A survey by the Right to Education Resource Center (RTERC) of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) has found that disadvantaged households both in urban and rural areas had little trust in government schools, and preferred to put their children in private schools and enroll them in extra tuition classes, even if it meant they had to take loans to cover the expenses of education.
The research, conducted on foot by visiting the surveyed households, found that despite 35 per cent of household incomes being spent on education, parents expressed general dissatisfaction and helplessness about the schooling experience.
In almost 70 per cent of households, at least one child went to a private school due to “high levels of distrust” in government schools. All households surveyed saw education as the only means for their child to make a living and secure a future.
The report reveals that over 65 per cent of households said that education expenses were there biggest concern, followed by food, health, marriage and entertainment expenses, in that order. At least 13 households of those surveyed had obtained loans to meet the expenses of primary education and were paying interest rates as high as 25 per cent per annum.
“There were several other households who had sold of their assets (such as jewellery) to pay fees. One household very matter-of-factly said ‘Khaana ek time ka kam kar sakte hain par shiksha nahi ruk sakti (we can skip a meal daily but cannot stop educating our children)’ and indicated that this was the common sentiment in their community and neighborhood,” the findings state.
The study found that the main reason for distrust of government schools was that parents felt that although government school teachers were more educated and had better subject knowledge, there was a high level of absenteeism among them. Some parents said they were aware that teachers are made to do a lot of administrative work and thus teaching became the last priority.
Among reasons for choosing private schools, some families expressed concern that as secondary schooling was essentially offered by private schools, their children would find it difficult to get admission in those schools if they had done primary schooling in a government school.
In the sample, parents sending their children to private schools were paying Rs 12,000 to Rs 36,000 per year in fees.
More attention paid to ‘tuition class students’
The research indicated a ubiquitous sentiment about private coaching being “compulsory” even among children as young as four years old and in kindergarten. Households spend between Rs 200 to 2,000 per month on such coaching.
“The extent and magnitude of private tutoring is something that came as a big surprise to us,” Prof Ankur Sarin, IIMA faculty behind the project, said. “Education has become such a marker of status among lower income groups that if children are sent to a government school, it is seen as bad parenting.”
Prof Sarin said there was a similar emphasis on private tuition. “Certainly there is a greater reliance on private tuition than private schools,” he said. Sending the child for private tuition is compulsory irrespective of whether he goes to private or government school, a few mothers told the researchers in a group interaction. They believe that education is imparted only in coaching classes. “How much can a school teacher teach in 35 minutes?,” a mother of two children asked. She sends her children to private schools.
In the group interaction, researchers found that there is also pressure on households to send their children for private tuitions that are conducted by teachers from their child’s school.
Many parents felt that the school teacher was biased in favour of the students attending his/her tuition and that not enrolling them in the private lessons could affect the attention given in class and his/her performance.
“Talking to parents and teachers of private schools, there was a hint of a vicious circle; teachers are (possibly illegally) underpaid, so they try to make up by “encouraging” their students to take up private tuition. As tuitions become a widespread practice, parents begin to feel that their child will be penalised if the child is not sent. This vicious circle needs to be documented in a better manner,” said Reetika Khera, another IIMA faculty who was a part of the research study.
Children under RTE quota discriminated
The research also revealed, that parents under RTE admissions are forced to pay higher “non tuition fee”. Complaints regarding experiences with the application process, discrimination within the school, and high non-tuition expenditure incurred by parents like transportation and extra-curricular activities, among others complaints noted in previous years were found to persist.
“For instance, in areas like Danilimda and Jamalpur, students admitted under RTE Act’s 25 per cent reservation were burdened with higher transportation expenses as there were no private schools in the vicinity. For that matter there aren’t enough municipal schools too in certain pockets of the city,” said Sukhdev Patel, who is from the non-governmental organisation Ganatar, who was also a part of the research.
Further, there were many instances of discrimination faced by the children. “Children in some cases were repeatedly called out in class as being an ‘RTE student’. In one school, a parent claimed that the teacher did not celebrate the birthday of the child even though it was done for all children. And in many schools, RTE students were made to sit in a separate class (which is in violation of the rules under the mandate). Those surveyed felt such actions were taken to make the parents withdraw the seat,” the report pointed out.
In another case, the school administration told parents to pay fees and enroll their child in the “non-RTE class” because he was “very bright”. This implied that children admitted under RTE sat separately and, worse, were not given adequate education or attention as those who paid the fees.