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Financial strain of Covid could lead parents to move kids out of private schools, survey says

Non-profit Central Square Foundation has concluded after a preliminary survey among ‘90 stakeholders’ that the pandemic will cause private school sector to shrink.

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New Delhi: The Covid-19 pandemic may cause the private school sector in India to shrink, with financially-stressed parents likely to seek more affordable alternatives like government schools for their children, a survey has said.

“Covid-19 is likely to have a very serious impact on the private school sector. In the short term, due to stress on parent and school finances, the sector is likely to shrink, with parents shifting their children to more affordable schools, including government schools,” Delhi-based non-profit Central Square Foundation (CSF) has concluded after a three-week preliminary survey carried out across multiple states/union territories including Delhi and Telangana. 

The CSF, which works in the education sector alongside the central and state governments, conducted interviews with “over 90 stakeholders” — 30 school leaders, 24 teachers, 24 parents and 18 service providers — for the survey. The results of the survey were released Wednesday as part of a larger report titled “State of the sector report — Private Schools in India”. 

The report dwells on various aspects of the private school sector in India, including the challenges faced and the reforms needed to improve the learning outcomes for students.

The findings are important because nearly 50 per cent of India’s school-going students are enrolled in 4.5 lakh private institutes across the country, the CSF states, citing data from the central government’s Unified District Information System for Education (U-DISE).

Among other things, the report weighs in on the struggle “lower-fee” schools have faced in keeping up with online lessons, which have emerged as the primary alternative for schools amid the continued closure of education institutes on account of Covid-19. 

“Lower-fee schools are struggling with digital transition due to challenges around household access to digital devices and internet access for teachers. The majority of parents of private school students have been unable to provide their children with study support during this period,” it added.

It said the majority of the schools are trying to adopt various means of digital learning like WhatsApp and video calls, but only 33 per cent of the parents surveyed were able to support their children with digital learning tools. 

Among the other challenges thrown up by the pandemic is the non-payment of salaries to teachers, the survey stated.

Also Read: Peeping parents, sleeping students, bullying — online classes are a nightmare for teachers

What rest of the report says

Talking about the overall state of private school education in India, the report said the increased enrolment in recent years can be attributed to a rising demand for a good education among aspirational parents.

According to the report, most parents with children in private schools said the institutes provide a better learning environment. However, it added, student performance in private schools is only marginally better than in government schools after adjusting for disadvantages in student backgrounds.

The report also stated that parents lack the means to make informed decisions while choosing schools based on learning performance.

“Board examinations, among the only few reliable and standardised metrics to assess learning, are held in the last few years of schooling, making it difficult for parents to judge the quality of schools during the early years of education,” the report said. “Moreover, nearly 60 per cent of the private schools across India do not go up to a board examination grade.”

Also Read: Go online but don’t go overboard — how Karnataka panel wants govt to regulate classes


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