Last year, 1,710 government-run primary schools were closed in 20 districts of Assam, government data shows. However, government ministers and education officials prefer to refer to these schools as “joining” other nearby schools.
The apparent closure of government schools in Assam became the subject online spit between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in August. Kejriwal maintained that the closure of schools was misguided at a time when the country needed new schools.
Other members of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Assam government jumped into the fray. They claimed that the schools were not closed, only “merged” under a scheme called Siksha Kshetra to improve the “general educational environment”. Assam Education Minister Ranoj Pegu He pointed out that the government has opened new schools in tea plantations and other places.
Assam’s school mergers are back in 2017 at least. According to the data provided by the state education department of the Assam Assembly, 5,953 schools – primary, lower, middle and higher and higher – were merged between 2017 and 2021.
But the process seems to have accelerated in the past year.
In June, Assam recorded 56% pass rate in class 10 results, the third lowest in a decade. The state higher education department has issued show-cause notices to 102 schools, of which 25 have recorded zero percent while in 70 schools, less than 10% of students have passed. The poor results in class 10 caused the state to close 34 public schools and none of the students passed.
On August 25, the Assam government closed and merged 195 high schools and neighboring schools in 21 districts.
Despite the government’s justification for merging the schools, academics and civil society groups in the region are skeptical. Many people feel that school integration can affect the quality of education provided by public schools.
The Assam Higher Education Network says the merger of schools within the same university is aimed at improving resources and saving money on administrative and logistical costs of running educational institutions. The state has approximately 45,000 public elementary schools that provide education from kindergarten through 8th grade.
An office note from the Department of Higher Education, dated September 22, 2016, outlines the criteria to be followed when merging schools under the Siksha Khetra scheme.
All schools on the same campus should be included in the top school – if there is a high school on campus then that is the first option. If not, high school or middle school or elementary school or all of these schools are located on the same campus.
Two or more high schools located within a distance of two kilometers can be combined as long as they do not exceed 40 students in each class. If the middle school has poor enrollment – fewer than 15 students per class – then it can be merged with a nearby school.
In the series of notices issued since April this year regarding the merger of primary schools, many of these conditions have been mentioned again. For example, “excessive teaching staff” will be posted elsewhere with vacancies or against vacant positions while maintaining their high level in the old school”.
The notices also state that the movable and immovable property, documents and records of the merged schools will be transferred to the new school. The new schools that merged with the abolished schools are called “primary schools”.
“Integrated” primary schools are struggling to adapt to changed circumstances. Some schools actively opposed the merger decision. Teachers and activists also alleged that the rules were not followed when merging schools.
The half-century-old Natun Fatasil Primary School in Guwahati is among the many schools that have opposed the merger process. The primary school, which has a total of 327 students, was merged with the Natun Fatasil Town High School at the end of July.
The middle school board, teachers and parents have been protesting the decision since the joint order was issued on March 19. A teacher at Natun Fatasil Town Primary School, who did not want to be named, told him. Entry that Natun Fatasil City High School already has more than 800 students.
“How can you [a] A school with a large number of students works and provides a friendly learning environment? asked the teacher, who accused the merger of being “illegal and violent”. “With the merger, the school has lost its identity as it no longer exists.”
The school’s management committee, in a letter sent to the minister of education, said that this institution was established in 1954, and it was intended for poor children; Land and money were donated by the local people. “Both SMC [school management committee] Also, the parents did not want to join, as they worked hard to bring their school to where it is today,” the statement said.
The committee also said that since the primary school did not meet the requirements, the merger order should be reversed. The letter indicates that the primary school has a separate campus and the entrances to the two schools are far apart. One of the rules of integration is that the schools are located in the same university.
Lutuma Primary School, established in 1951, was merged with the nearby Dakhin High School in Guwahati in April, although the primary school had 531 students – much higher than the numbers registered for the merger.
The teacher alleged that it was done without the permission of the school board or the teachers. “One day a senior official from the Department of Education came to the school and forced us to sign the merger order and documents,” said the teacher, adding that the official threatened to withhold salaries. workers if they do not comply.
Dakhin High School Guwahati currently has about 1,000 students and 31 teachers. “One principal has to protect 1,000 students,” said the teacher. “I don’t know how this will help improve the quality of education.”
In July, the Assam State Primary Teachers Association asked the government to review the system, citing several mergers that did not go through due process.
Ratul Chandra Goswami, the union’s general secretary, said that many district-level committees, appointed by the education department, prepared the list of merged or amalgamated schools without physically visiting the institutions. “That is why we have asked to review the process,” Goswami said Entry. “Wrong joining should be recognized.”
But an official from the education department who did not want to be named told them Entry On September 9, schools were merged to provide “quality education” and facilitate “proper use of teachers”.
“We have many schools where the enrollment is decreasing but the number of teachers is more. Many schools with poor teachers need more teaching staff,” said the official. “So, integration is done to address these issues.” According to the official, many schools are being reviewed for consolidation.
State education minister Ranoj Pegu has sought objections to the merger of the schools. On September 21, Pegu said that the department of school education and writing has contains a committee that reviews all applications for mergers or acquisitions.
Blame the government
While the state has maintained that the schools have been merged due to “unsustainable” enrollment and poor performance, academics say government negligence is the reason for the condition of the schools.
The influential All Assam Students Union also opposed the merger of primary schools. The head of the association, Dipanka Nath, said that there is a lot of public relations among the schools as they were built with land and money donated by the local people and then brought under the administration of the government. “Instead of closing schools, they should find out the reason behind poor results and poor enrolment,” said Nath.
Indranee Dutta, a former member of the board of directors of the state higher education authority, asked why the state government is not analyzing the causes of poor performance and low enrollment in such schools. “The government can’t just blame the teachers, students and parents. The government is responsible.”
Dutta said the merger of the schools would lead to an increase in Assam’s dropout rate, which was already the highest in the country for classes 1-5 and 9-10.
Dinesh Baishya, the former principal of B Borooah College, said that the well-functioning government schools are a hindrance to the development of private schools. The government said that the schools have been merged but Baishya said that they are better off being closed because the students have fewer schools to choose from.
Baishya alleged that the schools were functioning well but were forced to close without consulting other concerned parties. “That’s why the combination is wrong,” he said.