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34.5 Million Students Are Losing In The War Between Private And Govt. Schools

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By Rama Kant Rai:

In 2002, the right to elementary education became a fundamental right as follows: “21A. The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to 14 years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.” The enforcement of RTE Act (April 2010) came after sustained popular mobilisation by a wide range of civil society organisations and networks, including teachers’ unions, and the Indian Constitution now provides free and compulsory education for children between the ages of six and 14.

It also aims to bring out-of-school children into the formal education system, and there is a special effort to include children from disadvantaged groups and those with disabilities. While these measures are noteworthy, another potentially controversial measure has also been advanced – support for public private partnerships (PPPs) in the delivery of education.

Here’s a review of our education system as it stands:

The Progress Of Schooling System

The implementation of constitutional amendment and Right to Education Act 2009 is still sluggish and not all the children are in schools. The DISE (District Information on School Education) data is a surprising report, which reveals that the progress of elementary education is dubious and there is something inherently wrong in the enrolment of children. The ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act’ seems a far dream for all the children of this country.

Massive Number Of Out-Of-School Children

Based on the 2011 Census figures, there were 233,583,108 children from age 6 to 14 in India. However, from the total enrolment figures for 2011-2012, only 199,055,138 students were enrolled in schools (this includes enrolment in unrecognised schools and madrasas). This means that over 34.5 million children covered by the RTE Act were not enrolled in school.

Number Of Children Disappearing From Government Schools

From the DISE data 2013-14, it is evident that the enrolment in elementary schools (1 to 8) during 2013-14 decreased. During the year 2012-13 there were 134,784,272 children studying in primary classes (1 to 5) which reduced to 132,428440 children during 2013-14. Thus 2355832 children got reduced at lower primary level. Similarly at upper primary level (grade 6 to 8) there were 64926077 children during 2012-13 which increased to 66471219 during 2013-14. Hence the total number of students in elementary schools reduced from 199710349 (2012-13) to 198899659 during 2013-14. Thus the total number of students declined is 810690 during the academic year 2013-14. This is a substantial number.


Private Schools, A Mushrooming Business

Despite the fact that RTE Act makes certain norms and standards to be followed by private schools in terms of infrastructure, teachers and school governance, it is hardly being followed and private schools are increasing in numbers. Also government schools have vacant positions of teachers, poor governance and deployment of teachers in non-teaching activities. This has resulted in govt. schools being less attractive to parents, and a rush to enrol in private schools.

Private Schools (Figures in millions)
Year Primary   (1 to 5) Upper Primary  (6 to 8) Total Elementary    PVT (1 to 8)
2010-11 38.24 20.88 59.11
2011-12 41.90 22.97 64.86
1012-13 44.48 25.27 69.75
2013-14 45.67 25.57 71.23

Unrecognised Schools

The DISE data (Flash Statistics 2013-14) shows the number of unrecognised schools. The number of unrecognised schools is increasing despite the provision of enforcement of RTE Act 2009, which bans the unrecognised schools. As a matter of fact, unrecognised schools have not been served any notice to become adherent to RTE norms.

Enrolment in Unrecognised (Figure in millions)
Year Primary (1-5) Upper Primary(6-8)
2010-11 2.08 0.56
2011-12 3.24 0.98
1012-13 3.81 1.09
2013-14 3.62 1.14

The Agony Of Privatisation And Commercialisation Of School System In India

The Ministry of Human Resource development issued a concept note for launching privatisation of education in the name of so called “Public Private Partnership (PPP)”. The Government is convinced that there is an urgent need for replacement of bureaucratic controls in education by professional regulations along with private-public partnership to ensure universal elementary education. Competition in tertiary and secondary education is also equally essential.

Under the move of PPP, the Government of India has made clear its intention to engage the private sector in education. It mentions: “In the Twelfth Five Year Plan, possibilities will have to be explored for involving private sector more meaningfully to achieve the objective of expansion and quality improvement.”

India is no exception to the worldwide trend of educational privatisation, the growth of private schools, and the rise in corporate involvement in public and private schools. Until the ’90s, some form of public schooling or schools run by charitable trusts and voluntary organisations were the norm. Today, India is an emerging market for global corporations, international chains, corporate foundations. International consultants and venture capital firms encourage and invest in for-profit commercial ventures in the school sector especially targeted at low-income and working class communities that represents, for them, a vast untapped market.

3 Important Reasons Behind Privatisation

In India, the decline of public education and the concomitant growth of private education can be traced to three main factors:

First, the meagre education budget that does not match demand. India has the largest youth demographic in the world, with half the country’s population of 1.2 billion under the age of 25, but the education budget hovers at around 3.8% of gross national product (GNP) (Government of India, 2016). Moreover, in 1968, the Indian state had committed to 6% of GNP for its education budget, a target unfulfilled to this day (Tilak, 2009, 2006). A lack of political will to finance public education has legitimated the corporate sector “solution” to and involvement in education.

Second, in 1991, the Indian state launched far-reaching reforms to liberalise, deregulate, and privatise the public sector, including social sectors such as health and education (Nayyar, 2008; Venkatnarayanan, 2015). As a result, state governments, in AP and elsewhere, divested themselves from government schools, shrinking the size of the sector and adversely impacting quality. Studies show that “the government’s reduced priority toward providing sufficient resources to elementary education has indirectly increased the privatisation of schools at the elementary level” (Venkatnarayanan, 2015). Further, these reforms opened the door to closer integration with the global economy and expanded the service sector, especially in the information technology (IT) field that has intensified the demand for English language education. Government schools are required to teach in the native language of the student, especially at the primary level.

However, in a context of changing aspirations and declining quality, government schools are perceived as an impediment to success in the new economy (Lukose, 2009; Jeffrey et al., 2008; Faust and Nagar, 2001). These economic, social and political transformations of the last two decades have led to the proliferation of private (English-medium) schools in the country. People’s advocacy and pressure to fulfil international norms related to universal basic education led to the promulgation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act in 2010.

However, the RTE Act permits private provision of education, albeit private providers are mandated to follow the same set of standards as laid down for public schools relating to, for instance, teacher qualifications, curricula, the teacher-pupil ratio, and prescribed norms for school facilities. In the wave of school privatisation sweeping across the country, inequalities have been exacerbated. Many different types of schools have emerged that cater to different income households.


Our Concern

Elementary education being the state responsibility is being shifted to private players who are running schools for profit. We believe that creation of multiple strands of schooling for the fee-paying rich and the poor, would amount to allowing a certain class of society to monopolise opportunities. This vision of equal opportunity is a universal right recognised by multiple international treaties that India is signatory to, and cannot be seen as limited by the right of adults, political or business groups.

What Needs To Be Done

1. There should be wider involvement of people in the formation of model for the implementation of RTE.

2. There is provision for the state to enlarge the age group from 0 to 18 under 86 amendment of the constitution; there fir states should adopt sufficient measure to incorporate such group if it is needed (as it is needed in most of the states).

3. There is need to recruit permanent teachers with a respected amount of remuneration, so that they could pay more interest in delivering proper education to the children.

4. Government should build more and more schools at the easily accessible distance and not let private groups perform the job that the government should perform.

5. Create more and more awareness among people about the various provisions of the act so that people could ensure proper implementation.

6. Provide financial assistance to school managements in order to make things vibrant and functional.

7. State governments should make a state education committee with proper judicial power.

8. Stop any kind of privatisation and commercialisation. Do not allow any kind of PPP model in the basic education or at the elementary education level.

9. The new education policy should be made in line with commitments of SDG 4.

10. Government should adopt various funds-generating mechanisms such as the education cess in order to generate proper funding for the implementation of RTE, rather than allowing private sector to enter into this sector.

About the author: Rama Kant Rai is Country Convener for the National Coalition for Education (NCE), a conglomeration of organisations working for advocating the right to education for children excluded from the mainstream education in India in collaboration with civil society groups. He was a fellow traveller of the child labour movement in the carpet belt for more than two decades with Nobel laureate Shri Kailash Satyarthi, in the capacity of Regional Coordinator for the Bachpan Bachao Andolan. He has several petitions of PIL in as many as 15 state High Courts on the issue of implementation of Right of children to free and compulsory Education Act 2009. He has represented India at several international events in 26 countries, on the issues of right to education, human rights and health.

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