The private schools in India report (PSIR) 2020, jointly released by the Delhi-based Central Square Foundation and Omidyar Network India on July 22 proclaims — for the first time — the huge contribution that India’s much maligned private schools have made to the national development effort.
The official line supported by the academy and media infiltrated with Left ideologues and fellow travellers, is that the country’s private schools are elite institutions that shut out children of the majority through high tuition fees and discriminatory entrance tests. The conundrum of overwhelming preference of the populace for fees-levying private schools when the alternative of free-of-charge primary-secondary education is readily available in the country’s 1.20 million public/government schools, has never been satisfactorily explained by the establishment.
The valuable public service rendered by PSIR 2020 is that it provides this elusive explanation and in the process, convincingly rebuts official anti-private schools defamation.
For one, PSIR proves that the great majority of private schools are not elite institutions patronised by children of the rich and famous. Seventy percent of them levy tuition fees of less than Rs.1,000 per month, and 45 percent less than Rs.500 ($6.66), says the report. For the first time, PSIR reveals the truth that India’s private schools provide arguably the world’s most affordable private education with consistently better learning outcomes than government schools, citing data from the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) published by the highly respected Pratham Education Foundation. This is why the percentage of children enrolled in private unaided schools has risen from 9.2 in 1993 to 34.8 percent in 2017, says the report.
PSIR 2020 has to be read in conjunction with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 which was officially released seven days later on July 29. NEP 2020 has set inspirational goals and has ideated several path-breaking initiatives such as according high priority to early childhood education and universal foundational learning and numeracy, and has proposed several intelligent governance reforms. However it again exposes the unwarranted prejudice that the neta-babu brotherhood and the Left-dominated academy entertains towards private schools. NEP 2020 reiterates the intent of government to protect “parents and communities” from allegedly “commercial practices” of private schools and higher education institutions.
This declaration of intent of government is a pointer that the educracy intends to continue to focus on micromanaging private schools rather than turn its attention to improving and upgrading the country’s dysfunctional government schools. Although it was perhaps released too late, PSIR 2020 provides sufficient evidence that the country’s 450,000 private schools need greater autonomy, not closer supervision.