In school data, Covid distress: enrolment dip in private, rise in government

STUDENT ENROLMENT saw a dip between 2019-20 and 2020-21 in private schools and registered a proportionate rise in government schools, according to district-level government data released on Wednesday, which may indicate the financial distress caused by the pandemic.

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A closer look at the latest round of Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) data shows that pre-primary, primary (I-V) and upper classes (VI-VIII) mainly account for the rise and fall in the enrolment of students in government and private schools.

In private schools, enrolment in pre-primary, primary levels registered a drop of 22.28 lakh and 11.6 lakh respectively. On the other hand, government school primary and upper primary grades registered a rise of 18.82 lakh and 9.28 lakh students, respectively.

Across all levels, 39.7 lakh students of government aided, private schools shifted to government schools.

Overall, excluding pre-primary classes, enrolment numbers rose from 25.10 crore in 2019-20 to 25.38 crore. However, at the pre-primary level, there were 1,35,55,892 students in 2019-20, which fell to 1,06,45,526 in 2020-21.

The report notes that the drop in the numbers at the pre-primary level may be an outcome of “postponement of school admission of young children during the pandemic”.

“Although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is cross-cutting, this is particularly noticed in the enrolment of young and vulnerable kids like pre-primary, class 1 and Children With Special Needs (CWSN)…,” it states.

Even among girls, all levels, barring pre-primary, registered a jump in enrolment numbers. At the pre-primary level, there were 62.39 lakh girls enrolled in 2019-20, which dropped to 49.42 lakh a year later as the pandemic swept the nation.

The UDISE report points out that the pre-primary figures contained in it do not factor in the enrolment at the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) system run by the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare through the Anganwadi Centers and the stand alone pre-primary education centers run by different kindergartens.

“At all the levels above primary, i.e., in upper primary, secondary and higher secondary, school enrolment has increased, showing an improvement in the ability of the system to retain more and more children in the system of school education over time,” states the report.

The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), which denotes the number of students enrolled in a given level of education against the total official school-age population corresponding to the same level of education, has also improved across grades, the report shows.

Level wise GER in 2020-21 as compared to 2019-20 are: 92.2% from 89.7% in upper primary, 99.1 % from 97.8% in elementary, 79.8% from 77.9% in secondary and 53.8% from 51.4% in higher secondary, respectively.

Also, the number of teachers was 96.96 lakh in 2020-21, up from 96.87 lakh in 2019-20. However, as in the case of students, the percentage of teachers teaching only primary (36% in 2020-21 from 37% in 2019-20) and only upper primary (22% in 2020-21 from 23% in 2019-20) has reduced.

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