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Data: UDISE+ report highlights the stark differences in Digital Infrastructure between Urban/Rural and Government/Private schools

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The recently released 2019-20 UDISE+ report highlights the stark differences between the Urban & Rural schools and between Government & Private schools in digital infrastructure. Multiple studies have highlighted that the pandemic induced lockdown has exacerbated the condition of students in such schools.

In continuation to our earlier story on data from UDISE+ reports, we look at the availability of infrastructure services in schools across rural/urban locations, types of management and states.

The UDISE (Unified District Information System for Education) is one of the largest Management Information Systems on school education. It covers more than 15 lakh schools, 85 lakh teachers and 25 crore school children. In our earlier story, we elaborated how UDISE+ data indicates that while physical infrastructure has improved in schools across states over the last few years, the status of digital infrastructure is poor.

UDISE+ data presents the availability of physical and digital infrastructure in schools run by different managements, especially government, government-aided and private unaided. The School Management code for a specific school is assigned based on its management and provision of Government Aid. The schools are categorised as Government (includes State Government, Local Body and Central Government), Government Aided (Privately managed but Government provides aid) and Private Unaided (managed by individual or a group of individuals (trusts, society, or corporation) and not receiving any aid from Government. ‘Others’ category refers to schools that do not fall in the options given i.e., recognised and unrecognized madrasa and unrecognised private schools. Unrecognized refers to Schools that have no recognition from the government.

The majority of schools are run by government, followed by private schools.

According to the UDISE+ data for 2019-20, government-run schools form the majority (68.5%) of total schools for elementary, primary, and secondary education. Private unaided schools form the other significant proportion (22.4%) of total schools. Government-aided schools (5.6%) and other schools (3.5%) form small proportions out of the total schools.

Private Schools outperform Government schools in the availability of functional electricity, playground, internet, and computer facilities.

According to the UDISE+ data for 2019-20, private unaided schools have better facilities than government schools in critical digital infrastructural facilities.

  • Private unaided and Government aided schools to perform relatively better than government schools in most infrastructural indicators such as functional electricity, playground, internet, and computer facilities.
  • Government schools perform better than private and government-aided schools on certain indicators like library, ramps, handrails, and medical check-up.
  • Other schools, which include private unrecognised and madrasa schools (recognised and unrecognised), perform the worst on most infrastructural indicators.

Urban schools outperform rural schools in the availability of functional electricity, playground, internet, and computer facilities.

According to the UDISE+ data for 2019-20, schools in urban areas have better infrastructural facilities as compared to schools in rural areas. Especially in terms of digital infrastructure facilities, the gap between schools in urban and rural areas is significant.

  • Schools in urban areas outperform schools in rural areas in most infrastructural indicators such as functional electricity, playground, internet, and computer facilities.
  • Schools in rural areas are behind schools in urban areas in terms of digital infrastructural facilities.
  • In terms of ramps, handrails, and medical check-up facilities, rural area schools outperform urban area schools.

Schools in Northeastern states report the lowest access to functional electricity, followed by Odisha, J&K.

While access to electricity in schools has improved significantly, schools in Northeastern states fall behind in terms of access to functional electricity.

  • Most states perform higher than the national average (80%) in terms of access to functional electricity.
  • Schools in Meghalaya (22%), Tripura (38%), Assam (40%), recorded the lowest access to functional electricity.
  • States like Madhya Pradesh (62%), Odisha (66%), J&K (68%), Uttar Pradesh (73%), and Rajasthan (77%) also fall behind the national average.
  • UTs like Delhi, Chandigarh, Puducherry reported 100% access to electricity, closely followed by states like Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Punjab.
  • States like Kerala (99%), Sikkim (98%), Haryana (97%), and Karnataka (97), among others, also reported high access to functional electricity.

Schools in Northeastern states report the lowest access to WASH facilities, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, UP, Bihar.

WASH is an acronym that stands for “water, sanitation and hygiene”. WASH facilities include the availability of clean water (drinking water), toilets/washrooms, and handwash. Schools in Northeastern states fall behind in terms of access to WASH facilities. 

  • Most states perform higher than the national average (80%) in terms of access to WASH facilities.
  • Schools in Meghalaya (20%), Arunachal Pradesh (35%), Nagaland (39%), Tripura (62%), reported the lowest access to WASH facilities. 
  • Apart from Northeastern states, other states like Andhra Pradesh (63%), Karnataka (81.5%), Telangana (83%), Uttar Pradesh (84%), Bihar (84%), and Jharkhand (84%) also fall behind the national average.
  • UTs like Chandigarh, Delhi, Lakshadweep and others reported 100% access to WASH facilities, closely followed by states like Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.

Schools in Northeastern states report the lowest access to and digital infrastructure, followed by Bihar, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal.

In our previous story, we elaborated on how the proportion of schools with internet facilities remains low at 22.3% in 2019-20, despite improvements in the previous years.

  • More than half of the states remain below the national average of 22.3% i.e., less than 22.3% of schools in these states have internet facilities.
  • Northeastern states like Tripura (3.9%), Meghalaya (3.9%), Assam (5.8%) are home to the lowest proportions of schools with internet facilities.
  • States like Bihar (8.5%), Chhattisgarh (8.7%), West Bengal (10%), J&K (12%) and Uttar Pradesh (13.6%).

School closure due to pandemic exacerbated by infrastructure gaps.

There exists a gap between access to physical infrastructure and digital infrastructure by location, state and management type. While government-run schools form the majority (68.5%) of total schools, Private unaided and Government aided schools perform relatively better than government schools in most infrastructural indicators such as functional electricity, playground, internet, and computer facilities. Schools in urban areas outperform schools in rural areas in most infrastructural indicators such as functional electricity, playground, internet, and computer facilities.

A majority of Northeastern states and populous states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, among others reported relatively low access to physical infrastructure facilities like functional electricity, availability of clean water, washroom and handwash facility. In terms of digital infrastructure coverage in schools, these states perform very poorly, as less than half of the total schools in the states have internet facilities.

When we put these findings in the context of the ongoing pandemic, the inequality in access to infrastructure facilities seems starker. A study by Oxfam India highlights the impact of the pandemic (and prolonged school closure) on access to education, modes of education delivery and access to entitlements in both government and private schools. A total of 1158 parents (across private and government schools) and 488 government school teachers across five states- Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh were surveyed for the study. While the report is limited to five states, it offers insights into how education is being delivered during the lockdown, challenges in accessing it and issues being faced by teachers during this time. 

In government schools, a third of the students continue to be deprived of Mid-day meals while textbooks have not been received by over 80% of children. Current modes of education delivery have relied heavily on technology, leading to the exclusion of over 80% of students, who have remained disconnected from education since schools were closed. This is borne out by the teachers surveyed as well— 40% of whom believe that a substantial number of children will not return once schools reopen.

The study also highlights the lack of teacher preparedness and the complete lack of capacity building/support by state governments to deliver education digitally in government schools. Additionally, less than 5% of children have received any additional physical learning materials from the government to supplement delivery through digital modes. This can be further emphasised by considering that government-run schools form the majority (68.5%) of total schools in the country for elementary, primary, and secondary.

Consistent with other evidence, the study also finds that private schooling involves massive out-of-pocket expenditure and comprises over 20% of total household expenditure (on average), making it unaffordable for low-income families in the country. The financial burden of expenditure on private schooling has reportedly been made worse due to the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis. Despite the crisis and notifications to restrict fee hikes (in 4 of 5 states surveyed), over 40% of parents reported being charged increased fees, highlighting profiteering and violation of regulations by private schools.

Featured Image: Digital Infrastructure in schools

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