Nearly half of India’s school-going children, some 120 million, attend private schools. Private schooling dominates how urban India learns, and it is making steady inroads into rural India. Contrary to popular belief, private schools don’t just cater to the elite. A tsunami of demand from low- and middle-income families across the country has resulted in 45% of private school students paying less than Rs 500 in monthly fees. But the returns to this massive growth in private schooling are likely to be low.
Learning outcomes in private schools need urgent attention. Annual Status of Education Report 2018 shows that 35% of rural private school students in Standard 5 cannot read a basic, Standard 2 level text. Learning outcomes are under regulated, and school entry, salaries, and infrastructure are over regulated: often the private school regulator also manages government schools, leading to conflicted regulatory incentives. The Coronavirus pandemic has affected the dominant, low-fee private schools the most, forcing them to close or to adapt to new teaching methods for which they are unprepared. This will further jeopardise learning outcomes in private schools.
India’s new National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) recognises the strong need for reforming India’s private schools to improve learning outcomes. The Central Square Foundation (CSF), in partnership with Omidyar Network India, recently released a State of the Sector Report on Private Schools in India, which the NEP 2020 cites. Against these two reports, how can we move forward?
On Tuesday, October 6, NCAER and CSF hosted Ashish Dhawan, Founder and Chairman, CSF, to present the CSF Report’s main findings. The webinar started with keynote remarks by Anil Swarup, Founding Chairman, Nexus of Good, and Former Secretary of School Education, who will frame the issues. Following Dhawan, a distinguished panel of Karthik Muralidharan, NCAER Non-Resident Senior Fellow and Tata Chancellor’s Professor, University of California, San Diego, and Farzana Afridi, Associate Professor at the Indian Statistical Institute, joined the discussion about the pathways to private school reform in India. The session was moderated by NCAER Director General Shekhar Shah. A Q&A session with the participants followed and the panellists also responded to write-in questions from webinar participants. The discussion was attended by over 120 participants.
A Press Release about the event is available on this webpage.