The total number of functioning schools across the country declined to 14.89 lakh in the 2021-22 academic year from 15.09 lakh in the previous year, mainly “due to closure of schools under private and other management”, a new report by the education ministry The report revealed. ,
Academics said the trend clearly reflects the decline in the form of lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted teaching and learning processes at the societal level.
The second year of the pandemic also saw a decline in the total number of students enrolled in private schools, especially in pre-primary classes, while an increase in numbers in government schools was mainly “due to postponement of admissions due to COVID-19”.
Even though the total enrollment of children across the country increased by 19.36 lakh as compared to the previous academic year, the enrollment in pre-primary sections of schools declined by 11.5 lakh. “Although the impact of the pandemic is cross-cutting, it is especially seen in the enrollment of young and vulnerable children such as pre-primary classes,” it said.
AK Jha, principal of a Delhi government school in Rohini, said it is the large migrant or floating population in the skilled and semi-skilled workforce where job loss was the highest during the pandemic. The section would earlier send their children to budget private schools but could not afford to do so any longer and have now shifted them to government schools.
“The change is most visible among primary-level children as parents migrate to cities or jobs, finding it more convenient to leave their young children with the extended family when they go to work. This is not possible in case of higher classes as studies become more important then,” Principal Jha said.
With the closure of schools, the total number of teachers employed also witnessed a decline of 1.95 per cent this year as compared to 2020-21, of which a major chunk was from privately run or such other schools and mainly from primary and secondary schools.
Academics said this was due to a complete ‘teacher’ or ‘leadership’ that took place in educational institutions across the world during the pandemic.
The total number of teachers stood at 95.07 lakh in 2021-22, down from 97.87 lakh in 2020-21, shows the report based on data collected through the government’s Integrated District Information System for Education (UIDSE+) which was released on Thursday.
The decrease in teachers during 2021-22 as compared to 2020-21 was 0.9 per cent in government schools, 1.45 per cent in government-aided schools, 2.94 per cent in private schools and 8.3 per cent in other (unrecognised) schools, the report stated.
It further states that the percentage of teachers teaching only primary (from 35.4% in 2020-21 to 34.4% in 2021-22) and only upper primary (from 21.5% in 2020-21 to 18.9% in 2021-22) has decreased . This reduction in share is partially offset by primary and upper primary (from 7.4% in 2021-22, 8.5% in 2020-21), upper primary and secondary (from 7.0% in 2021-22, to 6.1% in 2020-21). Compensation has been given. 2020-21) and Secondary and Higher Secondary (from 3.6% in 2021-22, from 3.9% in 2020-21).
Meeta Sengupta, an educationist, said the decline in number of teachers is a leading indicator of a shift in the education system to more tech-based and newer alternatives such as creating new products and models for teaching-learning.
“This has resulted in the burnout of the entire teacher or leadership which has been witnessed across the world. There was unprecedented pressure on school teachers to attend both online and offline in a hybrid model, which is not possible to handle.
Moreover, in private schools, the barriers to exit and re-entry are less, which makes for easier movement unlike the government system,” she said.
Coming back to children, total enrolment in schools (Class 1 to 12) has increased by 0.76 per cent in 2021-22 as compared to 2020-21.
The UDISE+ report states that there has been an increase in the drop-out rate among young students in 2021-22 as compared to the previous academic year. While the drop-out rate among students enrolled in primary (classes 1-5) increased from 0.8 per cent to 1.5 per cent, it increased from 1.9 per cent to 3 per cent for students in upper primary level (classes 6-8). in 2020-21.
Experts said large-scale scale migration and job loss during the pandemic was the major reason that many students ended up dropping out of schools and taking up work instead to support their families.
Ameeta Wattal, Chairperson and Executive Director, Education, Innovations and Training, DLF Foundation Schools, said children in the foundational stages (primary and pre-primary) across the social and economic strata had a tough time being rehabilitated in schools, with many of them moving out to smaller groups of study or day-care centres.
“At least 6-8 per cent in these stages have withdrawn from formal schools since they couldn’t adjust or fit in socially and emotionally. This was because during the pandemic, these children grew up mostly with adults around them and with little or no communication with children their age. They have been facing problems in orientation,” she said.
The report also highlighted that in terms of teaching-learning aids like internet connection, only 33.9 percent of schools across the country can provide it while only 47.5 percent of schools have computer access.
Only 27% of schools have toilets for children with special needs. A total of 24.72 lakh students have been identified as gifted children during the year 2021-22.