An initio since the very first issue of EducationWorld was somewhat hesitantly launched in 1999 — we celebrated our 20th anniversary last November — your editors have always supported private initiatives in education. Although following the ill-advised grafting of Soviet-inspired Nehruvian socialism on the Indian economy soon after independence it became fashionable to rubbish private schools, colleges and the few private universities that battled ubiquitous red tape and struck roots, we have always encouraged private education in the national interest. That’s why in 2007, we introduced the country’s very first league tables ranking the country’s best private schools in categories of day, boarding, international and several sub-categories under them (to avoid apples and oranges-type comparisons).
In recent years, we have also begun including a league table ranking India’s unique budget private schools (BPS) after the Centre for Civil Society, Delhi — a highly respected think-tank — estimated the number of BPS which provide rock-bottom priced primary-secondary education to children of low-income households, at 400,000 with a staggering aggregate enrolment of 60 million children. Although demonised by the neta-babu brotherhood and Left intellectuals who dominate the academy, BPS promoters driven by enlightened self-interest and philanthropy, are rendering valuable public service by providing aspirational lower, middle and organised working class households affordable alternative (to public schools) education at all price points. Unsurprisingly, the establishment’s response to the BPS — eulogised by Prof. James Tooley in his under-appreciated The Beautiful Tree (2009) — is to outlaw them. Section 19 of the Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, prescribes strict infrastructure norms for BPS and punitive fines and forcible closure for non-compliance. Government schools are exempted from compliance.
Be that as it may, responding to pressure from BPS promoters/managements and parents in SEC (socio-economic category) C, D and E, we commissioned our trusted partner Centre for Forecasting and Research Pvt. Ltd, Delhi (C fore) to conduct field surveys in major cities nationwide to unearth the country’s most-respected BPS. Over a period of three months, 50 C fore field personnel constituted a sample database of 2,458 respondents comprising parents with children in BPS, principals and teachers to rate affordable schools (shortlisted by NISA) in 143 cities/towns on 11 parameters of school excellence (teacher competence, academic reputation, co-curricular education, sports education, value for money etc). The scores awarded by respondents under the 11 parameters were totalled to rank 300 of the country’s sufficiently well-reputed BPS (schools rated by less than 25 respondents are not ranked) in 18 states.
And in our second lead feature, we report on our landmark 10th National Early Childhood Education Conference 2020 convened in Mumbai on January 23, and felicitations for the country’s most admired pre-primary schools.