Lone English govt. school is brimming with students

At a time when government schools across the State are struggling to survive because of poor enrolment of students, one of them in Shivamogga city is seeing such an enviable rush — not for exits but for new admissions — that it has sought to add eight new classrooms.

The Government Higher Primary School (GHPS) in Durgigudi is the only government school in entire Karnataka to offer English-medium instruction from classes 1 to 7. It faces a problem of plenty: year after year, there is such a demand for admissions that school authorities say they are short of classrooms. They have requested the Department of Public Instruction to release funds for building eight new classrooms.

The secret of success of the GHPS is said to be its introduction of English-medium education way back in 1979. It also boasts of a spacious playground, a good laboratory, and offers special courses in theatre, spoken English, and Sanskrit.

This academic year, the GHPS has 961 pupils studying in classes 1 to 7.

Headmaster Deepu P.S. told
The Hindu
that next year, they plan to increase the number of sections for each class from three to four.

About a year ago, commercial artist and painter Velu Murughan pulled his two sons out of a private school and got them enrolled in the GHPS. He said: “Teaching at the private school was not good. It did not have a library or a laboratory and its facilities did not justify the fees that it charged. After I got them into the GHPS, I can say they are speaking better English.”

His children are not alone. This year, 32 students joined the school from private schools in the area. In recent years, many branded and private English-medium schools have sprung up in Shivamogga city. Yet, the Durgigudi government school has only been increasing its strength every year.

The number of its students has grown from 698 in 2013-14 to 811 in 2014-15 and 961 in 2018-19 or roughly 38% in five years.

English, according to a general opinion of parents, opens up a big window of opportunity for their wards.

P.S. Machado, Deputy Director of the Department of Public Instruction, agreed that the low and middle income families see English education now more than ever as a means to move up the socio-economic ladder. As they cannot afford the fee that private English-medium schools charge, they rush to the GHPS as it offers the same education cost-free.

Alumni speak

A few GHPS alumni recalled their old school. Preetha J. Shetty, UAE-based assistant professor of cytogenetics and molecular biology at the Gulf Medical College, Ajman, said she passed out of class 7 from the GHPS in 1990. Children of daily wage workers, porters, street hawkers, bankers, teachers, and auditors studied and played together in this government school. This, she said, has broadened her mind and kept her grounded.

Ashwin Shimoga, an engineer with Cisco Systems India Ltd. in Bengaluru, said he and many of his classmates from the GHPS owe their good jobs to their early exposure to English at Durgigudi.

Shantha Kumar R., an old student who now works with Hero MotoCorp in Gurugram, Haryana, said old students plan to form an alumni association and give something back to their alma mater, such as a computer lab and scholarships to poor pupils.

According to Mr. Deepu, the school has been a great leveller for students coming from families of agriculturists, construction workers, vegetable vendors, and autorickshaw drivers from Shivamogga city and neighbouring villages. They have held their own against students of elite private schools and today many of them are working with reputed companies in the U.S., Europe, and in Gulf countries.

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