Bonanza for govt school students in TN

Free uniforms doubled; footwear, bags, geometry boxes introduced

Heroic deeds: Sindhushree P A and and Sandesh P Hegde from Karnataka , who are among the 24 children to be honoured with the National Bravery Awards, 2011, at a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday. Chaman GauatmIntra-pupil differences to the last detail - from uniforms they wear, the footwear they sport and the bags they use to carry their books - can make a big difference to the ambience and quality of school education.

In a fresh initiative to minimize such differences and eliminate dropout ratios, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha has offered to double the number of free uniforms for school children, revive the free footwear scheme and even give them free geometry boxes and bags.

Against the existing scheme of boys and girls from class one to 8th of all Government and state-aided schools in Tamil Nadu being entitled to a mere two pairs of school uniform free annually, they will henceforth each get four pairs from the next academic year 2012-13, Jayalalithaa said here on Wednesday.

The new uniform quota is further liberalized with ‘Amma’ giving boys and girls of 6th class and above the option to get full-shirts instead of half-slacks and salwar-kameez in place of traditional half-saree respectively.

The State’s handloom sector will mainly benefit from the clothing largesse to benefit over 46.85 lakh school children in that category and would cost the State exchequer about Rs 260 crores in a full financial year.

The AIADMK leader also revived the free footwear scheme for all school students from first grade to the 10th class, under which primary, middle and high school children will get different types of one pair of footwear this academic year itself. The Rs. 94.76-crore scheme will benefit about 81.02 lakhs school boys and girls so that none need walk barefoot to schools, particularly in the rural areas.

Children of government schools will, from the academic year 2012-13, also get free school bags, geometry boxes, outline maps for geography classes, and even colour pencils which many rural students are deprived of, Jayalalitha said. She hoped it would root out the neighbour’s envy syndrome that psychologically affects children. Providing for these stationary items would cost the State another Rs.136.50 crore.

Besides the measures, Jayalalitha also announced doubling the special incentive cash prizes to backward, most backward and tribal students for scoring the highest marks in 10th and 12th level exams. All these should cumulatively contribute to improving the quality of school education and help eliminate dropout rates in particular, she added.

The measures are not in a vacuum as Tamil Nadu suffers from a high overall school dropout rate (for both boys and girls and across communities) of 42.45 per cent at the High School stage, though at the primary and middle-school levels dropout rates have fallen sharply over the years.

Significantly, Ms Jayalalithaa’s announcement comes close on the heels of a recently published global study on learning skills, the ‘Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)’, done under the auspices of the Paris-based ‘Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’, which ranked Indian students poorly among 74 competing nations. India for the first time joined the ‘PISA’ study in 2010, in which schools from Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh participated.

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