Passed in 2009, the Right to Education (RTE) Act envisions free and compulsory education for all Indian children till Class VIII. While the law has ensured that more children go to school, a new study suggests that it has also led to an expansion of the private tuition business in educationally advanced districts.
The working paper, published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, says demand for private tuition will continue to rise so long as remedial education is required to supplement poor quality school education.
In a study covering 375 districts, the researchers found that 53 new tuition centres per billion population came up per month on an average in educationally competitive districts in the six years since the passage of the RTE Act.
The researchers used government data on new education sector firms between 2001 and 2015. Districts where an IIT was located before the RTE Act have been defined as educationally more competitive.
While less-competitive districts saw a small increase in private centres, competitive districts saw a tenfold jump. In the IIT districts, the authors estimate 172,000 students to have enrolled in these centres between 2009 and 2015.
The study also uses non-profit Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) to ascertain whether students in more competitive districts performed better, given the help from private tuition.
Using ASER data on learning outcomes in rural areas, the study finds that student performance declined post-RTE, regardless of whether the student was attending private tuition or not.
However, the decline was the least for students attending tuition in the competitive districts. Based on this, the study concludes that private tuition is helpful in supporting school education, but only for those who can afford them.
Also read: Can greater access to education be inequitable? New evidence from Right to Education Act