Pandemic effect: fall in the number of schools, increase in teacher departures

The second wave of Covid-19 affected school education in India with more than 20,000 schools, just over 1% of the total, closing and nearly 1.89 lakh teachers, nearly two per cent of its total, leaving the workforce. That’s not all. Reflecting the economic hardship, the transfer of students from private schools to government colleges nearly doubled compared to the first year of the pandemic, data from the Unified District Information System shows for Education Plus (UDISE+) for the year 2021-22.

Schools were also affected during the first wave of Covid-19, but the crisis worsened after the Delta variant, shows a comparative analysis of the latest UDISE+ report with previous ones.

The drop in the number of schools, from 15.09 lakh in 2020-21 to 14.89 lakh in 2021-22, is significant as this is the second drop in the school count since the UDISE count went be managed by the Department of School Education and Literacy. the 2018-19 academic year. Among the schools closing, the share of private schools was 24% and public schools were 48%, with government-subsidized and “other” schools making up the remainder.

The report shows that the trend of students switching from private schools to government colleges also deepened in the last financial year, showing the economic cost of the pandemic marked by job losses and wage cuts. The period saw enrollment in government schools increase by 83.35 lakh, while in private schools it fell by 68.85 lakh.

“The drop in total schools is mainly due to the closure of schools under private and other management,” the education ministry said in a statement, which also identified “the grouping/grouping of schools by several states” as another factor in the decline. The report, however, does not go into the possible factors that explain the drop in the number of teachers and the worsening of other indicators such as dropout rates.

Separate data on the merged schools was not immediately available. In addition, Madhya Pradesh alone accounts for a drop of 6,457 public schools (66.82% of the total drop in public schools) and 1,167 private schools, nearly 24% of the total private schools closed. These are the highest for any state or UT.

Previous UDISE reports show that the last drop was between 2018-19 and 2019-20, when it fell by 43,292 (2.79%). But this fall was mainly driven by the merger of public schools, as the number of private schools had increased by 11,271 over the same period.

In UTs and states except Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Telangana and Goa, there were fewer teachers in 2021-22 than in 2020-21. Between 2019-20 and 202-21, the teacher category saw an increase of 8,848, while the number of schools had increased by 1,428.

In the latest round, Rajasthan, where as many as 1197 private schools closed and there were 31,148 fewer teachers than the previous year, was one of the worst hit. The number of public schools in the state was reduced by 135.

Odisha, where the number of schools declined in 1984, including 289 privately run schools, saw a reduction of 24,638 teachers, followed by Karnataka (22,937), Punjab (21,940), Bihar (18,643), Assam (17,397) and Gujarat (10,687). There was a drop in the number of teachers even in states without many school closures.

For example, in Bihar the number of public and private schools increased by 3 and 174 respectively. However, the number of teachers in the state fell by 18,643, indicating that many schools that managed to stay afloat substantially cut staff as the pandemic showed no signs of abating , which led to extended school closures.

The UDISE+ report, issued by the Ministry of Education, observes that although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is cross-cutting, “this is particularly noticeable in the enrollment of young and vulnerable children as classes early childhood education can be attributed to the postponement of admissions due to COVID-19”.

Enrollment in pre-school sections (excluding anganwadis run by the Ministry of Women and Child Development) fell by 11.5 lakh, while primary level (1-5) saw a drop of 1.79 lakh .

In addition, dropout increased in primary from 0.8 to 1.45% and in upper primary from 1.9 to 3.02%. In secondary school, however, it was reduced from 14.6 to 12.61 percent.

The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GART), which denotes enrollment in a given level of education as a fraction of the population in that age group most suitable for that level of education, fell marginally from 79.8 to 79.56 in secondary school. However, it increased on other levels.

“The primary GER was 101.3% in 2018-19, which increased to 104.8% in 2021-22. The upper primary GER in 2021-22 is 94.7%. It was 87.74% in 2018-19. The GER at secondary level has also improved, reaching 57.6% in 2021-22 from 50.14 in 2018-19, showing a significant increase,” the report noted . A GER greater than 100% may indicate the presence of older or younger children in a particular education level.

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