In the Indian context, the consensus seems to be that a large proportion of the differences in the learning levels of children enrolled in private and government schools can be attributed to “home factors”.
Private-Public Divide in ASER data
- Of six-year old in Class 1, 41.5% of those in private schools could read words in comparison to only 19% from government schools.
- In class 1,28% of those in government schools could do simple addition as against 47% in private schools.
- Gender divide: only 39% of girls aged 6-8 are enrolled in private schools in comparison to almost 48% of boys.
Private schools ahead-Possible reasons
1.Age distribution in grade one-According to the Annual Status of
Education Report (ASER) 2019, 21% children in grade one of government schools
could read words compared to 46.7% in private schools — an advantage of 122%
Reasoning-The higher learning levels in grade one, in private schools, may be partly due to the fact that grade one in those schools has a higher proportion of older children.
2. Affluence-Second, it is well known that children who go to private schools come from relatively affluent backgrounds. They also tend to have more educated parents. This affords them certain advantages which are not available to children who are from less advantaged families and are more likely to attend government schools.
3.Mother’s education-The report says that among children in
the early years (ages 0-8), those with mothers who had completed eight or fewer
years of schooling are more likely to be attending anganwadis or government
pre-primary classes, whereas their peers whose mothers had studied beyond the
elementary stage are more likely to be enrolled in private LKG/UKG classes.
4. Home learning environment
5. Baseline abilities that children enter grade one with-National Early Childhood Care and Education curriculum framework talks about developing skills related to sequential thinking, predicting patterns, observing, reasoning and problem solving in the pre-school stage. These cognitive and early language skills are highly correlated with the child’s ability to acquire further language skills. Therefore, children who enter grade one better prepared with these skills are likely to perform better.
6. Private sector keeps children longer in pre-school –It exposes them to school-like curricula even before they have entered school. For instance, 14% children in anganwadis could recognise letters or more compared to 52.9% in private pre-schools.
Implications for policy Three key implications emerge from ASER 2019 ‘Early Years’:
- Expand and strengthen the existing network of anganwadi centres. These institutions cater to large proportions of children well before they can enter pre-primary grades. At the same time, the ability of these centres to implement appropriate school readiness activities for 3- and 4-year-olds needs to be strengthened.
- Revisit state and national norms forage of entry to school. Data from ASER 2019 ‘Early Years’ shows clearly that performance on cognitive, early language, early numeracy, and social and emotional learning tasks is closely related to children’s age, with older children doing better than younger ones. Permitting underage children into primary grades puts them at a learning disadvantage which is difficult to overcome.
- Breadth of skills is important and focusing too early on formal subject learning is counterproductive. ASER 2019 data shows that a focus on activities that strengthen cognitive skills rather than subject learning in the early years may generate substantial benefits in terms of children’s future learning.