Demand for private schools rise, even in rural India

Government run schools have very poor quality of education. Now, that isn’t news to anyone who has a basic understanding of the education system in India. Forever, the government run schools have been plagued by inadequate infrastructure, lack of trained faculty, and misappropriation of funds.

The big news, however, is that the quality standards and learning outcomes continue to plummet in government schools at an alarming rate. This has been clearly recorded by the Annual Status of Education Report – 2014. According to the report, while India is close to achieving universal enrolment in schools (96.7%), government school enrolments have reduced drastically (71.1% in 2010, to 64.9% in 2014); a clear indication that more parents opt for private schools for their children.

“In most states I asked government school teachers and teacher union leaders why our children are not learning,” says Vimala Ramachandran, Professor, Teacher Management and Development at the National University for Educational Planning and Administration. “There was a sense of denial – most teachers and administrators did not agree that children are not learning. But almost all of them said they sent their own children to private schools because they believed that their children would get “better” education there,” she adds.

The reason, according to experts, was the drastic drop in quality of learning outcomes witnessed in government schools. According to ASER report, the percentage of children in Standard five who could read a Standard two level text book was 53.1% in 2006. This figure has dropped remarkably to 48.1% in 2014.  The drop in quality was again, drastic in government schools (51.4% in 2006 to 42.2% in 2014) while it was marginal in private ones (64.2% in 2010, to 62.5% in 2014).

“Learning outcomes are better in private schools as compared to Government schools, and this gap in learning outcomes, between Government and Private schools, has almost doubled since 2009, says Dr. Wilima Wadhwa, Director, Statistics, ASER Centre, and Professor, Indian Statistical Institute. “This is because learning levels have plummeted in Government schools and remained more or less stable in private schools.”

“Even though private schools perform better than Government schools, even they are nowhere near grade competency,” says Wadhwa. “Maybe the attention shifted to complying with the infrastructure norms of the RTE.  Also, RTE stipulates that all children should be automatically promoted till class 8.  This may have also shifted the focus from learning.”

Vimala Ramachandran, in her article, also mentions how teachers are forced to stick to the curriculum and finish the syllabus within a given time frame, with also the absenteeism of students and teachers being a concern. She also mentions that there is no school level monitoring of teachers, and that the actual teaching days is low, with many teachers having many non-teaching duties.

“The Government needs to become an assessing body and let schools compete with each other. It needs to leave the syllabus open, and start acting like a facilitator, not a regulator,” says Rohan Joshi, Associate Director, Advocacy, School Choice Campaign, Centre for Civil Society.

“The government in its infinite wisdom may know something we don’t,” says Wadhwa. “But if children graduate primary school without being able to read, what do we expect them to learn in middle school? And, if they join the labour force at the end of Std. 8, with automatic promotions up to that point, will the quality of our labour force be good enough to reap the demographic dividend and fuel ‘Make in India’?”

Read the original article on Parent Circle website.