As many as 62% of children in India attended a government primary school in 2014, compared to 72.6% in 2007-08–indicating a surging preference for private schools.
In a recent Mann Ki Baat address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed that every government should focus on quality learning and outcomes rather than the school enrollment.
His concerns, expressed on April 24, 2016, are not unfounded.
As many as 62% of children in India attended a government primary school in 2014, compared to 72.6% in 2007-08 – indicating a surging preference for private schools – according to an IndiaSpend analysis of data in a recent survey on education released by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).
At the upper primary level, the percentage of students in government schools reduced from 69.9% in 2007-08 to 66% in 2014.
An urban-rural divide is evident: Only 31% of children attended government primary schools in urban areas, against 72.3% in rural in 2014. Yet, this does not mean learning outcomes have improved, IndiaSpend reported last year.
No more than 26% of children in class V can do division, a drop of more than 10% over four years, according to the 2014 Annual Status of Education Report by Pratham, an education NGO.
Despite spending Rs. 586,085 crore ($94 billion) over the last decade on primary education, India has been unable to arrest the decline in learning, IndiaSpend reported.
Government schools shunned, rising demand for government colleges
Till class XII, students prefer private institutions over government, with 58.7% citing “better environment for learning” as the major factor for studying in private schools at the primary level. Only 11.6% cited “English as a medium of learning” as a reason for studying in private schools.
However, when it came to graduation, post-graduation and diploma studies, many enrolled in private institutions because they did not get admission to a government institution.
For instance, 43% of respondents pursuing a diploma cited inability to get admission in a government institution as the reason to enroll in a private institution, while the same number was 27.5% for students pursuing graduation degrees and above.
The trends were uniform in rural and urban areas – although the demand for English-medium instruction in urban areas was higher by 7% at the primary level – pointing to growing educational and career aspirations.
26% of students across India sign up for private coaching
As many as 71 million students (26% of all students) enroll for private coaching in India: 273 of every 1,000 males and 243 of every 1,000 females.
Further, 89% of them cited “augmenting basic education” as the reason for additional tuition.
India’s private coaching market was likely to touch $40 billion (Rs 2.6 lakh crore) by the end of 2015, according to a report by Associated Chambers of Commerce in India (ASSOCHAM), a trade watchdog.
(Saha is an independent journalist based in Delhi.)