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            Is primary education in government sponsored schools no more reliable to the parents of urban as well as rural Bengal? Pupils’ strength in government sponsored primary schools is remarkably decreasing. It is evident that primary education in government sponsored schools is absolutely free. A student gets educational materials and allied support along with mid-day meal regularly, while quality of benefits may be another issue due to some hidden reasons. For a long period, students and teachers ratio have been improved. In spite of the above, parents regardless of their socio-economy and educational background prefer primary education of their wards in private English medium/Kindergarten schools. They willingly invest for school fees, development fees and other allied fees for their wards’ education. Even they use to invest for transportation fees for their wards.

To find out the above situation of primary education in government sponsored schools in Bengal, a study was conducted in a Gram Panchayat of East Midnapore district. This GP is located about 16 KM away from the district head quarter. There are about 20 government sponsored primary schools in 16 villages of this GP. Village population is mixed in their socio-economy and culture. Although agriculture is the prime source of economy, there is significant portion of the population within (18-40 years) migrated into urban area of the country as semiskilled/unskilled labour in jewelry industry and construction work, etc.  In this area, there are 6 private kindergarten schools located at the market place and bus stand (adjacent area of villages). The study found that student’s (from Nursery to Class IV) strength in government sponsored schools was about 50-60 at each school, while it was 350-400 in each KG school. In government sponsored schools all requisite facilities (class room, toilet and play ground, etc) were available. Comparatively, it was poor in KG school. Students and teachers ratio were 8-10 and 5-7 respectively in KG schools and government sponsored schools. It was reported that teachers of government sponsored schools preferred KG school for their wards.

Parents opined that quality of education and discipline in KG schools was more impressive than government sponsored schools. The teachers of KG schools were more attentive and affectionate to their wards which they hardly got from government sponsored schools teachers. Parents used to monitor their wards’ education because the teachers of KG schools met them regularly to share merits and demerits of their wards. They also viewed that their wards might face the problem in higher education, if they study at government schools.

Apart from the parents’ opinion, this study recorded the views of teachers of government sponsored schools. As per them, it might be personal choice. They use to follow only government order. Beyond this, they have nothing to do.

Lastly, it may conclude that free education and mid-day meal, etc. are not enough to attract the students. Guardian’s awareness and participation in children education are most important.

Harasankar Adhikari is a political analyst

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