A Silent Takeover

J&K’s school education bill is going through the roof: Rs 2940 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 3238 crore next fiscal. For 12 classes, there are 23454 institutions that 127033 teachers run. But more than one-third students prefer 4719 private schools. Unlike Jammu where state-run schools perform better, Kashmir trusts private sector for the future of its children as there is no second option, RS Gull reports the change at a time when the government is planning improved monitoring of the private education sector.

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The standard of education at government-run schools has fallen in Kashmir valley over the years. Pic: Bilal Bahadur

In his first term as a lawmaker when Panthers Party’s now top leader Harsh Dev Singh brought a private members bill that made it mandatory for all government officials to get their wards admitted in state-run school, he was laughed at. “This is the only available option for improving the standard of education in the government schools,” Harsh shouted in the state assembly. “Most of the school teachers send their wards to private schools, bunk their classes and go for private coaching.”

Singh was told in clear terms that possibility of this legislation was bleak because it compromises fundamental rights of the citizens. Interestingly, when Singh became an education minister himself in the last coalition, he could feel the compulsions of the coalition. He didn’t refer to his earlier wish.

More than a decade after Singh’s suggestion, the situation in state’s official education set up is grim. Analysis of the data for the growth of state’s education sector for the eleventh plan period (2008-2012) suggests that despite investing billions of rupees in the sector, the state run education system is gradually heading towards the status of an orphaned child.

The percentage of students from first primary to twelfth class studying in state-run schools has shrunken from 65.42% in 2008 to 61.62% in 2012. Around 38.37% of more than 2.5 million students were getting education at private schools – an appreciation of 3.80% in four years by the end of 11th year plan. Overall enrollment has nosedived at primary level from 64.12% in 2008 to 58.09% in 2012.

An interesting trend that is emerging out of the situation is that most of the new enrollments are preferring private sector over the state-run sector. In the period between 2008 and 2012 during which 621035 new enrolments took place, 50.41% students were straightway admitted at private schools. Most of the cases where the state-run schools got the bulk of new admissions was simply because the private schools were not available. It is not infrastructure alone, insiders say. It is the quality of education in the state-run schools these days which matters much.

On a regional comparison, Kashmir is the worst hit. It tops the crisis that has hit the state-run education sector. Kashmir had 69.44% of its students enrolled at the government-run schools in 2008. In 2012, the data suggests that it reduced to 61.93%, leaving nearly 40% of the overall market to the private sector. The situation is worst at district level. In Srinagar, for instance, nearly 72% of the students go to private schools and it would be unwise to confuse the trend with the economic prosperity of city residents.

The situation is better in Ladakh where government run schools are better placed – holding 61.81% in 2012 against 62.77% in 2008. It is actually Kargil’s love for state-run schools that is neutralizing the impact of Leh which prefers private sector. Jammu is much better because government-run schools retained 61.27% enrollments in 2012 against 61.50% in 2008. This is despite the fact that pressure on teachers is more in Jammu than in Kashmir or Ladakh. Jammu has 16.62 students per teacher against 10.39 in Kashmir and 9.92 in Ladakh.

The majority of new admissions in Kashmir were made at private schools (57.68%) in the 11th plan period. In Jammu, private sector schools get a share of only 39.65% in new admissions and in Ladakh, it is much less – only 30.34%. The rise of the private sector in elementary education is no more an urban phenomenon. Even peripheral districts of Jammu and Srinagar are now having highly successful privately run or NGO-managed schools with good credibility, infrastructure and quality of education.

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Lack of proper infrastructure at government-run schools forces parents to opt for private schools .
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

School education is a top spender for the state. In 2011-12, the state government ended spending Rs 2285 crore in the school education and the bill jumped to Rs 2940 crore in 2012-13. For the next fiscal, the budgeted allocations indicate a yearly expenditure of Rs 3238.67 crore – an all time high. The public spending in education is a maze of a number of central schemes that are implemented at various levels with separate and parallel control. Right now, the twin schemes – Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) – are the main centrally sponsored program for managing elementary education in India.

These central government schemes pay for almost everything from food to uniform. Some new schemes have been drawn to offer residential schools where the girl children from backward belts could be educated.

Mid Day Meal scheme, for instance, has converted most of the state schools into dhabas. Available statistics suggest that in last four financial years ending 2011-12, J&K got a whopping sum of Rs 196.15 crore to implement this scheme. Of this, Rs 85.66 crore was spent in 2011-12 alone as the expenditure for 2012-13 (till September) was Rs 58.21 crore. Even though the policymakers in the state are admitting that the scheme was not required at all in J&K, at least for most of it, Mid Day Meal scheme is still being implemented. While it has given a teacher access to funds beyond the salary – there are instances in which teachers are willingly spending money from their own pocket, thus introducing corruption in a profession that was hitherto engaged in just private coaching, most of the schools stand converted into kitchens.

As most of the budget is booked as salary to the teachers and the administration, the basic infrastructure still lacks certain fundamentals. A recent survey suggested 38% schools in J&K lack drinking water facilities while 26 are without toilets. It is interesting that more than 73% schools, however, have facilities to cook! But it is the standard of the education that is at its newest low. Even it has failed to arrest the dropout rate that is still at 11% in government schools.

Students at the government schools are getting free lunches, free text books and in certain cases, scholarships as well. But it has not changed the overall profile of schools. Infrastructure apart, the quality of education has gone phenomenally down. To have a better understanding of the trends in the state, we profile the prevailing situation at government-run schools at districts levels. It starts with the district at the bottom of the literacy rate (2001 census) and concludes with the best at the bottom.

22. RAMBAN

With a literacy rate of 56.9%, Ramban in Jammu has 87.54% of its 65256 students enrolled in the state-run schools and only 12.45% in the private sector. But every teacher has to teach more than 25 students, on an average!

21. BANDIPORA

Literacy rate is 57.82% and a teacher on an average gets 9.64 students to teach. In 2008, 81.3% of the 69108 students were enrolled with the state-run schools that nosedived to 74.79% of 66533 enrolled students in 2012. The private run schools appreciated their share from 18.69% in 2008 to 25.2% in 2012. A comparative analysis of four years suggest that while the overall enrollment has dwindled by 3.72% for 12 classes, private schools added 29.76% as compared to state-run schools which lost nearly 0.11%.

20. BUDGAM

Literacy rate is 57.98% and every government teacher has barely 9.75 students to teach. Between 2008 and 2012, the overall enrollment fell by 12973 students from 159829 to 146856. In 2008, 82.02% of students were in government schools which fell to 66.11% in 2012 as the private schools appreciated their share of students from 17.97% to 33.88 %. In the negative growth of four years, government schools are the real losers because their share fell by 25.94% as the private schools appreciated by 73.22%.

19. KISHTWAR

This newly district carved out of larger Doda has a literacy rate of 58.54%. In 2012, 85.86% of the 50108 overall enrollment in all schools was in 829 government schools leaving the balance 7084 for 58 private schools operating in the mountain district. For every teacher in the government school, there are 15.94 students.

New admissions at private schools have increased manifold in Kashmir valley over the last few years. Pic: Bilal Bahadur
New admissions at private schools have increased manifold in Kashmir valley over the last few years.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

18. REASI

Carved recently out of Udhampur, this Chenab Valley district has 59.42% literacy rate and in its 1129 schools, every teacher has to teach 18.62 students. By the end of 2012, its overall enrollment was 72789 of whom 85.64 % were studying in the state-run schools and the balance 14.35% in the 79 private schools operational in the district.

17. GANDERBAL

This twin-town district that is home constituency of Chief Minister was carved out of Srinagar. Its literacy rate is 59.99% and it has 568 state runs schools with 3675 teachers – a ratio of 9.78 students to every teacher. In 2008, 64.2% of 34508 students were in government schools and balance 35.79% in the private schools. In 2012, when the number of students reached 56343, 63.83% were in government and 36.17% in 93 privately-run schools.

16. KULGAM

The district being new, no comparative data is available. The literacy rate is 60.35. In 2012, it had 77849 students of whom 61.83% were in 827 government schools and the balance 38.16% in 134 privately-run schools.

15. SHOPIAN

One of the smallest districts in India, Shopian has 62.49% literacy rate. This apple producing area had 62.57% of its 55185 students in state-run schools and 37.42% in privately run schools in 2008. By the end of 2012, when the overall numbers increased to 61811 students, 56.80% were in 519 state run and 43.19% in 104 private schools. There are 12.03 students available for every teacher in the state sector schools. In the four years number growth, private schools increased by 29.26% and the state run schools by 1.68%.

14. ISLAMABAD

One of the oldest districts with 64.32% literacy rate, the government schools seem to be doing better. In 2008, 71.06% of 138127 students were studying in state-run schools compared to 28.93% in privately-managed schools. Four years later, when the overall numbers increased to 194990, 1439 state run schools were still having 72.28% of the total enrollment as 27.71% opted for 187 privately run schools. In the four year analysis, the government schools appreciated by 43.59% and the private schools by 35.2%. But at primary level, the situation has started changing. Most of the new admissions prefer private schools.

13. PULWAMA

With a literacy rate of 65%, Pulwama is following the overall trends. In 2008, 60.75% of 93209 students were in government schools and 39.24% in private school. The trend continued in 2012 when the 844 government schools could only retain 55.98% of 104918 students as 44.01% shifted to 219 private schools. The overall enrollment in four years improved by 12.56%. While the government schools improved by 3.74%, the private schools appreciated their numbers by 26.21%.

12. DODA

This mountain district central to the Chenab Valley has 65.97% literacy rate. It exhibited a negative growth of 55565 students in four years as the overall enrollment fell from 151471 students in 2008 to 94906 in 2012. The 37.34% fall is enigmatic. Interestingly, private schools shed one fourth of the numbers that the government schools faced. But even this district is showing a trend not supportive of the government sector. While the percenage enrollment in 2008 in government schools was 84.01%, it was 15.99% for private schools. In 2012, 1262 schools were managing only 77.3% of the overall student population as 157 private schools were taking care of 22.69% students. Government schools have 15.61 students for every teacher posted in the hill district.

11. KUPWARA

This remote border district with 66.92% literacy rate is offering a new trend. In 2008, the overall enrollment in all schools up to twelfth was only 66549 students of whom 94.6% were studying in government schools and 5.39% in private schools. Four years later in 2012, the trend is completely reversed. The enrollment shoots up to 210132 – an increased by 215%. Interestingly, 65.94% of the overall roll was in 1746 government schools as 34.05% are studying in 242 schools. But in this quantum jump, it is the private sector that expanded faster and appreciated numbers by a phenomenal 1818%.

With government paying no attention to falling infrastructure, many of its schools like the one shown here are forced to operate from tin sheds.Pic: Bilal Bahadur
With government paying no attention to falling infrastructure, many of its schools like the one shown here are forced to operate from tin sheds. Pic: Bilal Bahadur

10. BARAMULLA

With a literacy rate of 66.93%, this north Kashmir district’s government teachers have one teacher available for 12.44 students in its 1925 schools. In 2008, 81.22% of the students were in government schools and 18.8% in private schools. The situation changed to 69.87% and 30.10% respectively in 2012. The district has only 334 privately-run schools. In the four years ending 2012, the overall student population for 12 classes increased from 182951 to 229144, a growth of 46193 students. In the 25.24% growth that the district witnessed in the enrollments, private schools improved by more than 100% and the state run schools barely got 7.74%.

9. POONCH

This district scattered near the LoC with parts actually living on the other side of the LoC fence has 68.69% literacy rate. Compared to 2008 when 81.47% of its 103766 students were studying in government and 18.52% in private schools, Poonch in 2012 had only 77.38% of its 120297 students in 1422 government schools and 22.61% in 167 private schools. In the state-run schools, every teacher has to teach no less than 18 students. In the routine 15.93% growth in the overall admissions in four years, the state run schools could attract one fifth as four-fifths were taken by the private run systems. Its primary numbers are dwindling!

8. RAJOURI

Part of the twin-district Pir Panchal range, Rajouri has 68.54 % literacy rate. In 2008, 73.26% of its 123384 students were in government-run schools and only 26.73% in private schools. A steady change was witnessed four years later when only 70.68% of its 149333 students were in 1711 government schools and the remaining 29.31% in 283 private schools. In the four years of growth, private sector doubled its tally compared to the government-run schools.

7. UDHAMPUR

This vast mountainous district has 69.9% literacy rate. In its government schools, every teacher has to manage 15.20 students on an average. But somehow, the government-run schools are not offering any huge advantage to the private-run schools. In 2008, 74.77% of its 111920 students were in government and 25.22% in private schools. By the end of 2012, the numbers were 73.32% of 117975 students in 1475 government schools and 26.67% in 189 private schools. While the enrollment at the primary level fell by more than 12% in four years, the overall growth story suggests a meager 5.41% addition in overall numbers. But yes, private schools got three-fourths and the government schools one fourth. For primary education, the parents are choosing the private sector.

6. SRINAGAR

The summer capital city of the state with 78.01% literacy rate – much less than the women in Jammu, has been a trend setter. In 2008, there were 162710 students on rolls in entire city and 64.47 % were in the private schools, leaving 35.52% in state-run schools. Four years later, by the end of 2012 when the overall numbers appreciated to 170968, 454 private schools were ruling the roost – they had 71.47% on their rolls while 28.50% were with 506 government schools. Interestingly, there are 10938 teachers in government schools supposed to teach 48766 students – 4.45 students per teacher! In the four years growth story, the overall numbers appreciated by 5%. But sorry, government is no choice. Of the 8258 students that were added in four years, not a single one joined any government school barring 3720 at the +10 level, most likely for lack of adequate admission capacity of the private schools.

5. KATHUA

This highway district with 73.50% literacy rate is managing a fine balance between the private and the public sector. In 2008, its 61.54% of 123375 students were in government schools and only 38.45% in private schools. Four years later, it has 58.92% of its 130504 students in government schools and 41.07% in private schools. Overall growth in four years in 5.11% but it is shedding numbers at the primary level by 1.39% in four years. In the overall growth, private schools show six times improvement than the government sector where every teacher has to teach 15.44 students on an average.

4. KARGIL

This hill district beyond Zoji la that was made famous by a mini-war in 1999 has 74.49% literacy rate. It is a place where the government schools are doing better than expected. In 2008, 64.24% of 45417 students were in government schools and 35.75% in private schools. By the end of 2012, when the overall numbers were down to 35381, the percentage enrollment in 520 government schools was 73.04%, leaving only 26.95% for 66 private schools. In the 22% negative growth, it is the private sector that is bleeding. Of 10036 students, 6700 were discounted to the private schools and only less than half of it to the government schools.

3. LEH

This Buddhist district that once would get teachers on punishment posting from Kashmir has 80.48% literacy. It does seem to be happy with the government schools. In 2008, 59.16% of its 18184 students were studying in government and 40.83% in private schools. The situation changed hugely by the end of 2012 when it left only 42.34% of its 20405 students for 369 governmnet schools taking 57.65% of students to 36 privately-run schools in the district. Every teacher in a government school has to take care of only five students now. The district has decreased its numbers at primary level by more than half. But in the overall growth, private sector is way ahead of the public sector, probably because a lot of Western NGOs are working and it has a chain of residential schools.

2. SAMBA

This recently created highway district has 82.48% literacy rate. It does not believe in the public sector education much. There is no comparative statistics. In 2012, only 36.89% of its 64062 students were in 512 government schools as 63.10% were in the 240 privately-run schools. The town is mostly industrial as it is part of the overall Jammu industry hub.

1. JAMMU

The inert capital of the state sits at the educational pyramid of the state with 89.77% literacy rate. But the key to its success is differently interesting. In 2008, it had 327412 students in 12 classes and only 35.77% of them in the state-run schools as most of them (64.22%) were in the private schools. But that was four years ago. In 2012, when overall enrollment was at 336902, 65.86% were studying in 1512 government schools. Jammu’s 922 private schools were left with only 34.13% share of the current enrollment. In the overall growth, this district is also shedding numbers at the primary level. But the government schools are giving a stiff competition to their private competitors. Most of the students are deserting the private sector for the government schools.

We have taken this lone piece from state’s latest Economic Survey that offers its version of the school education in Kashmir.

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