COVID-19 pushes private school enrolments down
- Schools were shut in the first wave of the pandemic.
- Drop out rate amongst primary schoolchildren has gone down.
- Accessibility continues to be an issue for children with special needs.
The admission numbers in private schools saw a decrease of 3% whereas enrolment in government institutions went up by 3% according to the newly released 2020-2021 Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) report published by the Ministry of Education.
The data from UDISE shows that the number of enrolments in government schools went up, from 13.1 crore in 2019-2020 to 13.5 crore in 2020-2021. On the other hand, private schools saw a decrease in the number of children joining school, from 9.82 crore in 2019-2020 to 9.51 crore in 2020-2021.
The changes in numbers aren’t all that surprising, especially those at private schools. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, various news outlets reported stories across the country where various state High Courts either temporarily disallowed schools from collecting fees while shut, or reduced the fees that parents had to pay.
The pandemic-induced downturn in the economy has simultaneously contributed to the fall in enrolment. Parents have instead opted to pull their children from the private education sector and put them into government schools. However, Kiran Bhatty a Senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, told IndiaSpend that while no studies on the correlation between income and enrolment in government schools exist, “there was anecdotal evidence to suggest that with the loss of family income among households, affordability of private sector fees has been difficult.”
Interestingly enough, between 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, UDISE data shows that the dropout rate has changed, especially among primary (Grades 1-5) schoolchildren. In 2019-2020, the dropout rate stood at 1.5, in 2020-2021, the rate had dropped to 0.8. However, the dropout rate for secondary education (Grades 9-10) has dropped only slightly from 16.1 in 2019-2020 to 14.6 in 2020-2021.
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While children with special needs (CWSN) do not make up a significant portion of the student population in the country, education and facilities accessibility in schools continues to be a sore point for them. In fact, their enrolment into the schooling system decreased from 22.49 lakhs in 2019-2020 to 21.69 in 2020-2021. A decrease of 3.6%.
Toilet facilities available for CWSN have marginally improved, from a still drastically low 18.5% in 2019-2020 to 21.6% in 2021 for boys and from 16.9% in 2019-2020 to 19.2% in 2020-2021 for girls. For context, bathroom availability in 2020-2021 for boys and girls stands at 96.2% and 97.3% respectively.