As we compare the models from world over on how to fight COVID-19, Kerala is definitely in the news for good reasons. The health and other departments of the state government have been working in harmony to control the spread of the pandemic. Many people, including Europeans, were highly appreciative of the facilities and efficiency of the government medical colleges in the state. The people who were sceptical about the government hospitals are changing their opinion.
While reading all these, I was thinking about an incident last year. When the results of civil service examination were announced, there was a bright young man in the rank list. Media highlighted that despite studying in a government school in a backward district, he managed to make it big. The person told me that he never thought that he lacked anything.He was ridiculing the idea of the “ordinary government school”.
A Keralite IAS officer in Tamil Nadu also shared an experience recently about people who refuse to believe that she had studied in a government school. I should say the general public have mistaken our government schools as non-competent.
Once upon a time, there were resource constrains in educational sector. The rural government schools were lacking in infrastructure as compared to their urban counterparts especially in the private sector. But then also, there were very good teachers who more than compensated for the lack of fancy classrooms. And the unique social and cultural features of Kerala made it possible that there are libraries, arts and sports festivals, science and craft fares in every nook and corner of the state.
This provided a kind of exposure even to a person from a village. This is so unlike the rest of India where a steep gap exists between rural and urban areas. Even many cities in India do not have as much facilities for extra-curricular activities in their schools.
Now, every government school has smart classrooms and there are more funds for infrastructure development. The Government Vocational Higher Secondary School for Girls at Nadakkavu, Kozhikkode, has the best possible facilities including an astroturf ground which was constructed with private funding and similar things are happening in other places too. The students of government schools excel in almost any competition. I have met a lot of dedicated and motivated teachers in government schools who go the extra mile to provide the best for their students.
In spite of all these, people believe that the students in government school lack something which prevents them from making it big in life. They may lack fluency in English communication as they do not use it often. But that can be picked up at any point of time. Other than that, they have a lot of advantages when compared to their competitors from rest of India.
You may not agree with my reasoning here. And a question can be raised “If the students of Kerala are so good, why many of them fail to clear the most coveted competitive examination in the country?” There is more than one reason for this particular situation. The career choices of Keralites are more diversified now unlike a state like Bihar where almost every graduate prepare for civil
service. Here, people choose both private and public sector jobs. And if it is a government job, most of the people prefer to work near home. It's an irony that the same person may go abroad if it is private sector!
The number of people who apply for central government job is definitely less. Plenty of bright students think that civil service is beyond their capabilities and they happily settle with some state government job. Another reason is in Kerala, still only those who have some extra-curricular achievements opt for civil service. But these people who have better exposure to world affairs often neglect to do the basics properly. They do not revise the standard text books and avoid regular practice tests. They concentrate on exotic materials and often experiment with new writing styles. In the end, they will be over taken by average students who work with discipline.
So, the problem lies not with government schools but the candidates' attitude towards the examination. More students from government schools should be confident enough to write civil service examination and the notion of the so called “ordinary government schools” will vanish in no time.
(The author is a former IPS officer and a trainer for civil service aspirants)