Private vs Government Schooling

Udita Upadhyay Words of Freedom Leave a Comment

Assuming that the quality of education in a low cost private school is the same as in a government school, which two of the following five facilities should not be denied to a child at any cost (choose 2 options)? If you do not think any two can be prioritized at all, choose option 6.

This article is the analysis of the results of the Saturday Poll posted on India Institute’s Facebook page on 16 November, 2013 which asked the above question. Nobody can deny that children from all socio-economic strata deserve the best when it comes to schooling. We all will be better off if our children received the best quality education possible. A school should offer better and innovative ways of learning, a healthy and safe environment, playground and play time to make the children physically strong and if possible, also provide proper nutrition. 

Realistically however, our country has not reached that stage where we can provide all of these to all the children. Some parents are able to invest more, while others are not. This has given rise to the mushrooming of low cost private schools catering to families that would like to prioritise and strike a balance between what they would like from a school and what is possible within the resources available with them. Among the experts there is a sharp division between those who say these small schools are very important for achieving education for all while others say that they exploit parents by charging fees while the education quality in these schools is equivalent or lesser than that of government schools.

Assuming that the quality of education in a low cost private school is the same as in a government school, which two of the following five facilities should not be denied to a child at any cost (choose 2 options)? If you do not think any two can be prioritized at all, choose option 6.

Last Saturday we had asked you to choose, from a list of five, the two most important facilities that, in your opinion, should be available to all school children. The facilities were:

  1. Committed teachers who know their subjects well but do not possess big degrees and do not get big salaries
  2. Teachers who have big degrees and get big salaries but are not committed and do not know their subjects well
  3. Basic infrastructure, especially drinking water and separate toilets for boys and girls
  4. Play ground
  5. Free meals


More than two-thirds (67.3%) of you have said that basic facilities and committed teachers, though with lower degrees and lower salaries, are more important than play ground or free meals or the need for well paid teachers with high degrees but no commitment. 

7.3% of you have said that basic facilities and free meals are top priority in a school while an equal number of you have voted for basic facilities and a play ground. Play ground was also top priority for another 5.4% of you who had opted for committed teachers with it.

11% of you have either said it is too difficult to prioritise or chosen more than 2 facilities, which we inferred to mean the same.

All of us would want the best teachers and the best facilities and the best food for all our children if it was possible. Most unfortunately, we are forced to choose some facilities over others by resource constraints. Several studies have shown that your majority opinion of what is most important is the same as the opinion of most of the parents in the country. 

But that opinion is not the same as the opinion of the government, the largest education service provider in the country. So in government schools we find teachers with bigger degrees and huge salaries but who do not show any commitment to the cause of education, leading to poor learning levels among the students. That problem is well known and well documented. Government schools also provide free meals. But this is a combination that none of you have chosen as top priority.

Is the government trading common sense for ideology?

– Udita Upadhyay
Research Assistant- Education

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