K Parthasarathy, Minister for Secondary Education, Govt. Examinations, Andhra Pradesh; Residential Educational Institutions Society, Hyderabad Public School, Intermediate Education. In conversation with Rozelle Laha
Please tell us about the various schemes that Andhra Pradesh government has implemented for bringing improvement education sector.
We have implemented a number of schemes with help from the Government of India. Our Chief Minister, Sri Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy’s priorities are education and health which he had announced on the day of assumption of his duties. He has been giving a lot of importance to the departments for the sanction of funds and all other things.
We are taking many new initiatives to improve the standard of education being provided in 770 model schools in educationally-backward areas. The first phase of construction has already started and we will be commencing the process from the next academic year. We had planned to do it this year but we will take it up in the next year.
In the second phase, we are planning to cover about 350 high schools and we have already completed the construction of additional rooms valuing 45 lakhs in almost 1,500 high schools. Around 70-75 lakh children in the state are taking mid-day meals. We have formed committees to visit all schools to observe the quality and quantity of the food that is being served to the students in schools.
Provide us with an overview of the scheme for girls’ education?
The state has large number of schemes for female students. There is the Kasturba Gandhi schools scheme that is dedicated to providing better education to girls. The scheme also has provision for providing hostels. They are called KGBVs or Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas.
The state is having schemes for catering to the educational need of the backward classes. Will there be any ICT implementation in such institutions?
We already have 6,500 schools with the ICT programme. Another 400 schools are going to implement it this year. We are taking special interest in the appointment of teachers for these schools, as we want to make them unique when compared to any other corporate school, and all our children will have corporate education. The construction will be in five acres of land and we will also have girls’ hostels.
We will have special teachers for all these schools. Apart from this, we have also mentioned the qualification for them as post graduation. Generally, for teachers for regular schools, the qualification is graduation plus B.Ed. but here we are hiring people with a post graduation plus B.Ed. and that too with an English background because all these schools are English-medium schools.
Are there any teacher training programmes for teachers at these schools?
Even the teachers in regular schools go through training. For model schools particularly, we have already announced the results for teachers who appeared for the exams. We are trying to complete the process of recruitment by January or February. Between April and May, we will conduct training sessions for all the teachers who will be recruited for the model schools.
Could you tell us how many teachers are being recruited and how many seats are there?
We are recruiting 7,100 teachers including principals.
How many schools are already functional?
The process will start next year in June. Our academic year shall be from June to March.
What strategies have been implemented to ensure that the ratio drops?
Our Hon’ble Chief Minister, as I told you, has given a lot of importance to education. For the first time in this country, we are conducting education fortnight. We will have this programme for 15 days throughout the state. The programme will include the construction of buildings. We plan to launch campaign for dropout students. All our teachers will go to all the villages, they will survey all the households and if they find any children who are not going to schools, they will try their best to bring them to schools. That is how we are planning our course of action.
Since when has this been in operation?
The first fortnight happened only last year. This will be the second year of the scheme. This has been designed by our Hon’ble Chief Minister.
What challenges are being faced in ensuring compulsory education?
We are not facing any problems as such. Ensuring education to the poor is a key challenge because people in backward areas are more inclined to make their children earn by working. But we don’t allow them to do that. The mid-day meal scheme is one way to inspire these people to send their children to school. We also give free books and dresses as an inspiration to these people to educate their children.
Do you have any plans to bring PPP in education in Andhra Pradesh?
Not as of now. From the Government of Andhra Pradesh, there is no provision to bring in PPP but yes, we have private schools for private and corporate education and we are giving admissions there.
I was also told that the central government is coming up with PPP mode. They will provide land and other things necessary if anybody comes forward to start these schools. So we are working on that also.
What positives can be brought to education through PPP?
Corporate or private education has become very expensive today. Unfortunately, most of the parents are inclined towards sending their children to private schools. This is one major failure on the part of the government. Because of this, the people are put to a lot of financial hardships. For example, if you take a rural parent having two acres of land, his income would not be more than `20,000 if the entire atmosphere and everything is okay. Even if there is government school in the village teh parents want to send their students to a Convent. He only wants them to go to a convent. In rural areas also, a convent wouldn’t charge less than `8,000-10,000. So despite an income of `20,000, his spending on education on every child is `8,000. This is giving a lot of financial stress on the middle class and the poor people.
If PPP mode comes, we will definitely get corporate education. And because the government will also be involved in schools, the cost would come down. So there is an opportunity for the poor people to send their children for convent and government education. If the government of India has plans to implement PPP, we have no objection in supporting that scheme.
Would you like to mention some success stories of Andhra Pradesh government in the education sector?
We can say if you take any all India exam, our students stand first or bag many ranks. Not just that, a lot of students from other states also come here to get education in the schools of Andhra Pradesh. If you take number-wise, we stand at a good rank. And anyway, our education is far better than other state’s education.
In Andhra Pradesh, there are a lot of power issues. So when we talk about the implementation of ICT and introduction of computers in model schools, how would you address the issue?
Power is an issue only when it rains. And it is an issue all over India, not just in Andhra Pradesh. The failure of monsoons is one of the reasons for power shortages and there are other external factors also. But this is not a regular problem, though we are facing more problems this year.
In addition to power, in ICT, they are supposed to provide a generator also for which we are making the payments. So electricity won’t be a problem because it will be backed up by a power generator.
Will the schools be paying for the generators?
The educational firms like the NIIT and others that are providing ICT-based education, are supposed to provide generators also.
What is the vision of Andhra Pradesh government in the coming years with respect to education?
Our objective is to give quality education to one and all in Andhra Pradesh. We want take it to every nook and corner of the state. We also plan to create very good infrastructure for all the schools in the state.