Coronavirus is likely to have “a very serious impact” on the private schools with the pandemic causing financial stress both on the parents and the schools, a non-profit organisation has noted in its report which was released on Wednesday.
“In the short term, due to stress on parent and school finances, the sector is likely to shrink, with parents shifting their children to more affordable schools, including government schools, and schools with lower liquidity possibly even closing,” the State of the Sector Report—Private Schools in India noted.
Along with enrollment in the private schools, learning will also be affected, it added.
The report has been prepared by the Central Square Foundation (CSF), a Delhi-based non-profit organisation working in the field of education, in partnership with Omidyar Network India.
“A preliminary survey finds that learning gaps between low and high-fee schools are likely to be exacerbated during periods of remote learning,” the report underlined.
Lower-fee schools are struggling with digital transition due to challenges around household access to digital devices and internet access for teachers.
“The majority of parents of private school students have been unable to provide their children with study support during this period,” the report said, adding “Evidence suggests that disasters or shocks leading to school closures may adversely impact student learning even when measured 4 years after the event”.
However, in the medium to long-term, the factors that have led to the growth of private schools which primarily includes parents’ demand for learning quality, will remain in place, and the sector will revert to its current size “or even grow” further, the report indicated.
“This crisis provides an opportunity to restructure the sector to focus on learning outcomes. Regulatory reforms have been proposed across sectors to build healthier norms post COVID-19, and private school education should be one of them,” the report suggests.
The report stressed on the need to bring changes in the current regulatory mechanism to promote growth of the school education sector in the country, suggesting the government to consider lifting not-for-profit restrictions for the private schools.
“Review the non-profit mandate for the education sector and existing fee regulations to attract investment and enable easy access to credit for schools,” the report recommended.
The government could also explore opening corporate governance structures to private schools to drive greater transparency and accountability, it suggested.
“Classifying private schools as micro, small, or medium enterprises could enable higher credit availability for the sector,” it added.
As many as 12 crore students, 47.5% of total students in the country, attend private schools, making India's private school sector the third largest school system in the world.
“Flux in the sector (during the Covid-19 pandemic) may lead to the exit of the lowest quality providers, and regulatory tweaks in this period will enable a new generation of entrepreneurs to better deliver quality across the pyramid, and allow a healthier, more transparent sector to evolve,” the CSF report noted.