Over the last couple of stories under #economyforall, we have tried to understand various facets of inequality by interacting with people who come from varied backgrounds. The basal node of development in any community or place rests at education. Inequality in education is one of the prime reasons for stunted development in the society.
To understand the state of inequality in education, we had a chat with Amrita Nair, Co-Founder of Apnishala and what she said was eye-opening.
“Opportunities play a huge role in Education of Children” – Amrita Nair, Co-founder, Apni Shala
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).
Generally, It is an impression that public schooling is only meant for those who can’t afford to go to any other school. But it is surprising to know that a large percentage of students access public school education. Quality is hence questioned and eventually education as a sector.
Quality Of Education In Public Schools
Public schools have been traditionally viewed as being meant for the poor, and those who don’t have a status in the society. The quality of education in public schools is also repeatedly questioned. But it won’t be fair to simplify this issue and attach a set of reasons that lead to this problem. It is far more complex than it seems.
“Teachers in Public schools are given a million other admin responsibilities like election duty, census etc. which has nothing to do with teaching role.”
As pointed out by Amrita, teachers from public schools are time and again assigned government admin duties instead of training them in teaching skills. This directly affects the quality of education they impart in the school and the accountability that schools hold to the parent community which is much lesser than that in private schools.
Parents from BoP sector do not have the time or knowledge to question the schools and hold them accountable as many of the children are first generation learners and the parents are sole breadwinners of the family.
This state of the public education system has created a notion that private schools have better education, which is not entirely true.
“Public schools and private schools don’t really have a large difference. Parents prefer sending kids to a low-budget private school over a public school where the quality of education is either the same or most of the times, worse.”
As per the ninth Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 29 percent of enrolments in the six-to-14 age-group are in private schools. This is a 10 percent increase in seven years from 18.7 percent in 2006 to 29 percent in 2013.
While this reflects a shifting of public faith in government schools, the growing preference for private schools is also indicative of a willingness to invest in a child’s education by parents who very often are themselves illiterate.
The preference for private schools is not necessarily reflective of the quality of public schooling.
In Kerala, where the quality of public schools and teaching was found to be fairly good, 68.6 percent of all children in the elementary level were in private schools. Manipur recorded the highest private school enrollment at 70 percent.
How Does This Connect With Inequality?
Education is a driving force for social development and a necessity to bridge the economic divide. Children from BOP are not gaining the required skills from public schools which can equip them to pursue courses and careers of their choice thus helping them rise above their socioeconomic disadvantage.
This disparity in quality of learning creates a major barrier in allowing children from BOP to be on a level playing field with those from high-income groups. Thus they fail to compete, display low self-confidence and fall behind while pursuing higher education or job opportunities. And, lack of financial resources to acquire quality education adds to this handicap.
“You cannot get into the system thinking you can solve everything on your own. It has to be a collaborative approach. It is important to be critical. But viewing public schools and their teachers as a villain won’t help.”
Cover image: Apnishala