,” Vishali added.
Moreover, she said, during the pandemic, 2-3 lakh students from private schools had joined public schools. This caused a lack of space in classrooms and many schools had to hold lessons in village community halls. But now many parents have decided to bring their children back to private schools.
Vishali added, “In order to retain children in public schools, sufficient infrastructure is imperative. It is the duty of the SMCs to raise this issue and bring a resolution to this effect at their monthly meetings. Likewise, they must ensure that teaching vacancies are filled on time in each school and achieve the pupil-teacher ratio of 30:1 as envisaged in the new Education Policy, 2020.”
Reduction in the number of takers for the Tamil medium
Welcoming the initiative taken by the Department of School Education, a parent, Thenkanal Isaimozhi, said that every parent wishes to admit their child to a “dream school” and that SMCs could play a vital role in achieving of this dream.
SMCs should focus on two goals, he said – one, to enhance children’s learning abilities and two, to develop schools’ infrastructure to the same level as private schools. They must have clean toilets, tidy libraries, spacious playgrounds and adequately ventilated classrooms.
“When parents play a role as committee members, they can ensure that their children have these basic amenities. This is why SMCs are important,” said Isaimozhi. He also noted that many public schools in urban areas are slowly closing down the Tamil middle segment.
“For example, in the school where my daughter studies, out of 800 students, only four or five students, including my daughter, study in the Tamil language. When the public schools themselves start to abandon the Tamil medium, it sounds the alarm. Where will they go to learn Tamil? he cried.
A debureaucratized system
V Vasanthi Devi, former Vice-Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University and Chairman of the Save School Education Movement, said, “SMCs have de-bureaucratized the school education system.”
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The Right to Education Act has given powers to SMCs and teachers and education department officials are bound to abide by the decisions made by these committees, she added.
“With more than 50% female participation, these committees have paved the way for the decentralization of the operation of these schools. Today it is parents who decide what their children need in a school environment and demand it and hold the centers of power accountable,” she added.The government of Tamil Nadu in its recent budget for 2022-23 has allocated a large share to the Department of School Education. A sum of ₹36,895 crore has been booked to improve public schools.