In a radical change in its outlook towards private-sector basic education, the Left Front government has decided for the first time to include kindergartens, Anglo-Indian missionary schools as well as informal schools for streetchildren in the city in the seventh All-India School Education Survey report. Even the schools run by the the Ananda Marga, other religious organisation and NGOs will be included.
A recent National Sample Survey, which revealed that more than 300,000 children in Calcutta are in the basic primary education stage, forced the state to change its attitude towards private-sector schools.
Since it would record educational data relating only to government-aided schools for the surveys, they showed a gradual decline in West Bengal, compared with other states, in literacy and dropout rates.
Earlier, the state education department had decided not to reprint the fifth education survey report, as it showed a rise in the dropout rate at the primary level. Recently, a 3.5 per cent decline in the literacy rate had been recorded between the fourth round of the National Sample Survey conducted in 1999-2000 and the subsequent census report.
“It is a fact that enrolment in the state-run primary schools, particularly in the city, is showing a downtrend, but that does not mean that fewer children are being made literate every year. Instead of coming to government-aided or municipality-run primary schools, a growing number of children are being put into privately-run nursery schools for basic education,” admitted education minister Kanti Biswas. “Hence, we have decided to include all types of schools — formal, non-formal, aided, unaided, recognised and unrecognised — while preparing the survey report,” he added.
The report is being prepared by the survey and data processing wing of the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT). The NCERT had given the state education department Rs 33 lakh to carry out the first phase of the survey. The total cost of the West Bengal survey will be a little over Rs 1 crore.
“We are preparing a ‘school directory’, in which the details of every type of school will be tabulated in alphabetical order,” said state survey officer Biman Mukherjee. “Till now, we had no idea how many nursery and pre-nursery schools had come up in the state over the past 25 years, and how many children were being made literate by them every year. Similarly, we are in the dark about how many teachers they employ and how much they are charging by way of tuition and other fees from a student,” pointed out Mukherjee.