Educating the poor, especially young girls, in rural Punjab, through the Guru Nanak Mission Public School
Guru Nanak Mission Public School offers affordable education to elementary and high school students. The goal of the school is to “uplift the standard of children of rural areas by giving them quality education at reasonable fees.” It is run by Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Educational Trust (GN Trust), and sits on its campus in Dhahan Kaleran.
In India, a “public” school means it is open to the public, as opposed to being “private,” whereby its attendance is restricted to certain demographics. The other type of school in India is a “government” school (i.e. a “civil” school).
Running a public school in India is significant because it means its doors are open to people of all castes, genders, ethnicities and religions.
Understanding the need for subsidized, private schooling in India
The Guru Nanak Mission Public School is fee-based, as are government schools, but subsidized. Free education is offered to children whose father is not alive, or to girls – a demographic not often sent to school by rural families, and especially not by lower caste families (cost being a factor, as well as cultural norms).
In India, government schools charge lower fees. However, teachers at these schools have a high absentee rate. Their classrooms are poorly equipped. This makes them ineffective.
To avoid creating the same situation with a completely charitable model, fees are necessary at Guru Nanak Mission Public School. This is because they pay for good faculty. Top-notch teachers require competitive pay that competes with what private schools offer.
Donors, especially Canadians giving money to GN Trust, make it possible to offer subsidized education to locals. But, it still requires a blended-model fee structure where locals pay for part of it.
That is where CIES comes in. Funds sent by CIES to GN Trust help to subsidize the school. This keeps the cost reasonable for families, while also allowing fee-waivers on compassionate grounds.
The Guru Nanak Mission School offers a high-quality curriculum. It is affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in New Delhi, and is English medium co-educational.
Activities undertaken to provide education opportunities to young children from poor families in rural Punjab
The school opened in 1987, as the Guru Nanak Mission Public School, to offer elementary level education only. It was founded by GN Trust. A new building was built to house the school. It was located inside the hospital campus in Dhahan Kaleran, which the GN Trust also operates.
When it started, it had an intake of just 100 students! Instruction was mostly in the Punjabi language.
Increasing capacity to offer high school education
In 1997, the school began offering high school level education. It was renamed the Guru Nanak Mission School. A new building was erected to house the larger student intake, also on the same campus.
By 2006, the school’s capacity reached nearly 1300 students, and by 2019, 1700 students.
Improving the curriculum and the implementing English-language instruction
In 2006, the school became affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in New Delhi to offer an English medium, co-educational curriculum to both elementary and high school students. Though, some Punjabi and Hindi are still taught at the school.
Providing school transportation
Many of the students who attend the school come from 140 villages surrounding Dhahan Kaleran (as of 2022 – this number can change from year-to-year as the need changes). As of 2022, the school runs a fleet of 24 buses to transport children to and from the school.
Outcomes of the school’s initiatives
In 2021, the Guru Nanak Mission Public School enrolled:
Boys / ਲੜਕੇ = 809
Girls / ਕੁੜੀਆਂ = 810
TOTAL / ਸਾਰੇ: 1619
Between 2010 to 2022, the school graduated 1565 students, who completed 10+2 studies (equivalent to to grade 12 in Canada). This is significant, because these students are then able to go on to higher education, or to be employed in a manner that can uplift their families’ financial situations. It has an impact that can span generations, multiplying year after year.
Students whose families are in challenging financial situations are given highly subsidized, or complementary education.
The school employs 70 staff members as of 2021.
Evolving education to create interconnected, equal-opportunity communities
Now a fully functioning school offering both elementary and high school education, the institution aims to develop responsible global citizens and leaders. The school is rooted in its heritage and values, and attempts to redefine education in India by reinventing classrooms of the future.
Students continue to come to the school from diverse socioeconomic and religious backgrounds. Emphasis is placed on educating girls, who are often ‘left behind’ in school systems in India. This is due both to financial constraints of their families, and cultural barriers.