Students and staff from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and volunteers from community-based organisations will embark on a ‘research padyatra’ to understand experiences of low-income households in acquiring education and their expenditure on it.
The padyatra will start from Madhavlal Shah High School in Khambhat in Anand district on January 25 and conclude at Fatehwadi in Juhapura area of Ahmedabad on January 27.
The aim of the research is to gauge the magnitude of investments being made by low-income households on education, their expectations and realisations from it.
It will also try to document a narrative of the challenges faced by such households.
The Right to Education Resource Center, an action research initiative at IIM-Ahmedabad, is co-ordinating this research for understanding experiences with primary schooling.
“The concern is that these households are spending a sizeable amount on education even at those stages which the state has declared to be a right. Despite that, reports like ASER reveal the low learning levels among students. So, we are looking at both understanding for ourselves as well as to make parents understand what and how much they are spending on education. A documentation of their satisfaction and the tools they use to measure this would be done,” said Ankur Sarin, IIM-A professor behind this initiative.
Sarin said that despite the historical importance of padyatra in Gujarat, the method has been underutilized as a tool for real-time engagement and research with citizens. This is a first such research padyatra being conducted in the state.
All the participants have been briefed about the present condition of education in Gujarat.
Some of the questions that the volunteers will ask the parents include: Due to what reasons you have decided to send your child to a private school; Due to what reason you have decided to send you child to a government school; from 1 to 10 how satisfied are you from your school and its teachers; Total expenses on education.
Meanwhile, to put the expenditure on education in some context for the parents, they will be told that in advocating a Universal Basic Income, the Finance Ministry’s 2016–17 Economic Survey estimated a transfer of Rs 7,620 per year to 75 per cent of its population will push all but India’s absolute poorest above the 2011–12 Tendulkar poverty line. This proposed transfer would be just a little more than average annual expenditure incurred on a child going to a private school in Gujarat.
“We are aiming at a systematic collection of data so that we can say something credible to the world that is not walking with us,” Sarin said.
Nearly half a dozen faculty members and an equal number of non-government organisations have confirmed their participation.
The recent ASER report highlighted an increase in private school enrolment in rural areas from 2016 to 2018 in the age group of 6-14 years. Meanwhile, the government school enrolment in villages has declined.