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Fight for jobs as pupils abandon state sector

INDIA

A teachers' union in India's wealthiest city is to retrain staff in 50 state schools in a bid to stave off job losses caused by the flight to the private sector.

The Shikshak Sabha union in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), said its scheme to improve staff skills and motivation comes in response to an "alarming" cut in teacher posts from 409 to 266 in the selected schools in the past two years.

The cuts were caused by students switching in droves to private, English-medium schools. Between 2000 and 2002 the state-school pupil population fell from 699,000 to 560,000 and state teacher posts were cut from 15,000 to 13,000.

"We have to improve quality to retain students or the teachers may lose their jobs," said Ramesh Joshi, general secretary of the Sabha. "We have to crack their complacency."

He said there was a perception that state schools, where lessons are conducted in the local Marathi dialect, were inferior to private schools, most of which teach in English. He hoped the programme, called "Project Mindset", could change their image.

But it is a daunting challenge: most of the Mumbai's 1,118 municipal schools are in a state of neglect, with crumbling buildings, no toilets and few books.

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