My Government School

I grew up in a small town called Hisar in Haryana. My father was a Professor at Haryana Agricultural University and I did most of my schooling at Campus School. As the name suggests, the school was meant for the children of University staff.

I left Hisar after my 10th boards. On trips back to Hisar to see family I would drop in for a chat with my school teachers. Then my family left Hisar and I never went back until recently the internet brought some of my old school mates together. On this trip to India I went back to Hisar and to Campus School after more than 20 years. It was quite a trip down memory lane.

Within hours of our arrival in Hisar, we went to see our old school. I didn’t know what to expect, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. The school was in ruins. Every spot that held a cherished memory of my childhood was now overgrown with weeds or in complete disrepair. It looked like something that was at the end of its natural life and should be put out of its misery. But in reality, the school had more than five times the number of students it had when I was there!

The playgrounds were all overgrown. The classrooms were falling apart. I met a few of my old teachers who lamented the state of the school. Over-stuffed with students, no funds for maintenance, interference in teacher appointments – the school was no longer the best school in Hisar. It was among the worst. University staff – those who could afford it – were sending their children to better schools outside the University.

But come to think of it, why should I be surprised about how the school turned out. It is after all a government school. It is funded by the University, which is funded by the Haryana state government. Like any institution funded by the government it would have been under-funded while having no control of fees. The use of those funds, wherever there was discretion involved, would have seen outside interference if not downright corruption. Teacher appointments would have been based upon many considerations other than competence. Ditto, teacher performance management. Slowly, the parents who cared would have pulled their children out and sent them to schools that were further away, but offered a better education. As the quality of students dropped, results would have dropped, sending the school into a tailspin.

If you read this blog, you know that I am a strong proponent of the power of markets and private enterprise. I think that it is great that there are so many private schools and colleges opening up in India. They are much needed. Our ‘population dividend’ is useless unless we have a healthy and educated workforce.

But private schools and market forces are not going to fix primary education in India. Gurcharan Das has an interesting article on the subject. Some of the data he presents is worth reproducing here:

The Kremer-Murlidharan study shows that one out of four teachers is absent from our state primary schools and of those present one out of two is not teaching.

And another one,

Today, the government the Centre and states together spends on an average Rs 4,000 per child per year on primary education. Headmasters confirm that a child can get a decent education for Rs 4,000.

This last quote is quite interesting. It raises the delicious free-market possibility of a ‘school voucher system’. The school voucher system has strong support from many economists (Milton Friedman first suggested it) and Republicans in the US and is actually being implemented in a few states to mixed results. Basically, the way it works is that the government issues vouchers to people for their children’s education. Parents can take their children to any school and use the vouchers to pay the school fees. Good schools will attract more students, bad schools won’t and basically, the market will decide which schools deserve to thrive. Since the vouchers would work at private schools also, the system would incentivize schools to offer higher quality education to attract more students and be able to raise fees.

Obviously, this kind of a system would never work in India. Like 80% of our socially targeted spending, it would never reach the beneficiary. We have no option but to make our government schools work. They serve sections of the society – rural, poor – where the difference that education makes is great. The big question is how?

Anyone interested in a more in-depth study on education in developing countries will find this interesting.

Also, on my trip to Hisar I took this photo.

Site Map of HAU

They clearly haven’t repainted in the 20 years I’ve not visited, but if you look closely at the map of HAU you’ll find something interesting – just the way it was when I left 20 years ago. The legend at the bottom ‘You are here’ appears without any arrow to indicate where you are on the map!

Some things are meant to stay the way they are!

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28 Responses to My Government School

  1. Pingback: Blogbharti » Vouchers won’t work

  2. Pingback: DesiPundit » Archives » Campus School in Hisar, Haryana

  3. Viral says:

    Education is a major concern in India.Especially if 80% of the funds allocated dnt reach the needy.

    Private schools are very much needed but what is your take on the monster called as “Donations”

    Like

  4. Sonu Dutt says:

    me too frm the same school.Yes this is true ,Nobody knows where we r haeded.If we loose this opportunity may be it wone come agaib

    Like

  5. Siddharth says:

    It is easy to find faults and difficult to see improvements. For example, Azim Premji foundation is focused on making changes to rural education; private schools are everywhere; in fact, enterprise is not dead but thriving in the education industry. VTU is connecting teachers with remote classrooms using satellites, number of US students coming to India grew the most (% growth). Doordarshan today is not as good as what it used to be 20 years ago. This does not imply that “some things are meant to stay the way they are”. Not at all. All that is needed is just change the channel. Some fruits will drop, but many new ones will grow. It’s sad that the fallen one used to be yours — but it is not a true reflection of the state of education. Create a new one or Delete the picture!

    Like

  6. lakshmi says:

    Basab,
    Here is an interesting blog that talks about issues related to education in India : http://prayatna.typepad.com/education/

    Like

  7. Good post Basab! The lousy state of primary education in India is clearly a serious cause for concern.. and might lead to our demographic dividend turning into a demographic nightmare. The recent moves by Governments in states like Karnataka to prevent even private schools from offering education in English to the poor and middle class will only make things worse. Had posted on voucers as an alternative to tokenism like reservations some time back.

    Like

  8. Yogesh says:

    Accepted. There are things which makes you think that “some things are meant to stay the way they are”. But that’s the real opportunity the one has to make the CHANGE, isn’t it? But how many of us will dare to be part of that change? (Dont answer, just think honestly for 5 seconds in your mind)
    Improvement in education in India will constitute one of the major part of infrastructure development here.
    Possible options as I can think on top of my mind –
    1. Better tracking of funds which are provided by Govt(Central & State)
    2. Asssigning bottomline for projects which Govt undertakes
    3. Taking help from alumni of that institution (This really works, whichever institution it is – I tried myself for my school – in one of suburb of Mumbai and it worked – wish I can post the pics of those happy students 🙂 )
    4. Last but not the least, rewards to these institutions

    Thanks Basab, for highlighting basic issue in India to all readers of your blog. If possible, please have some solutions to improve the same too!!

    Like

  9. Manish says:

    You may want to look at this. Refers to this post of yours and gives an overview of some of the ground realities in Indian Education System.

    ~mks

    Like

  10. Hi Basab,

    It is really good to hear from someone from the school, but sad to hear the pitiful state of the school we all cherished.

    I passed tenth in the batch of 1982, and haven’t visited the school for over 15 years now. In the meantime, I have seached many times to get the contact details of some of my classmates, but couldn’t find any on Google or Alumnii.net.

    If you happen to know the email of any of our classmates or people who might know, I would really appreciate if you could send some information, and I will contact them. In fact, came across your blog while searching for classmates…

    Thanks,
    Vinai
    vinai@brandrich.com
    Singapore

    Like

  11. divya seth says:

    basab,

    i was very excited to see your picture and my old maemories
    all came back i do not know if you remember divya chopra and
    vinti aggarwal we are both in canada and in edmonton. we both
    still cherishe the memories we had of our campus school and i am planning to take my kids to show that school as i always
    tell them about so my memories of that school ,teachers and
    students of that time by reading your article i am disappointed
    that they did not maintained the school that was one of the excellent school of that time and kids like you from that school are doing so good. if you get time do reply back. i would love to stay in touch my self and vinti were in your class
    to refresh your mind.

    thanks
    divya seth

    Like

  12. Namrata says:

    yes I too was very sad to see the state of the school. Unfortunately I had takn my daughter to show her what a nice school i had and what fond memories! to my surprise i was met with the gastly picture of the school…. My daughter did not utter a word on the subject for the next two days we were at hisar!

    Is the school government aided? or aided at all?

    Like

  13. Anuradha says:

    Basab, I had a very similiar experience last month when I visited Panjab University, where I passed out 11 years back. Things have not moves an iota since then. I spoke to faculty, I spoke to students and felt like shaking them up. If our universities have to improve, they have to put a teachers ‘performance management system’ in place. I am also wondering, we who think have a solution for these problems, how can we be a part of the change that we desire to see.

    -Anu

    Like

  14. vishwas rao says:

    Hi,
    I guess, its too late to comment here … but if you are still checking the comments, please do go to http://campushsr.googlepages.com

    and they have repainted the map part 🙂 infact they did that just recently .. around a month back.

    Like

  15. dr narender sharma says:

    dear basab
    u were one of my seniors at campus school quite senior; urs is one of the names i remember.i remember karandeep chaoudhary & sandeep majumdar bowling much faster than irfan pathan & most of indian fast bowlers, gagandeep hitting the biggest sixes in the interhouse competition, sandeep singh from our batch was a great athlete

    but yes campus school is rotting
    can we do something about it rather than just cribbing
    please do get back
    dr narender class ten batch 1987

    Like

    • Sandy says:

      Hello dr Narender, its really nice to hear frm someone frm same schol. U r my senior, i passed 10th in 1989. I think u remember me, i,m Sandeep Punia, not so good in acdemics but quite gd in sports. Pls reply

      Like

  16. Dr(Mrs). Lali Yadav says:

    Hi dear, I am looking after UR school as Principal and wish to get UR view on working towards alumni association and website of Ur school. I shall be sending the recent phots of ur school activities if ur interested to know about it.UR school institution is great and UR teachers feel proud of U and UR school needs UR support as Alumni of the this wonder institution. TC. Good luck

    Like

  17. Basab says:

    Dear Mrs. Yadav,

    I’ll be happy to help. Schoolmates that I have stayed in touch with have fond memories of their years at Campus School and will be eager to help as well.

    Like

  18. COLONEL SUNIL CHAWLA says:

    hi everyone,
    its so heartening to find this page here n find all all old familiar names….
    basab pradhan..hey basab..i wonder if u remember me..i was about a year or two junior to u…i still hav vivid memories of the school…n dint need to see ur pic in the blog column to remember u…i remember u ..the only difference that i c is the beard…i am happy to have seen to after such a long time…i guess…26 years…well i left the school in 82…few names that come to my mind are…..seniors first…ajay sharda, namrata pandita, ajay pandita,rachna malhotra,aradhana nahal, the roy brothers..et al
    n my class mates….ajay chaudhary,sandeep majumdar,manish tayal,raman valecha,anuradha agarwal,babita agarwal,madhuri mehta,arshinder chawla,sudhir rajpal,gagan mehta, rashmi bagai….
    it’ll b nice if i can find them…
    so hey friends…anyone reading this and can help me find my school buddies…will ever be so grateful…
    with all the luv n fond memeories
    sunil chawla
    sunilchawla1@yahoo.co.in

    Like

  19. Gagan Deep says:

    Dear Basab,

    Your forthright views about the woeful state of our school, though expressed in another context, seem to have sparked off a surreal reunion of schoolmates hailing from different eras.

    Incidentally, I’ve stumbled upon your page by chance through a link thrown up by google…anyway, I too remember those golden moments of my childhood with a wistful fondness, which, once upon a time, inspired me to scribble the following lines in my notebook:

    O Life! Please find time
    To come back to me atleast for once
    With same old face and vim that’ve long been left there
    Where my childhood and innocence used to live once
    Where an olden fishpond with muddy water lay
    The one in which I used to sail the tiny paper-boats
    Overflowing with imaginings and dazzling hopes!

    In that lustrous course of journey
    Countless faces ferried along with me
    And a few forgotten shadows too
    Never was I lonely on the majestic pathway
    So many were there to laugh and cry with me
    Of course, my pockets used to be empty
    But constantly would they be spilling over
    With crackling laughter, innocent pranks and guffaws!

    Even Time has failed to extinguish those sparkles
    Each time I take a look into the tattered bag, full of memories
    I find them inching close to me but always out of reach –
    Those golden moments of that wonderful journey!

    To this day, it appears as if I’ve travelled a long long way,
    But my heart still beats somewhere there, far away…

    Gagan Deep
    gagan@indiasolicitor.com
    gagan@hindsolicitors.com

    Like

  20. Neeti Chauhan Kaushik says:

    Dear Basab,
    Hello. I wonder if you still are browsing through the site? blog.
    If you remember, i was your junoor, 82 batch passout . After reading the messages from so many old friends, i felt i was back in my old school. I am presently the Principal of Amity International School at Gurgaon. If you happen to ever come to Gurgaon, do drop in, I am sure you will love the school and will surely have fond memories of Campus Schoolthat will be seen in various facets.
    I am also remembering all the old names that cropped in during reading the article, Specially Gagandeep, Sunil chawla, Anuradha Agarwal, Vishvas Rao, Ajay Chowdhary and so on.
    Neeti

    Like

  21. sanjay says:

    hello

    Like

  22. Atul Dewan says:

    Hi,
    This is for those students of Campus school who were in Class 7th in the year 1975.
    I joined the school when it was setup in 1971 and studied there till class 7th (1975).
    Memories are pretty distant but few names which immediately come to mind are, Sandeep Bansal, Sunil Gupta, Ravi Jindal, Yograj, Alka Nangia, Amita Chabra, Deepak Mulani, Rajni Chandiramani, Mukul Tayal….
    Do get in touch should you happen to read this.
    Atul Dewan
    dewan.atul@gmail.com

    Like

    • Saurabh Gupta says:

      Dear Mr.Atul Dewan,
      Hi!

      All the names that you have listed here are the class mates of my elder brother Sandeep Gupta and I have all the faces very clear in my mind still after so many years.

      Brother had left school after completing his 10th.

      Now he has setup his own business…

      Hi Col. Sunil,

      It is so nice having met you and stayed with you after long 29 years.
      How lucky I am to find my old friend.

      Hi Neeti!
      Hope to meet you soon.

      -Saurabh

      Like

  23. Sapan Sareen Chawla says:

    Hi Basabji,
    I remember you as Saurabh’s Big brother, if I am not wrong. Saurabh was in my class. I graduated from 10th std. in 1986. I went back to India in yr 2000 and I was excited to take my kids to my school, but we just visited from outside and I could not even dare to step in. I guess I did not want to shatter my dreams any more. I think the state of the HAU Campus as a whole is not the same anymore. My dad was in the 6type quarters when I visited them and the houses lacked all that grandeur they were once known for. I still do not want to bring this up with them as I think this will hurt the pride of these simple folks who have devoted their lives and talent in the service of academics at HAU. I wish the administration was also at par with the humble professors’commitments.

    Like

  24. Vineeta Hooda says:

    I was one of the original students in campus school- Started KG in 74. My brother and I moved out of the school when my dad left HAU in 80s. Memories are hazy now, but I still remember having lots of fun and feeling very comfortable in starting school with Sethi Aunty and (Kiran) Malik Aunty there to look after me- they were my parent's friends ( Dr and Mrs RS Hooda). Later on, my own mami (Mrs Daulta) started teaching KG. I often remember this dear friend called Anand who had lost his mother. His fierce aunt from Andhra used to look after him and she used make lovely food which I would go over to Anand’s place and eat all the time esp. the Andhra mango pickle. Then there was Vikas ? Malik who went to Germany later and I met his parents at Hissar some years later after graduation. I also remember the Pandey and the Nangia families, my brother's friends- Sonia Verma, Jiju George, Rekha Tomar… the whole jingbang from our block! If anyone from those days still remembers me, it would be lovely to get in touch again.

    Like

  25. Rumu says:

    Hello Basab
    Hope you remember me. I'm yr classmate Rumu Chand. I had a similiar experience when I visited Hisar 10 years back i.e in 1999. i think we should do something as alumni. While going thru this page so many memories of school came to my mind . I don' t know where are our other classmates. I've contact with namrata, meenakshi, tara sethi & renu tayal. Two years back during Divya's visit to India we had a get together at meenakshi's place. Hope your parents are fine. Hows Rob? If you have time pls write.
    Rumu

    Like

  26. Iaj Spirk says:

    Hi Basab
    It is true, when you come back after many years to refresh your memory, you get a shock many times, the place is not the same anymore!
    A principal who worked there for 12 years tried extemely hard to change the situation, but the people in high places became his enemies, he was thrown out on false charges against him, even until today he has not got his due…pf/pension etc.
    Janta has to wake up to demand and get quality life, until then the situation will remain the same, India needs honest and sincere daredevils like that principal to bring about improvement.

    Like

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