School mergers brought down enrolments: Study
JAIPUR: The merger of schools in 2014-16 by the previous BJPgovernment has reduced enrolments across social groups (ST, SC and OBC) by around 6 per cent. The decline was higher than the average decline of 1.4 per cent registered across the state during the same period in non-merged schools. A research report by an advocacy group, Accountability Initiate (AI), says a total of 22,000 schools were merged for better governance and transparency. Later, 2,500 consolidated schools were reopened due to decline in enrolments by the same government.
The report says the rate of enrolment declined from 2013-14 to 2014-15 in the consolidated schools’ social group wise SC, ST and Other Backward Class (OBC) by 6.8 per cent, 3.5 per cent, and 7.9 per cent, respectively.
For the state, the decline was lower at 1.8 per cent for SC and OBC students while ST population recorded one per cent rise in enrolments.
Similarly in 2016-17, the overall enrolment registered in the SC and ST category were positive with a marginal decline for OBCs.
“The rate of decline for consolidated schools remained significantly higher at 3.7 per cent, 3.9 per cent and 2.9 per cent, respectively,” reads the report. The ill-planned merger has cast a spell on the enrolment of the especially abled population. The report says overall enrolment of students with disability declined by 4 per cent between 2015-16 and 2016-17. “The rate of decline was much higher among consolidated schools at 22 per cent,” reads the report.
The report examined several orders which explained the ‘enrolment’ criteria used for the closure. The government then argued that primary schools with enrolment less than 15, 30 50 to be closed down due to gross under utilisation of human and infrastructure resources. “Schools closed in 2014-15, 66 per cent schools had enrolment greater than 50 in 2013-14, while only 7 per cent schools had enrolment less than or equal to 15,” reads the report.
“Neither principals nor teachers of schools chosen for consolidation were involved in the decision-making process. All teachers surveyed as part of the study reported that they received orders directly from block offices but did not face significant challenges in implementation,” reads the report. According to the Rajasthan Education Directorate, from 2014-15 till 2018-19 approximately 22,000 schools have been consolidated. However, for 2,500 of these, consolidation was reversed, putting the total number of consolidated schools at 19,500 till 2018- 19.