Fall in enrolment in state-run schools as English medium trumps mid-day meals

Parliamentary panel has asked the human resource development ministry to find out the reasons behind the dip in enrolment in state-run primary schools.

The lure of an English medium education might be replacing the allure of free mid-day meals, the Union human resource development ministry has indicated to a parliamentary panel that sought reasons for the fall in enrolment in state-run primary schools.

The house panel asked why new admissions to government primary schools had come down by 15% while they had gone up by 33% in private schools between 2010-11 and 2014-15.

The human resource development (HRD) ministry replied in its action-taken report on January 5 that a mushrooming of private institutions had hit enrolments and that some states wanted to set up new English-medium primary schools to reverse the trend.

“The panel is concerned about the declining enrolment in schools covered under mid-day meals (MDMs), which is in direct contradiction to the enrolment trends in the other categories for private schools as well as upper-primary schools,” the house panel said in a report on the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and MDM scheme.

The panel asked the HRD ministry to find out the reasons behind the dip in enrolment and “address them at the earliest”.

“Some states are proposing to start English-medium primary schools so as to attract more children which may result in increase in the enrolment under primary stage,” the ministry replied in its report, which has been accessed by Hindustan Times.

The Centre’s mid-day meal scheme, one of the largest free nourishment programmes in the world, feeds an estimated 100 million children across the country every day. Launched to encourage children to attend school regularly, it aims at increasing enrolment and attendance.

The house committee pointed out that MDMs contributed to an increase in attendance in schools, but said that “it does not seem to have any significant impact on fresh enrolments”.

“This particular scenario, the Committee recommends, requires to be considered by the government and requisite measures be taken,” the report said.

Annie Namala, executive director of the Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion, who has served as a member of the National Advisory Council for the implementation of the RTE, said that this new trend was in line with expectations.

“The community is preferring quality of education to mid-day meal, and “quality education” is interpreted as English-medium education. Being able to speak English is a matter of great status in our community,” she said.



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