Data from the Delhi Economic Survey 2018-19 shows that despite the Delhi government allocating a quarter of its budget to education, government schools lag the national average in terms of learning outcomes significantly.
The Delhi government’s decision to shut down 700 unrecognised schools may seem commendable, but needs to be viewed against the acute shortage of school infrastructure in the national capital. As per data from Delhi State Public Schools Management Association, there are likely 3,000 unrecognised schools in Delhi, admitting nearly 10 lakh students a year.
It is quite clear that these schools have thrived because government schools and recognised private schools have not been able to cater for the demand for schooling infrastructure. Worse, the Delhi government has perhaps contributed by failing to reimburse private schools built on private land for EWS admissions. While two districts have not paid even a single penny in EWS reimbursements, six of the remaining 11 districts, as per a report in Times of India, have paid very little. As a result, nearly 80% of recognised private schools in Delhi are unwilling to comply with the provisions of RTE.
The state has done well in terms of improving public-funded school infrastructure, but that hasn’t proved adequate. Under RTE, unrecognised schools were allowed certain time to get recognition, but it has proved impossible for the bulk of the unrecognised schools that charge very low fees from students to meet the standards set by the government on infrastructure and facilities.
Arbitrary norms are also a major impediment—for instance, the Delhi School Education Rules state that even if a school meets all requirements, recognition would be subject to the school serving a real need of the locality, and not affecting the enrolment adversely in a nearby school, which has already been recognised by the appropriate authority.
Data from the Delhi Economic Survey 2018-19 shows that despite the Delhi government allocating a quarter of its budget to education, government schools lag the national average in terms of learning outcomes significantly. For mathematics, environmental sciences, and language, Class 3 students were ten percentage points lower in proficiency than their national counterparts. While Delhi did better in terms of senior secondary results, it was 14 percentage points lower in pass percentage at the secondary level. Also, student-teacher ratio stands at 80 in Delhi’s government schools, as against the RTE prescribed standard of 30.
These and other gaps in public-funded education have pushed parents towards budget private schools, even if some of these are unrecognised. Instead of shutting them down, Delhi should perhaps ease its rules for recognition, and otherwise facilitate unrecognised schools. It could look at, for instance, pooling of facilities and infrastructure by schools within a locality. Else, it has to drastically improve school infrastructure; shutting schools down won’t work.