BMC upgrading existing schools, constructing new ones
Officials in the civic body said that 20 buildings are under repairs across the city, 24 dilapidated school buildings are being reconstructed, while three new buildings are under construction
Mumbai Almost 15 months after civic schools were rebranded as Mumbai Public Schools (MPS), the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has undertaken a massive exercise of upgrading existing schools, while also constructing new ones.
Officials in the civic body said that 20 buildings are under repairs across the city, 24 dilapidated school buildings are being reconstructed, while three new buildings are under construction.
“All this work will be complete by 2024. The building is also not equipped with ramps and upgraded facilities for physically-challenged students,” said Ram Kadam, deputy city engineer (school Infrastructure cell), BMC.
“Under the MPS banner, we have restructured and modernised civic schools as per parameters set by state and non-state school boards and introduced new technologies. For instance, the size of the classrooms will differ for state and non-state board schools,” he added.
To change perceptions and attract more enrollment in civic schools, BMC in February 2020 announced its decision to rename all its schools as MPS. At present, Mumbai has 600 civic schools that follow the state board curriculum.
Within a year since rebranding, enrollment at MPS has doubled - from two lakh students last year to four lakhs this year. “All students should receive the highest quality education irrespective of their economic backgrounds. The city has the means and resources to provide facilities equivalent to private international schools, so we aim to provide what they (students) deserve,” said Ajit Kumbhar, joint municipal commissioner (education and vigilance).
Kadam said that depending on the availability of space, the new MPS will boast of a mix of facilities – badminton courts, astronomy laboratories, life skill laboratories, indoor game room, digital classrooms, multipurpose activity rooms, science centres, spacious corridors, ecoflex playgrounds, and arts and music rooms. From starting one astronomy laboratory at the Worli Seaface MPS last year, plans are afoot to set up 100 in the next four to five months.
“We aim to provide top-quality infrastructure and facilities to students. The schools are largely focused on the overall development of students in a friendly and learning environment,” said Vinita Sahare, deputy civil engineer, school Infrastructure. “Schools in prime locations are painted with various educational designs. The classrooms and corridors have thematic paintings. We have followed the path of Delhi Public Schools to some extent.”
The Mumbai Public School in Matunga, that is affiliated to ICSE board, has an indoor games club that students use if it rains. “We also have a google classroom where students can learn everything about google apps. Students are taught to create Gmail profiles, send emails, and use google drive, google sheets, and other apps apart from the curriculum that is important for their professional life. “The school has separate laboratories for physics, chemistry, and biology,” said Jyoti Vakharia, school principal.
Teachers are also finding a difference in the interest levels among students. Shrutika Indulkar, a class 3 teacher of Mumbai Public School, Aziz Baug, Chembur, who has been teaching in civic schools for a decade said attendance of students has been consistent. “Due to audio-visual aids provided in digital classrooms, students take interest in learning. Parents have also been actively participating in all the school activities.”
NOT JUST A FACELIFT
The civic body is also going beyond bettering infrastructural facilities. Starting this year, BMC officials said, a scholarship scheme will be introduced for students after class 10. “The first 25 rankers of the Mumbai Public school in class 10 will receive either ₹25,000 or the required amount for further studies. We want to ensure that the students continue to get a good education,” said Kumbhar.
The MPS has organised several initiatives for the overall development of the students and teachers - financial literacy programme training for teachers and class 8 to 9 students, skill-based training for teachers, and visits to private schools to learn management and teaching methods.
“This year we will be evaluating students for their baseline understanding of concepts, in terms of learning outcomes, rather than marks. We will provide them with additional inputs to increase their learning abilities as per their age group and their standards so that their concepts are clear. This is due to the learning gap of two years of the pandemic. The test will start in the next 15 to 20 days,” said Kumbhar.
The reason behind re-branding of BMC schools is to change the mindset of people, said civic officials. “Earlier, only students from lower income groups would attend civic schools, but now students from middle and upper middle income groups are also enrolled. BMC provides free education in all state board and non-state board schools,” said Sahare.
Srinivas Kamlekar, former PTA and parent of Sanvi, a class 6 student of Mumbai Public School in Matunga, is one of the many examples.
“I shifted my daughter from convent SSC board school to the Mumbai Public School ICSE board. I was sceptical about this shift, as I have studied in a municipal school and had a very bad experience. I wanted to start her schooling in ICSE board earlier but the private schools were expensive, so the public school seemed like a good option,” said Kamlekar, excise assistant manager at NTT Global networks (Network procurement).
Kamlekar said since Sanvi changed her education board, there were a lot of learning gaps. “The teachers helped every student personally with extra classes and sessions to solve doubts. She enjoys attending school and finds digital classrooms interesting. Instead of paying expensive fees for the private school, we get similar facilities free of cost,” he said.