In the middle of this academic year, R. Kalai, 12, secured admission to Class VII in the Chennai Corporation School (CCS), Irusappa Street, Triplicane. Before joining the CCHS, Ms. Kalai had to drop out of a private school because her mother was unable to pay her school fees as her father had died a few months ago. Her mother, a resident of the Neelam Bashah Durgah in Triplicane, says her daughters interest in studies improved significantly after her enrolment in the CCS.
M. Isravel, the resident who guided the student in transferring from a private school to a Corporation School, says many children in such neighbourhoods were still out of school. Around 50% of children below the age of 14 in areas such as Neelam Bashah Durgah are out of school. Some of the students have started joining the CCSs now, which have improved steadily in the past few years, said Mr. Isravel. CCSs offer education free of cost.
Residents of areas such as Rotary Nagar, Neelam Bashah Durgah, Kailasapuram, Sivarajapuram and Canal Street say many children of these localities are out of school and the Chennai Corporation has to take the initiative to enrol such children.
Chennai Corporation Deputy Commissioner (Education) Kumaravel Pandian says work on the makeover of all 281 Corporation Schools is expected to further increase the number of students, and attract more private school students. The project, at an estimated cost of 200 crore, includes developing world-class infrastructure for Chennai Corporation Schools, and is expected to be a major attraction for parents who seek better education for their wards.
Chennai Corporation Assistant Education Officer V. Munian says 28 Corporation schools have already commissioned smart classrooms. All the 281 Corporation schools will get smart classrooms shortly. We expect the number of students to increase from 85,000 to 1.3 lakh, said Mr. Munian.
Sri Priyan, one of the toppers in Anna Universitys Engineering ranking this year, says he was transferred from a private school to a CCS, as his father, a daily wage labourer in a plastic manufacturing unit, was unable to pay his school fees.
I started scoring more marks only after joining the CCS. I would not have scored 552 out of 600, had I not joined the CCS. The smart classrooms and library in the CCS helped me understand key concepts. For example, the first class on the human brain in the smart classroom inspired me so much on [the subject of] artificial intelligence, said Mr. Sri Priyan.
I have joined Computer Science and Engineering at the College of Engineering Guindy, Anna University. I want to work with Google and contribute to innovations. But I do not have a computer yet. I have requested my teachers at Chennai Corporation to get me a new computer. They still care for me, he added. His friend B. Pradeep is also one of the students who shifted from a private school to a CCS and emerged successful.
According to Chennai Corporation teachers, over 75% of the 85,000 students in CCSs have enrolled themselves in the English medium this year.
The percentage of students in English medium sections has increased from 25 five years ago to 75 in 2019. Just three out of the 281 Corporation schools are completely Tamil medium in the city, says a Corporation official.
Chennai Middle School, V.V. Koil Street; Chennai High School, Manikanda Street in Washermenpet; and Chennai High School, Thousand Lights, are the only schools without any English medium students.
The teacher-student ratio in Tamil medium schools has also fallen in the past few years because of parents decision to enrol their kids in English medium schools of the Corporation. Some Tamil-medium schools of the Corporation have just five students in a class. According to current trends, the percentage of students joining English medium sections of Chennai Corporation Schools is expected to touch 100 by the end of the next decade.
Tamil to English
For example, the Corporation School in Jafferkhanpet had 100% Tamil medium students five years ago. Now, the percentage of students in English medium sections is over 75. Officials have also started strengthening the Montessori system in Corporation schools. In addition to modern infrastructure in Corporation schools, committees for curriculum development, English language, and skill development and counselling, have been constituted by the civic body.
Chennai Corporation Schools will be more attractive for parents of private schools next year, says an official of the Corporation. As a number of residents of slums in the city are expected to be resettled, the civic body is planning to take major initiatives for competing with private schools, to offer free education in a world-class environment for kids of lower middle class parents, who cannot afford to pay exorbitant fees in private schools across the city.