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State Education Policy should strengthen and expand network of govt. and aided institutions: T.N. Catholic Educational Association

Says privatization and commercialization will make education out of reach for the poor and disadvantaged sections of society

Says privatization and commercialization will make education out of reach for the poor and disadvantaged sections of society

The Catholic Education Association of Tamil Nadu (TNCEA) has emphasized that the proposed State Education Policy for Tamil Nadu (SEP-TN) should focus on strengthening and expanding the network of both government and government-supported private educational institutions and the should discourage commercialization of education by self-financing institutions.

The suggestion has been made to the SEP-TN Formulation Committee headed by the retired Chief Justice of the Delhi Supreme Court, D. Murugesan. A delegation led by Most Rev. George Antonysamy, chairman of the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council and TNCEA, handed the suggestions over to the former judge, said Fr. A. Xavier Arulraj, a designated senior counsel in the High Court.

The primary source of funding for education should come from the public treasury. The role of non-state actors should only complement and complement the contribution of the state and not replace it. “The more education is privatized, the less government control and the further it will be out of the reach of the poor,” the TNCEA warned.

According to the association, the St. George Anglo-Indian School in Chennai, established in 1715, was the first public school in the country. ) was founded in 1851 and the subsidy scheme was introduced in 1855.

At this time there were more than 37,200 government schools and 8,400 publicly supported private schools in the state and the Catholic Church as well as the Church of South India had a network of about 5,000 of the supported schools. Being totally non-commercial, the Christian missionaries had opened the avenues of modern and secular education to all.

However, after 1980, the government allowed the expansion of private admission schools and caused irreparable damage not only to the concept of providing education to all without any discrimination, but also to teaching in the mother tongue. “Eventually, public schools became the domain of the poor and were seen as inferior in quality,” lamented TNCEA.

Policy proposal

In order to salvage the situation, the association urged SEP-TN to insist that the government guarantees 100% gross enrollment rate by increasing the number of government and supported schools in the area and all welfare schemes, including nutritious meals and breakfasts, to be extended to support schools to class XII.

“The current system of 5+5+2 in school education can be 2+5+5+2, including early childhood education…etc, should be discouraged and the common school system of public education should be strengthened,” suggested the suggestions .

TNCEA also proposed to abolish board exams to Class X and pushed for the introduction of a Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation (CCE) system to assess a student’s learning abilities. It further made several suggestions regarding the education of disabled people, migrant children of Sri Lankan Tamil ethnicity, and so on.

Higher education

Noting that the Christian community had also entered the realm of higher education at the earliest with the establishment of Madras Christian College in 1837, St. Joseph’s College at Tiruchi in 1844, St. John’s College at Palayamkottai in 1878, and the American College at Madurai in 1881, the TNCEA said these colleges were initially funded by the state.

The government had slowly abdicated its responsibility for funding higher education institutions. “As a Result, higher education has been privatized on a large scale over the past 30 years. There are 2,610 colleges in Tamil Nadu of which 2002 are self-funded and only 251 are government or government-supported private colleges.

“Of the total strength of 22,75,290 students studying at these colleges, 13,29,622 study at self-funding colleges, while only 4,82,160 students find a place in government or supported colleges. In higher education, for example, only about 20% of students are supported by the government’, according to the association.

“The government has a withdrawal syndrome from its social commitment to public education, which jeopardizes the goals of access and equality for the poor in higher education. All this points to the urgent need to closely study and reform and restructure the higher education system in our country so that it can become innovative,” it added.

TNCEA pushed for government outreach and helped colleges cover at least 50% of the student population. “The current system of 3+2 in higher education can be continued. There is no valid reason to change the system. The process of evolving and choosing curriculum and pedagogy should be done by the state government and not by central bodies,” it said.

‘Abolish NEET’

Claiming that the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical admissions should be abolished, TNCEA said admission to medical education should be based solely on grades obtained in Class XII public examinations and that the Directorate of Medical Education , and not the National Medical Commission, should monitor such admissions.

The association also made its suggestions regarding the restructuring of engineering education as there had been a proliferation of engineering colleges in the state over the years and such abnormal growth had resulted in lakhs of jobless engineering graduates. “The industry is taking advantage of the situation by hiring technical professionals for very low pay,” it said.

TNCEA pushed for a constitutional amendment to shift the topic of “education” from the contemporaneous to the state list and to significantly increase the budget allocation for education to strengthen public educational institutions and save them from the onslaught of fully self-financing institutions.

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