– Reshma Ravishanker
Private schools in Karnataka, which have been hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic prompted schools closure recorded 76 percent decrease in student enrolments in their pre-primary sections in the academic year 2020-2021.
The survey conducted by The Associated Managements of Private Schools in Karnataka (KAMS) reveals that in the 60 KAMS member schools surveyed, admissions dipped from 5,522 in 2019-20 to 1,318 children in 2020-21 in Lower Kindergarten (LKG) and Upper Kindergarten (UKG) alone.
Moreover, according to survey of the 37,117 students who enrolled in schools in the year 2019-20, only 25,821 students had confirmed their admission last year in surveyed schools showing an admission decline of 30 percent across all classes. A 34 percent decline in admissions was reported for classes I-V and 12 percent for classes VI-IX. The report said that the huge decrease in pre-primary and primary admissions was because physical classes were not yet open for the youngest children.
Comments D Shashi Kumar, general secretary, KAMS: “In some cases, parents think online education for youngest children is not good while some others have just skipped one academic year because of financial reasons and/or health and safety concerns related to the pandemic.”
Schools, which previously reported pre-primary admission numbers of 100 and 150, recorded a mere 10 new student admissions in 2020-21. “We used to have 100 admissions into our pre-primary Montessori section every year. This academic year we had just nine. For the LKG, numbers went down from 110 to just 14. Parents think young children don’t benefit from online classes and that formal schooling might not be necessary at this age. Last year, some parents just paid half the year’s fee and dropped out without paying for the rest of the academic year,” says Prashanthi Shashikanth, head mistress, Brain Centre Pre-Nursery, Bengaluru.
Similarly in the Jawahar School Ballari, as against 176 admissions to pre-school in 2019-20, only 34 students sought admission in 2020-21. Riyaz Shaik, administrator at the school said that many parents also pulled their children out from LKG and UKG sections. “Parents do not want to take the responsibilities that come with online education. Though they are educated themselves, expectations to do everything are placed on the school and teachers. There is also a fear among them that children might get addicted to gadgets or be a victim of cyberbullying if they stay glued to the phone or laptop for online learning,” he says adding that parents prefer to send their children to private tutorials instead as the fee is lower and the child also has offline in-person teaching.
Another school in Bengaluru said they saw a dip of 85 percent admission in the pre-primary section. Natesh Kumar M N, vice-principal, Gurukula School, Bengaluru says that some parents pulled their children out of school because they did not have phones for online education. “Some of our parents work as security guards, drivers, and some in garment factories. They carry a simple phone with them. When they are off to work, there is no spare smartphone or laptop at home from which children can attend online classes. There is the hope of us getting admission into pre-primary sections only if offline classes commence,” he says.
The KAMS survey was submitted to the Karnataka high court to support a petition asking the state government to revoke its 30 percent fee cut directive which was issued on January 29 as private schools have suffered a financial loss of Rs 2,424 crore last year.
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