Central Square Foundation and Omidyar Network India Release ‘State of the Sector Report on Private Schools’

Chennai: Central Square Foundation, a non-profit organisation that works towards ensuring quality school education, and Omidyar Network India, an investment firm focussed on social impact, released the first-of-its-kind report today on the state of the private school sector in India. The report highlights the need to improve learning outcomes in private schools which educate nearly half of India’s school-going children.

The report is a comprehensive analysis of existing research and evidence on the sector. It suggests reforms to streamline the operations of private schools with a focus on improving student learning. It aims to be a ready reckoner for policymakers, academicians, researchers, philanthropists and educationists amongst other stakeholders associated with the sector.

About 70% children in urban centres and a quarter from rural households attend private schools. Over 50% students in 16 Indian states are enrolled in private schools. The increased enrollment can be attributed to the rising demand by aspirational parents. A large number of parents — about 70% — pay less than Rs. 1000 per month as school fees. The report finds that 73% of parents with children in private schools believe these schools provide a better learning environment. However, student performance in private schools is only marginally better than government schools after adjusting for disadvantages in student backgrounds. About 35% of rural private school students in Grade 5 are unable to read a basic Grade 2-level paragraph.

The report finds that parents lack the means to make informed decisions while choosing schools based on learning performance. Board Examinations, among the only few reliable and standardised metrics to assess learning, are held in the last few years of schooling making it difficult for parents to judge the quality of schools during the early years of education. Moreover, nearly 60% of the private schools across India do not go up to a Board Examination grade.

Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog, released the report at a digital event and said, “An educated and literate India is not possible without the private sector working towards our nation building. We must pay attention to getting it right. We need to bring reforms using access, equity and quality as guiding factors. More importantly, we need to shift the focus from monitoring of inputs to monitoring of outcomes. Quality education has been this government’s priority and NITI Aayog is drafting a model regulatory act in consultation with all stakeholders. We believe we will see fruitful results based on the references and results underlined in this report.”

Highlighting the fact that private schooling is not popular among the elite alone, Mr Ashish Dhawan, the Founder-Chairman of CSF, emphasised that many families from underprivileged households send their children to private schools as well. “Today the private school sector in India is the third-largest school system in the world. These numbers are mainly made up of parents from low- and middle-income backgrounds who believe their children will have better learning outcomes in private schools. It’s critical now to institute a system that will give parents assessment-based information based on key stage examinations at Grades 3, 5, and 8, as the NEP suggests. They can use this information to compare school quality and pick the best school for their child.”

And speaking about the creating a demand for quality education among parents, Roopa Kudva, Managing Director, Omidyar Network India, said, “We need to empower parents to make informed decisions based on learning quality when choosing a school. In the absence of meaningful information on how schools perform on learning, parents tend to give weightage to tangible parameters like school infrastructure or English as the medium of instruction. Philanthropy capital can play a vital role in setting the ground in three main areas: greater awareness building, increased transparency from the schools themselves and improving the quality of engagement between parents and the schools.”