Why parents in Mumbai are opting for state board for their children
When Reshma Morajkar’s daughter, Arunima, was about to turn three, many suggested that she be enrolled in an “international school” from the pre-primary years to secure a seat for the future.
However, Reshma, an associate creative director with a leading TV channel and her husband Kapil Chavan were unfazed by the pressure. As their peers stood in long queues to get their children into some of the top Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools, the couple decided to enrol their daughter into a state board school.
“The money that schools affiliated to other boards charge seems unnecessary. If our daughter wants to pursue a hobby, she can do it after school. In terms of the curriculum, there is nothing wrong with the state board,” said Reshma.
Despite a rise in the number of schools affiliated to these international boards in the city and their curriculum being more superior to that of the state board, many parents are consciously deciding to opt for the state board.
Reason? Exorbitant fees charged by the schools and lack of regulation by the state. Apart from tuition fees, they also charge for sports, extra-curricular activities, etc. In the past few years, many parents have protested against the abrupt fee hikes levied by these schools.
“These schools lack transparency as parents have no say in its functioning. Many are also found flouting rules with respect to fees, infrastructure etc. which made us think twice,” said Ranjeet Ruke, a tutor from Mira Road who enrolled his five-year-old son Samyak into a state board school this year.
While the constant increase in fees of other boards’ schools continues to be a concern for many, parents who can afford to pay that are still not opting for it.
“In many of these schools, the staff keeps changing which affects students. State board schools, however, give certain stability as they are bound by strict rules,” said Swapna Trailokya, principal of Parle Tilak Vidyalaya, Vile Parle.
She said in Maharashtra, many students switch to the state board after Class 10, so it’s more reasonable to enrol your child into state board schools.
Meanwhile, a school with a great academic record and playground is just perfect for Dharmendra Tiwari, who works for a leading multinational firm, and his wife Sunanda, a journalist. The couple enrolled their son Arjun in a state board school in Chembur this year. “Some schools push for things beyond the needs of a child. A school in Ghatkopar hired a professional dance training institute to train students from pre-primary. This is wrong,” said Tiwari.
Father Francis Swamy, joint secretary of Archdiocesan Board of Education which runs 150 catholic schools in Mumbai, said one can see a reverse trend in the preferences of parents during admissions. “Many parents are realising that a school being affiliated to an international board is not going to help if it is not good. Those who spend huge amounts on education also demand accountability, which not all schools give,” said Swamy.
He said over the past few years, the state board has taken efforts to ensure its curriculum and teaching methods are at par with the changing needs of society.
Francis Joseph, a city-based educationist is happy that his two children – Ryan, 15 and Rhea, 9 – are studying in state board schools. “As students of the state board, we could build a rapport with our peers who came from different strata of society. We also find teachers of private aided state board schools are best-paid, hence more dedicated ,” he said.
Despite wanting to enrol their children in state board school, some parents find it difficult owing to the absence of good schools in their locality. “As the state is not investing much in public schools, many are struggling to retain its quality as the infrastructure is crumbling and staff positions lie vacant. The new schools are only trying to pocket profits in the name of education,” said Ghanshyam Sonar, a city-based RTE activist.
Meanwhile, Farida Lambay, co-founder, Pratham, said the state board needs to work on its content to make it child-friendly and more logic driven. “Some changes in the marking system that the board has recently made are good. The syllabus needs to focus more on concepts and problem solving.”