BHUBANESWAR: Despite huge investment in revamp of educational infrastructure by the Odisha government, enrolment of children in state-run schools has gone down slightly from 86% in 2018 to 83% this year, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2021.
Contrary to the national trend of increase in government school enrolment, there has been an increase in rise in private school admissions in Odisha, the report added.
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“It seems the people of Odisha do not have enough trust in the government schools for which enrolment is falling in state-run institutions despite financial problems caused by the pandemic,” said Kamala Prasad Mohapatra, an educationist.
“The government has been busy transforming schools by improving the cosmetic infrastructure of schools like wall paintings and furniture. But issues like large-scale teacher vacancies, proper training and pedagogy are being neglected over the years forcing people to select private schools over government ones. The government must work on regaining the confidence of parents in the state-run school education system,” he added.
Experts also raised questions over the enrolment figures in the report saying that many parents across the state have shifted their children to government schools after the pandemic. “The figures in the report are a bit confusing. From the ground report we have noticed that many parents shifted their children from private to government schools due to the financial stress caused by the pandemic. Parents not only withdrew their kids from English medium private schools but also from Odia medium private schools,” said Anil Pradhan, convener, RTE Forum, a voluntary organisation working in the education sector.
The dependency on private tuitions in Odisha has increased from 57.5% in 2018 to 66.2 % in 2021, a jump of 8.6% regardless of grade, school type and sex. The largest increase in the proportion of children taking tuitions was seen among kids from the most disadvantaged households.
On access to smartphones during school closure, the report said that 19.2% students in Odisha were unable to access them for their studies during the pandemic while 64.6 % children have at least one smartphone at home. In 2018, around 26.1% households had smartphones at home, while in 2020 it increased to 49.3% and to 64.6% in 2021, the report added.
“Expanding smartphone availability in households does not automatically translate into children’s access to a smartphone. Across all grades, although over two-thirds of all enrolled children have a smartphone at home, just over a quarter of these have full access to it for their studies, while close to half have partial access, and the remaining quarter have no access at all,” the report said.