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Economic Survey: How the pandemic affected India's education system

Economic survey 2021-22 shows students ‘not currently enrolled’ in schools goes up during Covid-19 pandemic; significant impact on formal education across India; increase students moving from private to government schools

Economic Survey: How the pandemic affected India's education system

For representation only. File photo



Tribune News Service

Vibha Sharma

New Delhi, January 31

The Covid pandemic affected lakhs of schools and colleges across India and has had a significant impact on the education system, the Economic Survey 2021-22 tabled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Parliament said on Monday.

While it is difficult to gauge the real-time impact of repeated lockdown on the education sector because the latest available comprehensive official data dates back to 2019-20, the Survey says, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2021, which has assessed the impact during the pandemic for education sector in rural areas, found that children (age 6-14 years) ‘not currently enrolled in schools’ increased from 2.5 per cent in 2018 to 4.6 per cent in 2021.

Despite the pandemic enrolment in the age group of 15 to 16 years continued to improve as the number of “not enrolled” children in this age group declined from 12.1 per cent in 2018 to 6.6 per cent in 2021. However, the ASER report also found that during the pandemic, children (age 6-14 years) “not currently enrolled in schools” increased from 2.5 per cent in 2018 to 4.6 per cent in 2021, it said.

“To identify out-of-school children, their mainstreaming, and research sharing, the Government has shared the Covid-19 action plan with States and UTs,” the government’s report card for the FY says.

The ASER report also found that during the pandemic, children in rural areas moved out of private to government schools in all age groups.

“The possible reasons suggested for the shift are shut down of low-cost private schools, financial distress of parents, free facilities in government schools and families migrating back to villages,” the survey says.

While the availability of smartphones increased from 36.5 per cent in 2018 to 67.6 per cent in 2021, the ASER report says students in lower grades found it difficult to do online activities compared to higher grade students.

“Nonavailability of smartphones for children to use and network of connectivity issues were the challenges faced by children," the survey said. “However, almost all enrolled children have been provided textbooks for their current grade (91.9 per cent). This proportion has increased over the last year, for children enrolled in both government and private schools.”

Steps have been taken by the government to minimise the adverse impact of the pandemic on the education system to address the concern raised through private studies undertaken during the pandemic period, the survey adds.

What data from pre-pandemic year 2019-20 reveals

—Number of recognised schools and colleges continued to increase between 2018-19 and 2019-20, except for primary and upper primary school

—2019-20 also saw a decline in drop-out rates at primary, upper primary and secondary levels. School dropout rate at primary level declined to 1.45 per cent from 4.45 per cent in 2018-19, both for boys and girls.

—2019-20 saw an improvement in Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) at all levels and improvement in gender parity.

—In 2019-20, 26.45 crore children were enrolled in schools. This has helped to reverse the declining trend of GER between 2016-17 and 2018-19.

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