The Nadakkavu model: How a coastal-town government school brought J&K closer to Kerala

A 130-year-old Government Higher Secondary School for Girls boasts of facilities and teaching that meet global standards.

ByK A Shaji

Published Apr 05, 2023 | 10:00 AMUpdatedApr 05, 2023 | 10:00 AM

Nadakkavu

Locals have divided Nadakku into two: East and West. But they share a common pride that has bridged the distance between Kerala in the south and the northernmost Jammu and Kashmir.

A commercial and residential locality in the Kozhikode district, Nadakkavu is home to the Government Vocational Higher Secondary School for Girls, an institution that has become the envy of even elite private schools in the country.

The school, which has classes from the primary level onwards, now boasts world-class facilities and quality teaching practices. It has improved its schooling standards manifold over the past several years.

Its students are mostly from poor fish workers’ families in the city’s coastal belt.

The 130-year-old institution has been adjudged as one of the Best 10 schools in the country.

Success story of a PPP model

Its success is a story of public-private partnership, and a good share of its credit goes to the UAE-based Faizal and Shabana Foundation (FSF).

Class room nadakkavu

A classroom in the Nadakkavu school. Photo: KA Shaji

Established by Keralite industrialist couple Faizal E Kottikollon and Shabana Faizal in 2007, the Foundation has invested ₹20 crore to develop the government-run school.

It roped in others, including the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode (IIM-K), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and IT major Infosys, to fuel the school’s growth.

Its growth grabbed global attention and is now known as the Nadakkavu model, which is being replicated in 1,200 government schools with private partnerships across South India.

On Sunday, 2 April, the school added another feather to its hat when the Jammu and Kashmir government inked a deal with the Faizal and Shabana Foundation to replicate the model at the Government Higher Secondary School for Girls at Kothibagh in Srinagar.

The Foundation will initiate steps to convert the school into a centre of educational excellence that can serve as an adaptable blueprint for other schools throughout the Union Territory.

Besides funding the modernisation initiatives, the Foundation will also implement the project and ensure a holistic educational atmosphere.

“Like in the case of Nadakkavu school, we aim to empower girls from low-income families with little access to modern education,” Jose Sebastian, global head of FSF, told South First.

“We will rope in Indian and international institutions of repute to provide training and orientation to teaching and non-teaching staff, apart from motivating students,” he explained the plan.

Also read: How gender equality drive in Kerala schools has been derailed

Multiple interventions, higher standards

The FSF and its promoter couple have been aiming at helping ordinary government schools attain international standards through multiple interventions.

Kashmir school

The school in Srinagar, where the Nadakkavu model will be replicated. Photo: Supplied.

A statement issued by Tassaduq Hussain Mir, director of school education in Jammu and Kashmir, said that the model would be replicated in all government schools across the northernmost state very soon with the help of the foundation and other generous contributors.

He said the new initiative would considerably improve Jammu and Kashmir’s educational standards.

The Nadakkavu school started witnessing a complete transformation over a decade ago when the then local MLA, A Pradeep Kumar, set aside ₹5.5 crore from his local area development fund for improving its facilities.

On hearing about the MLA’s initiative, the FSF offered support.

The Nadakkavu school now has an imposing primary section at its entrance. The state-of-the-art building was built under the guidance of Scottish architect William Cooper.

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Democratisation of education

The school has an indoor stadium with three basketball courts, an astroturf hockey stadium, a football field, two badminton courts, a 2,000-seat dining hall, an atrium, a gymnasium, a heritage zone, and a library with 25,000 books.

Nadakkavu

Inside the Nadakkavu school complex. Photo: KA Shaji

The ISRO established four science labs at the school, while Infosys pitched in with 150 computers. IIM-K coordinated the implementation.

Last year, the school’s student strength increased to 2,450, most of them from economically backward families.

During exams, it provides dormitory facilities to help girls whose homes lack furniture and lighting.

The school even caught the fancy of Academy Award-winning musician AR Rahman. He flew down to Kozhikode three years ago to have a first-hand experience of the school’s transformation.

Addressing students in the spacious new auditorium, Rahman recalled how he had met his old friends Faizal and his wife Shabana in New York. It was then he heard about the Faizal-Shabana Foundation and its initiative at Nadakkavu.

The meeting prompted Rahman to visit the school.

“We feel happy that the Nadakkavu model is being replicated everywhere, especially in Jammu and Kashmir. We wish the kind of democratisation of education as in Nadakkavu is replicated everywhere,” former MLA Pradeep Kumar said.

“The Nadakkavu model is part of Kerala’s vision to bring world-class education within the reach of the poorest children,” the CPI(M) leader said.

Also read: Kerala to set up weather stations in schools

Political foes join hands

The Nadakkavu school stands as testimony to what government-private participation and collaboration of political parties could do to advance progress.

In a rare instance, the bitter political foes — the Congress-led UDF and the CPI(M)-led LDF — played equally productive roles at Nadakkavu.

“The Nadakav school is a promising chapter in resisting the commercialisation of education that threatens to make high-quality education unaffordable to the poor,” Kumar said.

“It is also a heartening attempt to lift the sagging image of government schools and make them more attractive for students migrating to private schools. Better infrastructure and facilities could improve government schools’ morale and the quality of education,” he added.

At a time the education standards are nosediving in government schools across the country, this unique public-private model might be just the panacea for the ills dogging the state-run institutions.

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Investing for the future

Kerala is known for its highest literacy rate in the country and 100 percent enrolment of children in primary and secondary education.

With around 46 lakh students, 16,000 schools, and 1.69 lakh teachers, the student-teacher and student-school ratios reflect a robust and vibrant primary and secondary educational sector.

With adequate non-teaching staff strength, the teachers are not burdened with non-teaching or administrative work and can concentrate on their pedagogical roles.

The return on investment is impressive. The school has been consistently recorded a 100 percent pass in Class X for the past 11 years. More than 80 percent of the students cleared the Class XI exam during this period..

Successive governments in Kerala have increased the capital outlay for education and decentralised education financing through local bodies.

The per capita expenditure on education is also on a steady uptick. The Kerala model shows that comprehensive nutrition, health, sanitation, and early stimulation interventions can help achieve sustainable human development.

Now, as part of its comprehensive educational reforms, Kerala is upgrading 1,000 government schools to international standards, as in the case of Nadakkavu — a poll promise the LDF made in 2016.

The reforms are focused on improving infrastructure and teaching and learning, aligning it to present-day needs by introducing Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-enabled learning and smart classrooms.

Particular focus is given to creating educational programmes for differently-abled students.

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Democratic education model

Under the mission, each government school with over 1,000 students got ₹3 crore for essential infrastructure development. State-aided schools will get government support of up to ₹1 crore, and the management will raise an equal amount.

The mission is also aimed at redefining the existing classroom learning process and developing a “Janakeeya Vidyabhyasa Mathruka”, roughly translated as the “Democratic Education Model”.

The government had said that through various programmes, the mission brought together parents, politicians, and the public on a single platform for developing public educational institutions across the state.