There has been a clear shift from private schools to government schools in the last three years, with Uttar Pradesh and Kerala reporting the maximum increase in government school enrolment, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2021. "At an all-India level, there has been a clear shift from private to government schools. For children in the age group of six to 14, enrolment in private schools has decreased from 32.5% in 2018 to 24.4% in 2021," the 16th ASER report released on Wednesday, November 17 stated. "This shift is seen in all grades and among both boys and girls. However, boys are still more likely to be enrolled in private schools than girls," it added. In government schools, the average enrolment in 2018 was 64.3% which increased to 65.8% last year and 70.3% this year.
The report is based on a survey that was conducted in 25 states and three Union Territories. It covered a total of 76,706 households in rural India, and 75,234 children in the age group of five to 16 years.
At least 62% of the surveyed principals have attributed the shift to financial distress while 15 %of them cited migration due to the pandemic, as the reason behind the move to government schools. "Many affordable smaller private schools have been shut down during the pandemic, this could also be driving the shift to government schools. Finally with many migrants moving back to their villages with their families, the demand for public education is likely to have gone up during this period," it said. However, the report said, "Time will reveal if these patterns constitute a transitory phase, as schools reopen across states or whether they become a permanent feature of schooling in rural India."
The report pointed out that the maximum increase in proportion of children aged 6-14 enrolled in government schools has been registered in Uttar Pradesh (13.2%), followed by Kerala (11.9%). Karnataka (8.3%), Tamil Nadu (9.6%), Andhra Pradesh (8.4%), Telangana (3.7%), Rajasthan (9.4%), Maharashtra (9.2%), Bihar (2.8%), West Bengal (3.9%) and Jharkhand (2.5%) are among the states that have reported an increase in government school enrolments.
From 2006 to 2014, there was a steady increase in private schooling. After plateauing around 30% for a few years, there has been a significant decline in the pandemic years. Even before COVID-19, the proportion of girls enrolled in government schools was higher than that of boys for each grade and age. This continues to be the trend over time, it noted.
A total of 4,872 schools, which had reopened post their closure due to the pandemic, were surveyed physically while in-charges of 2,427 schools that had not opened at the time of the survey were contacted via phone. According to the report, the proportion of children not currently enrolled in school increased from 2.5% in 2018 to 4.6% in 2020. This proportion remained unchanged between 2020 and 2021.
Among children in the age group of 15-16, an increase in government school enrolment from 57.4% in 2018 to 67.4% in 2021 has been driven by a marked decline in the proportion of 'out of school' children from 12.1% in 2018 to 6.6% in 2021, as well as by a decrease in private school enrolment, it added.
"There is a fair amount of variation in enrollment at the state level. The national increase in government school enrolment is driven by large northern states such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana, and southern states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. In contrast, in many north-eastern states, government school enrolment has fallen during this period, and the proportion of children not enrolled in school has increased," the report said.
On the other hand, there has been over a 10% increase in the proportion of school going children taking paid tuition classes since the pre-pandemic time (2018), according to the report. The report also pointed out that the learning support at home for children has decreased over the last year. The report noted that the largest increase in the proportion of children taking tuition is seen among those from the most disadvantaged households.
"At an all-India level, in 2018, less than 30% 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," it said, adding except Kerala, there has been marked increase across almost all states in percentage of children attending tuition classes.
"Taking parental education as a proxy for economic status, the proportion of children with parents in the 'low' education category who are taking tuition increased by 12.6% points, as opposed to a 7.2% point increase among children with parents in the 'high' education category," the report said. "Some differences are visible in the proportion of children taking tuition by school reopening status, with tuition classes more common among children whose schools were still closed at the time of the survey. The difference in tuition taking is larger in higher classes than lower ones, it said.
ASER 2021 followed up on the questions asked in ASER 2020 about whether the child is provided learning support at home and who is providing it. "The proportion of enrolled children who received learning support at home has decreased from three quarters of all enrolled children in 2020 to two thirds in 2021, with the sharpest drops visible among children in higher grades," it said.
Noting that school reopening is driving decreasing support, the report said that "among both government and private school going children, those whose schools have reopened get less support from home. For example, 75.6% private school going children whose schools have not reopened receive help at home as opposed to 70.4% whose schools have reopened. The reduction in help is driven largely by less support from fathers".