The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a shift in the education sector as it was one of the most affected. Data indicates a significant positive shift in enrolment in government schools while it decreased in private schools reversing a pre-pandemic trend. The trend was visible across states in varying degrees.
The size of the Indian education system is enormous, the system caters to around 27 crore students from pre-primary to higher secondary levels, with over 95 lakh teachers in around 15 lakh schools. While the education system is meant to standardize and maintain uniformity across the nation, it also provides ample space for culture and diversity to flourish.
The Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE), now remodelled as UDISE+, is a comprehensive database of metrics on the Indian education system. UDISE came into being in 2012-13, while the remodelled UDISE+ was launched in 2018-19. The latest report, UDISE+ 2021-22, was published recently.
This is a two-part series on UDISE+ 2021-22 to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education system. The first part focuses on aspects of school profiles and enrolment trends, and the second part looks at infrastructural aspects and performance indicators.
Decline in the total number of schools
The total number of schools in India stands at 14,89,115 as per the UDISE+ 2021-22 report. This was 15,16,892 during 2014-15, further growing up to 15,58,903 in 2017-18. From 2017-18, the decline has been consistent, except in 2020-21 when there was a minor increase. The decline in the number of schools is 1.33% compared to figures for 2020-21, and 4.5% compared with 2017-18 figures.
In terms of school management, Government schools showed a consistent decline from 11,07,118 in 2014-15 to 10,22,386 in 2021-22. This is not the case with Government aided and Private Unaided schools. Government-aided schools rose from 83,042 in 2014-15 to 84,623 in 2018-19, after which it fell to 82,480 in 2021-22. Similarly, the Private unaided schools grew from 2,88,164 in 2014-15 to 34,33,14 in 2020-21, after which it declined to 33,58,44 in 2021-22.
While the government schools fell by 0.95%, Government aided schools grew by 0.97% from 2020-21. Private unaided schools declined by 2.18% during the same period, possibly because of COVID-19.
The percentage changes in the number of schools are as below.
It is evident that Private unaided schools majorly bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many schools either closing or halting operations. The decline in government schools could be due to the rationalization of schools according to the teacher-student ratios.
Enrolment in Government Schools better than private Schools
The primary aim of any education system is to ensure that all children of suitable age are enrolled in school and are attending. Achieving Universal participation of children in schooling is the core focus of the governments.
The data from 2014-15 to 2021-22 reveals that the enrolment in Government Schools fell from 14.41 crores in 2014-15 to 13.09 crores in 2019-20. In percentage terms, it amounts to a more than a 9% decline in enrolment. However, for 2020-21, and 2021-22, the enrolment in Government schools has increased, with 13.49 crores enrolled in 2020-21, and 14.32 crores in 2021-22.
For the Government-aided, the enrolment fell from 3.01 crores in 2014-15 to 2.68 crores in 2020-21, registering a decline of 11%. In 2021-22, the enrolment slightly improved by 0.7% to 2.70 crores. For Private unaided schools, the enrolment rose from 7.92 crores in 2014-15 to 9.82 crores in 2019-20, marking an increase of 24%. However, for 2020-21, and 2021-22, the enrolment fell to 9.51 crores, and 8.82 crores respectively.
If we look at the share of each type of management in the total enrolment, the share of government schools fell from 55.5% in 2014-15 to 50.46% in 2019-20, while again improving to 55.20% in 2021-22. Similarly, for private unaided schools, the share increased from 30.5% in 2014-15 to 37.85% in 2019-20, before declining to 34.02% in 2021-22.
Overall, the percentage changes in the enrolment figures are as below.
It is clear from the data that there is a clear reversal in the enrolment pattern, with students opting for government schools to private schools. The pandemic has forced many families to switch their children from private schools to government schools, owing to financial difficulties.
Similar shift in enrolment pattern across the states
Data indicates a positive shift in enrolment in government schools, while the opposite is true for private unaided schools. At an all-India level, this shift is 9.4% for government schools, whereas, for private schools, it is -10.12% between 2019-20 and 2021-22. This shift is observed in almost all major states, though in varied proportions. The shift is calculated as the difference between the figures of 2019-20 and 2021-22.
In terms of a positive shift in enrolment towards government schools, Haryana tops with 22%, followed by Telangana at 16.42%, Rajasthan at 16.32%, and Andhra Pradesh at 16.17%. Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh showed the least shift, with 4.18%, 3.66%, and 3.40% respectively.
In terms of a negative shift in enrolment from private schools, West Bengal stood at the top with 23%, followed by Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh at 18.5%, and 17.1% respectively. Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Bihar registered the least negative shift, with 4.41%, 4.35%, and 1.32% respectively. Only Odisha performed negatively in both government and private school enrolments among major states.
In states where the shift in enrolment from private schools did not translate into equivalent enrolment shifts in government schools, it can be assumed that students dropped off from school education instead of switching. For states where the shift in Government school enrolment is greater than the shift in enrolment from private schools, measures by respective governments to improve and support the public education system might have helped to maintain such a shift.
What about the trend before the pandemic?
It is evident that enrolment in private schools rose till the onset of the pandemic, and the pandemic caused this trend to reverse. The opposite is true for Government schools. However, this was not the same in terms of educational levels and type of school management if data from 2017-18 is considered.
From 2017-18 to 2019-20
For government schools, the enrolment at the primary level fell by 4.33%, while that of upper primary and higher secondary fell by 3.92% and 3.27% respectively. Only the secondary level showed an increase of 5.74%.
For Government aided schools, the enrolment at all levels declined, with primary, upper primary, secondary, and higher secondary registering 3.85%, 4.38%, 1.85%, and 3.78% respectively.
For Private unaided schools, the enrolment at all levels increased, with primary, upper primary, secondary, and higher secondary registering 8.13%, 6.80%, 10.44%, and 6.76% respectively.
From 2019-20 to 2021-22
For government schools, the enrolment at all levels increased, with primary, upper primary, secondary, and higher secondary registering 9.47%, 8.74%, 4.33%, and 23.8% respectively.
For Government aided schools, enrolment at all levels except higher secondary level declined. The percentage decline in the primary level is 3.32%, the upper primary is 4.17%, and the secondary is 1.89%. Only the higher secondary level showed improvement by 4.94%.
For Private unaided schools, enrolment at all levels except higher secondary level declined. The percentage decline in the primary level is 11.85%, the upper primary is 3.92%, and the secondary is 3.83%. Only the higher secondary level showed improvement by 0.93%.
Featured Image: Enrolment in Schools