Students Shift to Private English Institutes

The city's civic corporation, which runs the largest pool of Marathi schools, ironically has the maximum number of students in its Hindi-medium schools. Population in Urdu-medium schools is a close second and enrolment in Marathi schools is a distant third. The paradox of free education is that no one is signing up for it.

Overall, student population in the city municipal schools is falling and locals are choosing other schools over public institutes. Data procured by RTI activist Jeetendra Ghadge found the economic and demographic change in the education landscape. “For long, the middle class Maharashtrian has hoped to get good quality public education. But the BMC has failed them, “ he said.

Rising aspirations, the currency for an English education and the perception that a private school is better, has been putting parents off civic institutes.

Founder of the NGO Pratham, Madhav Chavan said, “This is an all-India phenomenon. Only those who have no other option, the less educated and the economically very backward are sending their children to BMC schools.“

The numbers reflect that. When student numbers were falling, in 2015-16, the budget allocation for education was Rs 2,501 crore. Praja's recent report on the state of municipal education in Mumbai had revealed that the annual dropout in Marathi-medium schools was as high as 13%. It also pointed out that the declining numbers was in spite of the per capita cost of every student being comparable to that in private schools.

In 2014-2015, the BMC had a per capita spend of Rs 59,375, which remained similar at Rs 59,115 in the 2016-2017 budget estimates. Researchers at Praja said that the enrolments have been hit by the poor quality of education in the civic schools. “Over 89% of respondents tell us that they would move to a private school once they can afford it. So they are unhappy with the quality being provided to them. The enrolments in Urdu and Hindi mediums have declined much lower than in Marathi as the immigrants could be sending their children to BMC schools because they don't have a choice,“ said Milind Mhaske, project director, Praja.

The headmistress of a Marathi-medium civic school said that enrolment in all schools had taken a hit. “In Hindiand Urdumedium schools, there still is a lot of bogus reporting of students. If one visits these schools very regularly the ground reality will be different,“ she said on condition of anonymity .

Ramesh Joshi, who heads the Brihanmumbai Mahapalika Shikshak Sabha, the BMC teachers' union, said that it was the pull of English education that had caused the dip. “There is a general perception that going to a school and learning in the mother tongue is not good enough and one must study in an English-medium school to succeed. Due to this, several parents send their students to private English-medium schools even if it pinches their pocket. This is very unhealthy, “ he said.