School Merger: India’s education market growing while public funding shrinking
The global market research agencies are predicting very high growth rate in the ‘school market’ of India but government schools are not getting minimum number of students to remain operational.
Indian education sector is facing a duality – the global market researchers are predicting very strong growth in the school education due to growing population but the government schools are not getting pupils. It's not any standalone case or of selected schools, several state governments are working on projects with a mission mode to merge thousands of schools as they have become non-viable due to lack of students.
IMARC, a global market researcher, in a recent report estimated that the pre-school market in India would grow with a CAGR of 19 percent between 2019-24. It means by 2024, the business will become double what it exists today. "With a constantly growing population of around 1.37 billion, India represents the world's second largest populated country after China. This represents a huge consumer base for the education sector," said another market research agency about school education in India. It added that India holds an important place in the global education industry with around 1.8 million K-12 schools and a student base of 252 million.
Now look at the second aspect of the education sector in India. Gujarat government has recently announced to merge about 1,000 primary schools saying those schools don't have enough student strength to keep them operational. According to a report of the state government, about 6,000 schools have less than 50 students while 13,450 others have less than 100 students. Though in the first stage schools with less than 30 students will be merged, the government is non-committal about operational of schools with less than 50 students.
There are reasons to doubt the move. In Jharkhand, the state government first merged schools with less than 10 students. Thereafter, it merged the schools having less than 30 students. The third round of merger was withdrawn after protest from within as members of parliament (MPs) of the ruling BJP strongly opposed the third phase. In fact, the government was more interested in saving a few crores more instead of providing education to the tribal students and villagers in remote areas of the country. The state governments such as Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, and Puduchchery are also working on plans to merge or shut down several thousands of schools under their jurisdiction.
The latest entrant in this group is Meghalaya which on November 28 announced to close/ merge its 221 schools with less than 10 students.
This plan for merger or closing of the schools has been planned Centrally and being executed in consultation with the NITI Aayog.
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