The National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration has published a report (in July 2005) by Arun Mehta that looks into elementary education in unrecognised schools in India. Mehta (who maintains EducationforallinIndia.com, a site with a lot of useful data on education) has obtained detailed data on the unrecognised schools from seven districts of Punjab (upto September 2004) and analysed them in detail.
Here are some excerpts from the report.
Unrecognised schools differ from recognised schools in the following respects.
- Unrecognised schools are less rural than the recognised schools.
- Unrecognised schools have slightly higher percentage of co-educational schools than the recognised schools.
- Unrecognised schools are generally more than one-teacher schools compared to recognised schools, which relatively have more single-teacher schools.
- Unrecognised schools have more favourable student-classroom and pupil-teacher ratios than the recognised schools.
- Unrecognised schools have a much greater percentage of female teachers than the recognised schools.
- Teachers in the unrecognised schools are better qualified than the teachers in the recognised schools.
- Majority of the teachers in the unrecognised schools do not possess any professional qualification.
- The percentage of English medium unrecognised schools is much higher than the percentage of recognised schools.
- Unrecognised schools do not have provision for in-service training of teachers, whereas more than half of the recognised school teachers had received in-service training during the previous year.
With regard to facilities in unrecognised schools, it is observed that:
- Unrecognised schools have more pre-primary sections attached to them than the recognised schools.
- School facilities are generally better in unrecognised schools than in the recognised ones; and
- Average number of instructional rooms, good condition rooms, single-classroom schools, average number of teachers, computer in schools, common and girl’s toilet, electricity connection, drinking water facility etc. such aspects are more favorable in the unrecognised schools than in the recognised schools.
Enrolment indicators reveal that:
- A large number of children are enrolled in unrecognised schools, their number is more than 37 per cent of the total enrolment in recognized schools.
- Share of enrolment in unrecognised schools in the total enrolment in recognized and unrecognised schools is as high as 26 percent
- Against every three students enrolled in recognized schools, more than one is enrolled in unrecognised schools.
- Percentage of boys’ enrolment in unrecognised schools is much higher than the girls’ enrolment.
- Compared to GPI of 0.88 in elementary enrolment in recognized schools, the same in unrecognised schools is low at 0.68.
- For every 100 boys, there are only 68 girls enrolled in unrecognised schools.
- Percentage of enrolment in Grade I in total Primary enrolment is a bit higher for unrecognised schools than for the recognised schools.
- Average enrolment in unrecognised schools is higher than in recognized schools.
- A good number of recognized and unrecognised schools have a strength of enrolment below 50 students.
- Of the total SC enrolment, 9.25 per cent are enrolled in unrecognised and 90.75 per cent in recognized schools.
- More than 37 per cent of the total 947 thousand out-of-school children (6-14 year group) are enrolled in unrecognised schools.
- Against a GER of 51.73 the corresponding GER based on enrolment in both the recognized and the unrecognised schools is 66.27.
- A large number of children repeat Primary and Upper Primary grades both in recognized and unrecognised schools. Majority of the children repeat because of failure.
- Percentage of children passing out terminal Grade V and Grade VIII with 60 per cent and above marks is higher in unrecognised schools than in recognized schools.
Mehta's conclusions are interesting:
Infrastructure and facilities seem to be better in the unrecognised schools.
The analysis presented above reveals beyond doubt that a large number of unrecognised schools function across the seven districts of Punjab. This may also be applicable to other ten districts of Punjab as well as most other parts of the country. Facility-wise most unrecognised schools are at par or even better than recognised schools. They have comfortable Pupil-Teacher Ratio, negligible number of single-teacher & single-classroom schools, high percentage of female teachers, better or same number of instructional days, better enrolment size etc. Unrecognised schools also have better essentialities like drinking water facility and common and girls' toilets in school.
There seems to be a very high demand for unrecognised schools in Punjab with parents preferring unrecognised schools to recognised ones. As a result such unrecognised schools are sprouting up. Apparently, there is no permission required it and the unrecognised schools remain outside the ambit of government control.
There is no reason why all such schools, if approached, cannot get Government recognition. This leads to the moot question why these schools choose to remain unrecognised ones. Is it to avoid responsibilities or because of economic reasons they prefer to remain unrecognised. It is not mandatory to obtain permission from the local administration to open a school. It is rather strange to note that to open a grocery shop, some sort of permission/registration is needed but to open a school, no such permission is essential. Any one can open a school with our without permission. It is rather economical, without any responsibility and with little investment, a school can be opened. It may be because of medium of instructions, that parents prefer unrecognised schools to recognised schools; unrecognised schools, mostly in rural areas are in great demand. It is just because of economics of demand and supply, that more and more unrecognised schools are being opened in every nook and corner of the country. Unrecognised schools are popularly known as English Medium schools. Perhaps one of the other most important reasons because of which unrecognised schools do not seek recognition is to avoid conditions laid by administration with reference to qualifications, training and pay structure of teachers, curriculum, medium of instructions and textbooks. It is also equally important to find that why parents prefer private schools to government schools, and why enrolment is shifting from government to private schools; all this needs further probe and investigation.
While it is difficult to collect data on the unrecognised schools, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in Punjab has shown that it can indeed be done. Unrecognised schools and even many recognised schools don't want to provide data to the government authorities. A concerted effort has to be made before schools will come forth with data about themselves.
The effort made by the SSA Punjab negates the general perception that data about unrecognised schools cannot be collected. However, collecting information from all such schools annually is a really challenging task. Evidence suggests that even recognised private schools do not happily provide information. They generally suspect that information collected will be used in taking action against them. The unrecognised schools should therefore be given promise of anonymity which should be respected totally. Confidence-building measures over time will help in convincing unrecognised managements that overall objective of collecting information about their schools is for better planning, monitoring and implementation of elementary education programmes and not to punish them or to shut down their schools. So far, hardly any attempt has been made to convince unrecognised schools.
In view of a large number of unrecognised schools, it seems that Government list of private unaided schools is an incomplete one and hence, needs revision. It has also been observed that most of the states do not have efficient mechanism to update the list of unrecognised schools frequently. In many states, registration and recognition of private unaided schools is not mandatory. Therefore, officials have no way of knowing their numbers. The states should widely disseminate provisions for recognition and should make concerted efforts in recognising all eligible unrecognised schools. Before that, it should obtain other relevant information from all such schools. To begin with, the list of all such schools at least in seven districts of Punjab is available in a ready to use form. Let states initiate special drives so that all unrecognised schools are registered. The union government should therefore encourage and guide states to initiate activities in this direction. It should have a clear-cut policy in this regard. Media - both print and electronic, can play an important role in bringing unrecognised schools to recognised fold.
Most importantly, Mehta points out that given the large number of unrecognised schools, which do not figure in official education statistics, our educational planners are missing the visible but unseen in their analysis of the the current enrolment and their plans to provide education for all. They are understimating the number of children currently in school and creating plans to enroll children who they believe are out of school, but may already be going to unrecognised schools.
It is evident from enrolment statistics presented above that planning exercises based on enrolment data only from formal education system is not adequate. Unless enrolment in unrecognised sector is considered, true picture of universal enrolment will never be known. The estimate of out-of-school children based on enrolment in recognised schools is gross over estimation of true number of out-of-school children. Of children treated out-of-school, a few of them may be enrolled in unrecognised schools. Planning to enroll all children out-of-formal education system will never succeed as many of them are already enrolled in unrecognised schools. Therefore, while developing elementary education plans, enrolment in recognised as well as unrecognised schools should be considered. There is no alternative but to consider and collect informatoin from all schools imparting elementary education, including unrecognised ones. Some mechanism has to be developed to collect information from all recognised schools. Till such time, planning exercise in its present form will be of limited use and will be treated as incomplete one.
If the situation in these seven districts of Punjab is representative of the ground realities across the country, the government estimates of the money required to ensure education for all may be far higher than actually required considering the large amounts already being invested by the private sector. This also suggests that much of the government spending on primary education may be better off channelled through the private sector through voucher plans or other means to support the private schools than investing to provide education through government schools.
The Punjab Government is reportedly considering privatising primary education through a voucher model. This move was apparently in response to a study that revealed that the standards in government schools were dismally poor, with children in class V not being able to read and write.