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Difficult to gauge real-time impact of repeated lockdowns on education sector: Economic Survey

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New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) Children in all age groups in rural areas moved out from private to government schools during the pandemic, according to the Economic Survey 2021-22, which also acknowledged that it is difficult to gauge the real-time impact of repeated lockdowns on the education sector.

Highlighting the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), the survey suggested that shutdown of low-cost private schools, financial distress of parents, free facilities in government schools, and families migrating back to villages could be the probable reasons for the shift from government to private schools.

“Enrolment in the age group of 15-16 years continued to improve as the number of not enrolled children in this age group declined from 12.1 per cent in 2018 to 6.6 per cent in 2021. However, the percentage of children (age 6-14 years) not currently enrolled in schools’ category increased from 2.5 per cent in 2018 to 4.6 per cent in 2021,” said the survey, underlining the academic disruption caused by the pandemic.

The survey called for enhanced support to the government-run school system like additional aid in terms of teacher-pupil ratio, classroom space, and teaching-learning materials, to absorb students migrating from private schools and from urban to rural areas.

Based on comprehensive official data dating back to 2019-20, the survey highlighted significant improvement in basic facilities in schools from 2012-13 to 2019-20, with medical check-up recording 82.3 per cent as against 61.1 per cent.

In the same period, schools having girls’ toilets improved from 88.7 per cent to 96.9 per cent. Internet facility, though significantly low, still recorded growth from 6.2 per cent to 22.3 per cent.

Noting that school access, dropouts, learning gaps especially for children from marginalised communities have always remained major challenges in education, the survey said that the academic disruption due to the pandemic and the subsequent move to online learning aggravated the existing digital divide and thus access to education.

“Although, the availability of smartphones has increased from 36.5 pc in 2018 to 67.6 pc in 2021, students in lower grade found it difficult to do online activities compared to higher-grade students. Non-availability of smartphones, non-availability of phones for children to use, and network or connectivity issues were the challenges faced by children.

The survey stated that National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 aims to pave the way for transformational reforms in school and higher education systems to provide quality education to all students with special focus on the marginalised, disadvantaged and underrepresented groups.

The survey pointed out that expenditure on education during the pandemic has increased by 20 per cent as against nearly 73 per cent in the health sector in 2021-22 when compared to 2019-20.

The combined Centre and states expenditure in education increased from 3.54 lakh crore in 2014-15 to 6.97 lakh crore in 2021-22, it said.

As a percentage of GDP, it increased from 2.8 in 2014-15 to 3.1 in 2020-21. However, as a percentage to total expenditure on social services, it has decreased from 10.8 to 9.7 in this period, the survey said.

“It is difficult to gauge the real time impact of repeated lockdowns on education sector because the latest available comprehensive official data dates back to 2019-20. This provides the longer time pre-COVID trends but does not tell us how the trend may have been impacted by COVID-19 induced restrictions,” the survey said. PTI GJS GJS TIR TIR

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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