The enrollment in government schools of Punjab from primary to senior secondary level has declined by a staggering 2.06 lakh students in the past five years, as per the latest data accessed by The Indian Express. In 2013-14, there were 26.41 lakh students studying in government schools from primary to senior secondary level, but it has reduced to just 24.34 lakh in 2017-18. It indicates decline of 2.06 lakh students in five years.
Currently, enrollment figure in private schools of Punjab stand at 32.75 lakh students, which is almost 8 lakh students more than government schools. The number of students in government schools only declined with each passing year from 2013-14 to 2016-17, shows the data. However, this year in 2017-18, the education department claims it has shown an upward trend.
In 2014-15, enrollment in government schools declined to 25.71 lakh students, at least 70,000 students less than 2013-14. In 2015-16, enrollment further declined to 24.85 lakh that is 85,000 students lesser than 2014-15. The worst numbers are for 2016-17 as government schools enrollment touched a new low of 23.82 lakh students. This indicated loss of at least 1.02 lakh students.
For the current 2017-18, the education department claims enrollment at 24.34 lakh students, which is 52,000 students more than last year.
The similar data for private schools in Punjab shows that their enrollment increased by one lakh students from 26.57 lakh in 2013-14 to 27.57 lakh in 2014-15. It further took a massive leap of 8.26 lakh and reached at 35.84 lakh students in 2015-16. It currently stands at 32.75 lakh students in 2017-18.
In November 2017, Punjab claimed to have become first state in the country to start pre-primary classes in government schools. The enrollment for pre-primary classes stands at 1.42 lakh students.
Anoop Kumar Passi, a retired government school principal from Ludhiana, said the declining number of students in government schools at primary level is mainly due to poor infrastructure and lack of other facilities for students due to which their parents now prefer sending them to private schools. “Also, hundreds of private schools are now mushrooming in rural areas too. Then why would anyone send kids to government schools where basic necessities like benches are also missing,” he said. “Only parents who are really poor like daily wagers who cannot afford private schools send kids to government schools now,” he said.
Krishan Kumar, secretary (school education) in Punjab, said that under “Padho Punjab, Padhao Punjab”, efforts are being made to increase enrollment in government schools. “That’s why we have started pre-primary classes too,” he said.
Former education minister and SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema, during whose tenure the enrollment showed maximum decline, said, “We had corrected entire data and linked students with Aadhar cards. That removed duplication, so there was a steep decline in enrollment numbers from 2015-17.”