Rural Karnataka: ASER report says more children opting for tuition; enrolment in govt schools increase

The demand for private tuitions seems to have shot up in rural Karnataka this year as 20.5 per cent of the students opted for private tuitions. The same rose from 8.4 per cent noted last year.

Indicating a rise of 8.3 per cent from the previous year, enrolment of children in government schools of rural Karnataka is at 77.7 per cent in 2021, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER-Rural) 2021 noted. While 78.6 per cent of these new enrolments were boys, 76.8 were girls.

The ASER survey was conducted at 890 villages across 30 districts in the state this year. The enrolment at government schools last year (in 2020) was 68.6 per cent while the same in 2018 was 69.4 per cent.

Niranjanaradhya V P, a development educationist based in Bengaluru, attributed the same to the “deep economic crisis” faced by parents due to the Covid-19 situation in the state. “A huge number of parents could not afford to send their wards even to budget English-medium schools and instead enrolled them to their government counterparts to ensure continued learning,” he observed.

Also a member of the National Coalition on the Education Emergency — a group of individuals, organisations and networks demanding the government to “resume and renew” school education — Niranjanaradhya noted that the government “missed the great opportunity” during the lockdown to enhance the infrastructure at government schools which would have led to more admissions.

“Better late than never, the government should work on a war-footing to release untied funds to at least schools where the enrolment has risen to ensure a meaningful and sustained learning environment to the students. This would help SDMCS to School Development and Monitoring Committees to take timely action as well,” Niranjanaradhya said. He urged the state government “to formulate a separate blueprint” to plan and execute the same “without any ado”.

Experts also attributed the rise in enrolment to the commitment of government school teachers to reach children in person even amid the pandemic through special initiatives like the Vidyagama programme, where they met children at playgrounds or temples near the students’ residences to engage students in academic activities.

Meanwhile, the demand for private tuitions seems to have shot up in rural Karnataka this year as 20.5 per cent of the students opted for private tuitions. The same rose from 8.4 per cent noted last year.

A senior official from the Department of Public Instruction attributed the trend to a “possibility” that parents in rural areas might have sent their wards to any educated person in the neighbourhood during the pandemic. “As schools remained shut for nearly 18 months, those in rural areas might have sought help from someone who could help children with basics to enable continuous learning. In that case, we can term it ‘community support’,” the official claimed. He added that it was “too early” to conclude that the “trend of coaching centres” had seeped into rural areas from major cities, especially during the pandemic.

However, Niranjanaradhya stressed that education officials should be alert to confirm parents are not pushed toward spending on private tuitions. “Parents are forced to seek help from private tutors when the learning at schools is insufficient. While it is recommended that school hours should be of a duration of 7 hours and 50 minutes daily, most schools in Karnataka still function only for 6 hours daily. Children need to be provided with sufficient support to ensure that learning is completed at school itself and they get enough time for recreation and leisure on a daily basis as well,” he said.

At the same time, in an interesting development, expected to have been fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic and online learning, the share of children with a smartphone available at home has increased to 71.6 per cent. The same in the state last year and in 2018 were 68.6 per cent and 43.1 per cent, respectively. However, only 83.2 per cent of children across schools in the state possessed textbooks for the current grade. This has dipped by 5.9 per cent from the same noted last year (89.1 per cent).

Further, a sample assessment done in Karnataka in March 2021 as a part of the survey found “steep drops” in foundational skills, particularly in lower primary grades, which reaffirms the need to provide special attention to the students of primary classes as they return or enter schools for the first time. The assessment had covered 20,000 children aged 5-15 years.

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