The cost of schooling has witnessed a five-fold increase, more than that of essential food items, in rural India between 2004 and 2013 indicating preference of villagers for private schools over the huge network of public schools created under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan.
The data on prices of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) shows that average school fee in rural India in March 2004 was Rs. 49. For same month in 2013, it jumped to Rs. 260, meaning an increase of 530% over a ten year period.
The ministry maintains monthly price list of around 270 commodities including food items, health and education services. The data is used to commute the monthly consumer price index for the country and indicates where a majority of Indians are spending their income.
Commodity wise comparison shows that prices of social services like education and health has increased more than food items showing that even rural folks are looking for quality service, which most of the government institutions are not able to provide. Prices of food items have doubled during the period.
A report by education NGO Pratham said that private school enrolment in rural India was increasing at an annual rate of 10% and by 2020 half of the children studying in schools would be in private sectors, thereby questions the relevance of the Right To Education Act, which guarantees fee public school education to children in 6-14 age group.
Around 40% of children at primary level in Maharashtra are in private schools. Even in so-called backward states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh the enrolment in private is on the rise. “In the election year of 2014, about 41% of India’s primary age children will be in private schools and by 2019 elections private schools would be major education providers,” the report said, posing a question over quality of education in government run schools.
Shift to private schools also mean higher cost of education. The price of a text book and an exercise book has more than doubled since 2004. The parents also have to pay higher cost for uniforms, which are provided free of cost in most government schools.
Social service cost