Our research into ed-tech solutions for low-income schools in India has focused primarily on affordable private schools.
Affordable private schools (APS) are an educational alternative to government schools for low-income families. These schools are unaided by the government and charge fees as low as US$2 per month, and no more than US$25 per month, for attendance. APS are popular in countries like India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Parents choose APS for a variety of reasons, including the perception that private schools provide higher quality education than government schools, and because APS are primarily English-medium schools.
The APS sector is particularly robust in India. There are an estimated 300,000 – 400,000 low-cost private schools in India, and a very large market in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, where we conducted our primary research.
Here are the top ten facts you should know about APS:
1. APS enrollment in India has been steadily increasing over the years. One study in Andhra Pradesh found that APS enrollment of seven and eight-year-olds nearly doubled from 24% in 2002 to 44% in 2009.
2. Some schools charge as little as US$2 per month fees; however, the upward bounds of what is generally considered an APS is US$25 per month. A typical APS earns revenue of US$106 per student yearly, while spending US$72 per student yearly.
3. One universal problem for APS is timely and full fees payments. Given the low-income nature of the population and the fact that school owners are typically part of the local community, APS are generally lenient with school fees payments. This can cause a number of monthly and annual financial sustainability problems for the school. 18% of APS enrollments in 2012 were offered at free or discounted rates.
4. Most APS are plagued by India’s energy infrastructure deficiencies. APS in Hyderabad tend to experience power outages between 1 and 4 hours per day, which means that lights, ceiling fans, smart classes, and computers are unavailable during those times.
5. Contrary to popular belief that affordable schools in India aren’t accessible to girls, they make up on average 48% of APS enrollments.
6. While teachers in India’s APS are generally less trained and receive a lower salary compared to government schools, they have higher teacher attendance rates and better student-teacher ratios. Only 38% of APS teachers have formal teacher training qualifications.The average APS teacher salary in Hyderabad is US$70 per month, while government teacher salaries range between US$130 and US$350 per month. The average student-teacher ratio in APS is 27:1, lower than India’s national average of 32:1.
7. The typical APS in Hyderabad teaches the following courses: English, Telugu, Hindi, Science (includes Biology, Physics, and Chemistry), Social Studies, and Maths. APS with large Muslim populations may also have Islamic Studies, Prayer, and Urdu language classes.
8. Parent’s are attracted to APS because of the sheer number of private schools often present in every community, the perception that private schools provide a better quality education than government schools, and the English-medium curriculum at APS compared to regional language-medium classes in government schools. Because parent’s are paying customers of the school, they often influence the school owner to constantly innovate by adding more service providers or ed-tech interventions.
9. There is a relatively high penetration of technology in APS. More than 60% have computer labs and 58% have smart classes. However, these statistics can be deceiving, because while an APS may own the technology, it does not mean that they use it regularly or effectively.
10. In 2009, the Indian government passed the 2009 Right to Education (RTE) Act, which will impact the APS sector. Under the law, elementary education for children age 6-13, is now mandatory. RTE also requires that 25% of enrollments in government and private schools must be offered for free to poor children. In addition, Section 19 of the Act requires all private schools, but not government schools, to meet a number of standards in infrastructure, teacher-student ratio, and salaries. Schools not meeting requirements upon thee years of inspection will be closed. While this new law could greatly impact the status of affordable private education in India, the accountability systems in India’s government are not yet in place for full implementation and regulation.
While there is generally much positive press about affordable private schools, it’s important to note that private schooling does not equate better quality education. Extensive research has yet to find that affordable private education improves learning outcomes and long-term success more than government schools in developing countries. Despite focusing our research on ed-tech in the affordable private school setting, we do not take a formal stance on the APS vs. government school debate. Rather, we chose to focus on APS because they provide a unique opportunity to observe ed-tech interventions in privately run low-income schools, where such innovations are more likely to occur.
For more information on APS, keep following our blog for our final report. You can also visit Pearson Education’s affordable-learning.com or our colleague’s new site itselementary.in, which both raise awareness about affordable schooling.