The changing landscape of schools in India – Impact of decline in the population of elementary school-going children: Economic Survey

The recently conducted 2019 economic survey, prepared by Chief Economic Advisor K Subramanian and discussed in Parliament by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has put forward the necessity to merge elementary schools to make them feasible. As per statistical projections, the survey suggested an estimated decline in the population of elementary school-going children. It may inevitably have certain important socio-economic consequences. The survey also stated that consolidation of elementary schools is an ‘argument for shifting policy emphasis from quantity towards quality and efficiency of education’.

As reported by the survey, the elementary school-going population of 5-14 age groups is estimated to go down by 18.4 percent over 20 years from 2021 to 2041. It has also been stated that the regions of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka will be affected by this decline in population.The survey stated that the 5-14 age group population, which primarily includes the elementary school-going children, have already been declining over the last few years. It also stated that there will be significant rise in the number of schools per capita across all major states and that the number of elementary schools with less than 50 students has 'increased over the past decade across all major states except Delhi'. Over 40% of elementary schools in states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh have less than 50 students enrolled.

The survey underlined two major factors:
  • The decline in the 5-14 age-group
  • Increase in the number of elementary schools with low student count (<50)
The survey stated that "The 'optimal' school size varies widely according to the terrain and urban clustering, but this sharp increase in the number of elementary schools per capita needs to be carefully studied. The time may soon come in many states to consolidate/merge elementary schools to keep them viable. It recommends that closely located schools (within a radius of 3 KM or less) can be selected, so that there is no major inconvenience in terms of access by the students. "This would also be in line with the experience of other major economies witnessing a decline in elementary school-going population, such as Japan, China, South Korea, Singapore, and Canada, which have implemented policies to merge or close down schools," the Survey states.The four metro cities along with Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune, which sees high number of immigrant population from other cities, will see a significant rise in the number of schools. Over the last decade, India’s GDP per capita has increased by almost 78% and owing to this, families are looking for quality education for their children. This is leading to the rise of a large number of schools willing to cater to this affluent.

Source: CEIC Data (www.ceicdata.com) ($1 = 68.80 INR)

More international schools and schools providing ICSE and IB syllabus are expected to emerge. However, this will also increase the competition among such schools and they will be compared to each other in terms of faculty capability, infrastructure, facilities like transport, canteen and child safety norms, while parents decide which school to put their wards in.
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