Enrollment in govt schools went up during Covid-19 pandemic: ASER survey

Financial distress precipitated by the pandemic, free facilities at government schools, inability of privately-run schools to conduct online classes, and migration caused by lockdowns have been cited as the main reasons
Students participate in a debate competition at St. Dominic Savio's High School in Patna, Bihar. (HT)
Students participate in a debate competition at St. Dominic Savio's High School in Patna, Bihar. (HT)
Updated on Nov 17, 2021 03:20 PM IST
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A significant number of schoolchildren in India have switched from private schools to government-run schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey released on Wednesday.

Financial distress precipitated by the pandemic, free facilities at government schools, inability of privately-run schools to conduct online classes, and migration caused by Covid-related lockdowns have been cited as the main reasons - in that order - by the respondents of the survey when asked about the reasons behind the switchover from private to public schools.

The 16th edition of the report, issued by the non-profit Pratham, was prepared on the basis of a household telephonic survey conducted in rural areas of 581 districts across 25 states and three union territories between September and October.

The survey covered 76,706 households, 75,234 children in the age group of 5-16, and teachers and staff from 7,300 government schools.

The survey found a jump in enrollment in government schools between 2018 and 2020, going up from 64.3% to 65.8%. In 2021, it has leaped to 70.3%, the survey revealed, meaning there’s been a 4.5% increase in government school enrollment across the country over the last one year.

It also means there has been approximately a 6% increase in government school enrollment between 2018 and 2021.

On the other hand, enrollment in private schools decreased from 28.8% in 2020 to 24.4% this year, the survey said.

In terms of state-wise break-up, the maximum increase in government school enrollment has taken place in Uttar Pradesh and Kerala, by 13.2% and 11.9% respectively, between 2018 and 2021.

“Other than Telangana, more than 8% increase in government school enrollment was witnessed in all the southern states [during the same period],” the report said.

In Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand, there has only been a slight increase in enrollment in government schools during that period.

The survey findings show that government school enrollment has gone up across age groups, but the maximum rise was reported among younger students. For classes 1 and 2, the enrollment of boys in government schools rose 10.9% while for girls the rise was 7.4%, between 2020 and 2021.

For classes 6 to 8, the enrollment of boys in government schools increased 5.1% and girls by 2.2% during that period. The overall proportion of girls enrolled in government schools continued to remain high like in pre-pandemic times, the report said.

According to the survey, 52% of the respondents, including teachers and principals in government schools, cited financial distress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason behind the increase in government school enrollments; 50% said it was because of free facilities available at government schools; 40% said private schools’ failure to conduct online classes forced parents to move their children to public schools; and 15% cited migration during lockdowns as the main reason behind the switchover.

The report says changes in the pattern of enrollment will become clearer when schools across the country will completely reopen.

The report highlighted that 40% of school-going children have been taking tuitions while schools were shut due to the pandemic, with the trend of tuitions increasing across all the states except Kerala.

“At an all-India level in 2018, less than 30% of the children took private tuition classes. In 2021, this proportion has jumped to almost 40%. This proportion has increased across both sexes and all grades and school types,” the survey says.

The report says while the availability of smartphones increased from 36.5% in 2018 to 67.6% in 2021, more children in private schools have a smartphone at home (79%) as opposed to kids going to government schools (63.7%).

The report cautioned that smartphone availability doesn’t necessarily translate into access to schooling, saying, “Although over two thirds of all enrolled children have a smartphone at home (67.6%), over a quarter of them have no access to it (26.1%). There is also a clear pattern by grade, with more children in higher classes having access to a smartphone as compared to children in lower grades.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Fareeha Iftikhar is a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022