The recently released ‘State of the Sector Report – Private Schools in India’ highlights that Karnataka ranks 14th in private school enrollments with 41.1% school-going children attending private schools. This report by Central Square Foundation, a non-profit organisation working towards ensuring quality school education, and Omidyar Network India, an investment firm focused on social impact, also stresses that the number of students attending private schools in Karnataka has grown significantly over the past decade. It calls for improvement in student learning in private schools.
The report was released by Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog at a virtual webinar in July 2020, and gives a comprehensive analysis of existing research and evidence on the sector. It provides details on the size of the sector, dives into the challenges faced by it, and outlines potential reforms to ensure improved learning outcomes for students in each state. Specifically, in Karnataka, the report finds that reading and numeracy skills in rural private schools have witnessed a slight improvement in the last six years. It also emphasizes that private schools in the state perform better than their government counterparts on the reading and Mathematics parameters: 23% of grade 5 students in private schools are able to do division as compared to 19.6% of government school students. However, learning levels are not at par with grade-level learnings and this is a cause for worry.
Ashish Dhawan, Founder-Chairman, Central Square Foundation talks about how we can improve student learning in private schools: “It is important to acknowledge the significance of the private school sector which educates nearly 1 in 2 children in Karnataka. We need sectoral reforms to improve learning levels and ensure inclusion of regulations based on quality. Key stage assessments in grades 3, 5, and 8, as suggested in the new education policy, can help build a regulatory structure which focuses on learning outcomes. This can also become an indicator that empowers parents to compare learning across schools and choose the best school for their child.”
Roopa Kudva, Managing Director, Omidyar Network India adds: "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. Philanthropic 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.”
Keeping in mind the challenges and the current needs of the sector, the report makes certain recommendations for sectoral reforms that will create an enabling environment for the private school sector:
● Create a universal learning indicator to help parents compare learning performance across schools and make informed school choices
● Develop a pragmatic accreditation framework that factors in constraints of low fee schools and state capacity to implement while focusing on learning outcomes and child safety
● Establish an independent regulatory agency for the private school sector
● Review non-profit mandate and existing fee regulations to attract investment and enable easy access to credit for schools
● Strengthen RTE Section 12(1)(c) which mandates 25% reservations for underprivileged children to ensure more robust targeting and fee reimbursements
According to the demographics cited in the report, in Karnataka, 37.8% of girls and 44.2% of boys attend private schools. A higher share of OBCs but a smaller share of SCs and STs attend private schools than the state average. Further, Bengaluru U North, Bengaluru U South and Bengaluru Rural districts have the highest enrollment share, whereas Uttara Kannada Sirsa, Koppal and Haveri have the lowest. Among districts, Bengaluru U North has the greatest private enrollment share at 79.8% and Haveri has the lowest with 22.7%..