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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Why boys trail girls in Delhi government schools

Nearly a third of Delhi government’s schools run in evening shifts and teach only boys which, going by historical data, leaves them at a disadvantage in comparison to those in regular morning shifts as well as those in co-ed institutions. The Delhi government’s plan to convert all evening shift schools to morning ones could change that.

Written by Mallica Joshi | New Delhi |
Updated: November 16, 2021 9:29:38 pm
Delhi government, Delhi government schools, government schools Class XII CBSE board exams, CBSE board exams, CBSE results. CBSE performances, EducationOut of 1,053 govt schools, 297 schools or around 30% (only for boys) run in the evening shift. (File Photo)

‘Girls perform better than boys’ is almost a staple headline at this point — after all, over the past 15 years, girls in Delhi government schools have consistently done better in Class XII CBSE board exams. But a closer look at data could throw light on what could be putting boys at a disadvantage — attending schools in the evening shift.

Owing to shortage of land and infrastructure, Delhi has both morning and evening schools — while the former are co-educational, girls-only or a handful exclusively for boys, the latter take in only boys as students.

A plan to convert 92 double shift schools into a single shift — drawn up in 2019 but disrupted by the pandemic — is now being implemented, with the education department identifying suitable school buildings after constructing new classrooms.

Out of 1,053 Delhi government schools, 297 or around 30% run in the evening shift. The timings of these schools are from 1 pm to 6.30 pm. A morning shift school runs in the same building earlier in the day.

‘A historical mistake’

Data between 2010 and 2018 shows that the difference between pass percentages of morning and evening schools was as much as 10 percentage points. It dropped to 5 percentage points in 2019. The next two years, 2020 and 2021, were an anomaly as Board exams were disrupted due to the pandemic, allowing schools to collate results. The difference then reduced to around 1 percentage point.

Equally significant is the qualitative index (QI) — an average of marks scored by children in a particular category.

In 2019 (considered because it was the last Board exam before the pandemic), the QI of morning schools was 310.67. It was 23.46 points lower in evening schools at 287.21. Between 2010 and 2019, the difference in the QI was in the 25-30 point range.

With schools having a significant say in how much a student scored in the 2020 and 2021 Board exams, the difference closed in to about 9 points, but evening schools still lagged (see box).

It’s no surprise then that since 2010, boys’ schools have performed worse than girls-only and co-ed schools in terms of pass percentage and QI score.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia told The Indian Express that starting evening shift schools for boys was a “historical mistake” necessitated at the time by an influx of children and no space.

“A large chunk of our schools run in evening shifts. What should have been a temporary, makeshift arrangement became permanent. It is a historical mistake. Having children go to school in the evening is not correct as it goes against how things around us work. I would call it a loss of childhood,” he said.

Explaining why this system puts students at a disadvantage, principals say several boys who study in evening schools end up having to work during the day, and since most do not have educated parents, their education lags.

“The students do not have a conducive environment at home. Parents cannot help them with studies and some of them work during the day. For them to then come to school and show genuine interest becomes very difficult. Some students overcome these hurdles to do well, but these are only about 10%-15% of the school strength,” said a principal of an evening-shift school.

At a disadvantage

Several studies have shown that boys lag behind girls in school — a problem exacerbated by evening schools in the national capital.

According to a study conducted by researchers at MIT, when compared to their sisters, boys from disadvantaged families have higher rates of disciplinary problems, lower achievement scores, and fewer high school completions.

“Evidence supports this is a causal effect of the post-natal environment; family disadvantage is unrelated to the gender gap in neonatal health,” the paper, Family Disadvantage and the Gender Gap in Behavioral and Educational Outcomes, concludes. For the study, researchers looked at birth certificates matched to schooling records for Florida children born in 1992-2002 and assessed if family disadvantage disproportionately impedes development of boys.

Several countries, including Jamaica, Brazil and Ghana, have over the past decade started to convert evening schools into regular shifts. In Ghana, an increase in marks scored by children who were previously in evening shifts was observed.

The second question before the government is if these schools will continue to teach only boys. According to officials, it is unlikely.

“The idea is to convert these schools into co-ed — data shows the best outcomes are seen in such institutions. Studying in these schools provides children with interactions and experiences they would have in normal day-to-day life. Parents need a push in this direction since some of them are hesitant, but work is on to hold discussions with them,” said a senior government official.

That both boys and girls perform better in co-ed schools was evident in the government’s result analysis in 2008. The pass percentage of boys in boys’ schools was 79.8%. In co-ed schools, it stood at 90.9%. The difference in QI was 30 points. The pass percentage of girls in girls’ schools was 88.3%, while in co-ed schools, it stood at 92.42%. Their QI was higher by 8 points.

This data has not been made available since.

“The results and our interactions with students and teachers have made it clear that co-educational institutions are better for all children. We have far fewer co-ed schools as compared to single-gender schools, whereas the best learning outcomes are seen in co-ed schools. This is a big loss,” Sisodia said.

Still, the challenge to convert 300-odd evening schools into morning shift boys’ schools or co-ed schools is significant. In Delhi, inter-agency disputes and multiplicity of resources means land is not easily available.

While DDA is the land-owning agency, education comes under the ambit of the Delhi government.

Over the past seven years, the Delhi government has worked on building new classrooms and buildings at existing locations where land was available. The government is now exploring the opportunity to convert evening shift schools to morning shift schools using these buildings in some cases.

A circular sent to education officers by department officials last week says that since construction of additional rooms in schools is nearing completion, schools that run both shifts should look at the possibility of merging them and running a regular morning shift.

“This is a long exercise and will take time, but we are keen on converting them all. The development of adequate infrastructure for all schools will take time,” Sisodia said.

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