BIRATNAGAR, April 11: At a time when government schools are struggling for survival, some of them are setting examples in Biratnagar. For earning such a status these schools switched to English from Nepali as the medium of instruction in classrooms, among other things.
Pokhariya Secondary School located in Pokhariya area is one of such schools. Because of its newly-gained popularity the school has been forced to reject some students who approached it for admission. Last year, this school exhibited excellent results in SLC examination. Even in the previous years its student’s performance in the examination has remained outstanding.
Though there may be other reasons for the parents to seek admissions for their wards at this school, outstanding performance in SLC examination is a major factor, said the school’s Principal Khemram Bhattarai. He shared that like his school, other government schools with similar performance in board exams have been also attracting many students.
“It is true that community schools were gradually losing grounds to private schools. It was an imminent threat and we would have to shut the schools if we had not made improvements to accommodate the aspirations of the students and their parents,” he said reflecting on the factors that led the school to bring changes in school’s policy. “We figured out the factors because of which we were loosing students to private schools. Of these, English as a medium of instruction was the most crucial factor that parents considered while shifting their wards to private schools from government schools. We changed this,” he added.
Four years ago, the school hired teachers privately to switch the medium of teaching to English. And along with that it also made changes to the school’s environment to give a feel of private school. “These changes did wonders. Since than our students numbers have grown gradually.”
However, before making such changes the school discussed its plans with guardians. After winning over their confidence and commitment to support, the school went ahead with its modification plans. Such collaborative approach instantly improved the school’s overall performance. “Later, many other community schools followed our suit. Those who were able to win over the guardian’s confidence have been able to improve their performance dramatically,” Bhattarai said.
During these four years the school has been able to build a strong reputation in the area because of which many aspirant students approach it for admission. Unable to accommodate them all, it has added additional quota for students and even made its entrance exams strict. “Though we had added additional student quotas, we have to reject many applications every year,” he said adding further that the numbers of application received this year are twice more than the school’s capacity.
“We cannot admit more than 250 students this year. But more than 500 students have appeared for entrance exams,” he informed Republica.
Another community school that is also struggling to accommodate all aspirant students is Adharsha Secondary School. This is the oldest government school in town but had to struggle with student scarcity until it decided to switch to English as medium of instruction some years back.
The school’s principal Durga Prasad Chundal said that the school was having serious problems in retaining its students in the past. “But when we started teaching in English language, things changed,” he said.
It has been able to improve its standing in the area so much that its call for admission was responded by 485 students. “At the present we can admit only 150 students. So we have taken entrance tests to select the best of them. It’s the first time we have to take entrance exams to filter applicants. It’s amazing,” said the elated principal.
“Students have come from several renowned private schools of Biratnagar. They want admission here. But we will have to say sorry to many of them as we cannot admit all of them. So there is open competition and everything would be decided on the basis of merit,” he said. Most of these applicants, he informed, are seeking admission in lower secondary and secondary level grades.
Chundal and Bhattarai opined that the government must think about increasing quota for teachers that are well versed in English. If done so, they said, government schools would not need support from parents to pay privately appointed teachers. They informed that both their schools charge some fees to students for paying their extra teachers. “We charge admission fees to our students. It is far less than that charged by private schools,” said Chundal. “If the government supports us, we could be independent in this matter as well,” he said.
Yet another community school in Biratnagar that has been huge attraction of students is Satya Narayan Secondary School. The school’s Principal Dharmananda Kharel stated that community schools can do far better than the private schools if they can offer education in English medium. “We can do far better than the private schools if we get the government’s support, plan well and execute our strategy thoroughly,” he said.