In his speech at the state assembly this budget session, Maharashtra education minister Vinod Tawde started off by quoting the poet Galib, “Umra bhar Galib yahi bhool karta raha, dhool chehre pe thi, aur aina saaf karta raha.”
The minister was referring to the focus of his education policy.
Since Maharashtra has a ‘no detention policy’ till the eighth standard, he said, we must emphasise on quality of education over gross enrolment ratio.
He went on to say that out of every rupee the state receives, it spends 25 paise on education. Hence, the investment in education should give returns in the form of excellence.
The state’s high allocation to education over decades, does establish that it gives priority to education.
Centre for Budget & Governance Accountability (CBGA) says that the share of school education in the total budget of Maharashtra shows a steady picture in the last five years.
The per child spending on school education was Rs 21,100 in FY18, second highest out of the six states CBGA studied.
Tamil Nadu is the biggest spender at Rs 23,460 per student per year.
The government school teachers in Maharashtra are also among the highest paid in the country, with 82 percent of resources going into teachers’ salaries, allowances, pensions and incentives to both teachers and their children.
The high spending on teacher salaries and students is natural considering that Maharashtra is the richest state in India with a GDP of $380 billion.
Shalu Rathore, a cook living in Mumbai’s Saki Naka area, says government schools have certainly been helpful to her three daughters.
Till the primary level, she had to pay no fees and her daughters got school bags, uniform, books and mid-day meals all from school.
In secondary school, she paid less than Rs 150 a year as fees but had to provide other things.
“But I am finding it very difficult to pay my son’s education; he attends at private school. I pay over Rs 1,000 a month in addition to exam fees and computer class fees,” said Shalu.
Her eldest daughter Mohini scored 76 percent in SSC this year.
Shalu says her in laws who wanted to get Mohini married off five years ago, now want her to pursue a higher education. Mohini wants to be a fashion designer.
Her younger sister Pooja, who consistently scores high marks in exams, aims to be a doctor.
The girls say that teachers at school “aren’t bad” but in the same breath they add that without private tuition classes, it is impossible to understand concepts.
Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are two states which have reported no untrained teachers.
But CBGA says only 23% upper primary schools have subject-specific teachers in the state.
“Schools have one teacher teaching all subject hence need for subject teachers is getting reduced. Hence states are not even appointing subject teachers…. There is a lack of English, Science and Maths teachers,” said CBGA researcher Protiva Kundu.
The shortage of subject-specific teachers has led to a grave situation in the state as Maharashtra has over 12,000 primary schools run by a single teacher.
The state’s education minister Tawde told the state assembly they are looking to merge schools with few students and teachers if they are within 1 km distance from each other.
Asadullah, programme director, CBGA, who worked at the union HRD ministry before, said, “The situation arises because there is not much of a career in teaching. Those who study science are becoming engineers.”
The other problem students of Maharashtra’s government schools face, including Shalu’s children, is that first to seventh standards are taught in one school and eight to tenth in another.
It often gets difficult for the students to commute to the new school, which may not always be nearby, and adjust to a new environment even as the level of studies becomes more difficult in high school.
Sparsh, an NGO affiliated with 16 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) schools, has filed a petition with CRY urging all schools in Maharashtra to conduct classes in one school, at least till the tenth standard.