Education plays a critical role in the lives of individuals and in the development of a country. Education helps level the playing field for all citizens bu helping them develop their potential; Education isn’t just about the curriculum, but also the environment it creates that allows for individuals to realize their true calling and dreams. Among the many benefits education bestows, increasing returns is one of them. There has been empirical evidence to show an increasing return to education – the more that one is education, higher the wages one earns. There is also a relationship between the education institution and the quality of education as well as future outcomes such as admission into better higher education institutions or better job placements.
The government has increased its focus on education with campaigns such as enrollment drives as well as policy changes such as RTE. However, the way one is educated has undergone a shift over the past few decades. Many of our parents and grandparents have been beneficiaries of the public education system. Earlier there existed two extremes on the spectrum – a close to free government education or an expensive private education. There was very little middle ground. The past few years has witnessed the emergence of private schools to fill in this gap. There are schools ranging from free to those that charge in lakhs – one of the many benefits of the free market. The area of interest here is the rise of budget schools.
What are budget private schools?
As per the government’s definition, private schools are categorized into “Government Aided (Private managed but Government provides aid) and Private Unaided (managed by individual or a group of individuals (trusts, society, or corporation) and not receiving any Aid from Government”. There is no strict definition of a private budget school. It is within this that we look at affordability and expenditure as the two ways to define budget private schools. Prachi Srivatsava, an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario (Canada), in her 2013 study defines private budget schools as “those schools that can be afforded by daily wage labourers, one of the lowest paid worker groups, who are paid the minimum daily wage as announced annually by the Ministry of Rural Development”.
Dr. Geeta Kingdon, a Professor of Education and International Development at the Institute of Education (University College London), in her recent study on private schooling looks at it again from the affordability angle. The other way to look at it is through the amount that the government spends per student (state’s per pupil expenditure – PPE) and classifying those institutions that have a fee lower than this amount at budget private schools. In fact, estimates suggest that close to 80 percent of children attending private schools in the country pay fees that are below the government schools’ PPE.
Rise of Budget Private Schools
Different research projects have yielded slightly different results, but all point to a similar dynamic. Geeta Kingdon in her recent study on private schooling estimates that nearly 49 per cent of urban and 21 per cent of rural primary school going children receive a private education. A report by Centre for Civil Society (CCS) estimates that 77 percent of rural children attend government schools, whereas 60 percent of urban children attend private schools.
When we start to examine a trend over time, macro level data shows a shift from government to private schools as well as an increase in those students being directly enrolled into private schools.
Based on DISE data, Kingdon showed that between 2010-11 and 2014-15, enrolment in government schools fell by 11.1 million students while enrolment in private schools rose by 16 million students. With this shift to student to private institutions, government schools have witnessed a decrease in class sizes. State governments have started the shutting down schools across the country as a consequence. Nearly 24,000 schools were shut down recently in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.
So, why has there been a rise in budget private schools?
Based on the NSSO data which the CCS study analysed, nearly 75 percent of the parents cited better environment of learning (55 percent) and quality of education in government institution not satisfactory (20 percent) as the main reasons. These two reasons have been cited for years as the main reasons. Even a Supreme Court Ruling states something similar.
“India is a land of diversity — of different castes, peoples, communities, languages, religions and culture. Although these people enjoy complete political freedom, a vast part of the multitude is illiterate and lives below the poverty line. The single most powerful tool for the upliftment and progress of such diverse communities is education. The state, with its limited resources and slow-moving machinery, is unable to fully develop the genius of the Indian people very often the impersonal education that is imparted by the state, devoid of adequate material content that will make the students self-reliant only succeeds in producing potential pen-pushers, as a result of which sufficient jobs are not available….
(Private institutions’) grievance is that the necessary and unproductive load on their back in the form of governmental control, by way of rules and regulations, has thwarted the progress of quality education… It is no secret that the examination results at all levels of unaided private schools, notwithstanding the stringent regulations of the governmental authorities, are far superior to the results of the government maintained schools.”
– T.M.A.Pai Foundation & Ors vs State Of Karnataka & Ors on 31 October, 2002
Is there some element of truth in this? The CCS report finds evidence for this claim. After dividing the schools into various categories, it studied the performance of students from classes 3 to 7 in languages and mathematics. The study found that “government schools perform the lowest compared to high-fee paying private schools, while budget private schools are ahead of government schools”.
Thus, the rise in private schools is primarily a demand driven on,e with the private sector providing significantly better quality of education. The linkage of better quality education with better future outcomes (a natural instinct of any parent) is driving the demand for private education. Putting the performance results and the PPE findings together, we can conclude that private budget schools are able to provide better quality education at a lower cost than the government. There are issues with this mass based education approach that need to be addressed, but that inquiry demands a separate discussion.
-Contributed by Bhargav Dhakappa
Picture Credits: ramagyaschool.com