Private tuitions for tiny tots may seem absurd, but they have become the norm in rural India. Be it government or private schools, the children start taking additional paid coaching from Class I. And their number goes up as they go to higher classes.
If the findings of the Annual School Education Report 2007, an all India survey carried out by a well-known non-government organisation in rural areas, are to be believed, 12 per cent of children going to government schools start taking additional paid coaching from Class 1. The percentage of children attending tuitions increases to 23 in Class V and to 26 in Class VIII. In comparison, 20 per cent of children going to private schools take additional paid coaching in Class I and it rises to 25 per cent by Class VIII.
While private tuitions appear to be very popular in West Bengal, Bihar, Kerala, Orissa and Jharkhand, it is not the same in northern states. Take the case of West Bengal where roughly a third of Class I children in government schools are also enrolled in private tuition classes, according to the survey released last week. The number of such children rises to 83.3 per cent in Class V and 88.5 per cent in Class VIII. In private schools too, the numbers are more or less similar.
In Bihar, more than half the children of primary and elementary classes in private schools opt for addition paid coaching. The percentage of such children is a bit lower in government schools. Similarly, the number of government school children attending coaching classes in Kerala ranges from 28.3 per cent (Class 1) to 42.4 per cent (Class VIII). In private schools, 20 per cent children of Class I take private tuitions and their number goes up to 42 per cent in Class VIII.
In contrast, the percentage of schoolchildren attending additional paid coaching classes in northern states is much lower. In Punjab, nine per cent children of government schools start taking private coaching from Class I and their number goes up to 20 per cent in Class VIII. In private schools, their number is slightly higher. In Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, fewer government and private school children opt for additional paid coaching.
Experts hold teacher absenteeism and poor classroom environment/processes in rural schools responsible for such a large number of children attending private tuitions in several states. "Recent studies have shown that one in four teachers is normally absent in government schools. Besides, uneducated or semi-literate parents, who are unable to help out their children with homework and comprehension problems, prefer sending them for private coaching," according to a pedagogy expert.
But not everyone agrees. There are those who attribute this trend to the value attached to education. "The children enrolled in additional coaching classes show relatively better learning performance. As a result, parents, who want their children to do well, send their children for private tuitions. Though the infrastructure available in government and private schools here is better than Bihar and West Bengal, education is not accorded the priority it deserves in rural areas of northern states," Prithviraj, a primary school teacher in Haryana, said.
School going children attending tuition classes(All India figures )% children