India’s Rural-Urban divide impacts education: NSO Survey

New Delhi: India’s rural-urban divide extends to education as well, including expenditure on education and access to digital resources, reveals the latest nationwide survey conducted by the the National Statistics Office (NSO) titled Household Social Consumption: Education’.

The survey, which was released last week, mapped 1.52 lakh students in 1.13 lakh households, spread across 8,000 villages and 6,000 urban blocks between July 2017 and June 2018. It reveals a huge gap in the expenditure on education between rural and urban areas, especially for schools.

A student’s education up until higher secondary, on an average, costs a rural household Rs 28,157 but for an urban household it is a whopping Rs 84,712.

A possible reason for the disparity in expenditure on education could be the preference of private schools over government ones. According to the survey, 76.1 per cent of students from rural households attend primary and middle schools run by the government as opposed to a meagre 38 per cent of students from urban houses. However, the gap becomes much smaller when it comes to graduates and above, with 49.7 per cent rural and 41 per cent urban students opting to study in government institutions.

This gap extends to the digital divide in education as well. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, where most schools are resorting to the online mode of education, this data becomes especially significant.

Just 4 per cent of the rural households have access to computers, compared to 23 per cent of urban households. Moreover, 14.9 per cent of rural and 42 per cent of urban households have internet access.

These survey also looks at the proportion of people who can operate technology. In rural households, 9.9 per cent students are able to operate a computer, 13 per cent are able to use the internet and 10.8 per cent have used the internet in the past 30 days.

The numbers for urban households, for the same parameters, stand at 32.4 per cent, 37.1 per cent and 33.8 per cent, respectively.

Within this, gender disparity exists as well, with rural female being the lowest percentage in all three aspects — 7 per cent, 8.5 per cent and 6.6 per cent respectively — and urban male being the highest — 37.5 per cent, 43.5 per cent and 40.4 per cent respectively.

However, the survey reveals that the proportion of students who complete their secondary school education is almost at par between rural and urban households. The survey notes that 15 per cent students complete their education while in urban households, 19 per cent do so.

A significant proportion of rural and urban households also have access to primary schools. According to the survey, 92.7 per cent of the rural households had a primary school in their 1 km radius as opposed to 87.2 per cent for urban households.

However, this is not true for secondary schools. Only 38 per cent of rural households have a secondary school in their 1 km radius, compared to urban households’ 70 per cent.

The survey notes that the dropout rate in both rural and urban areas were significant, especially for the upper primary and secondary school levels. It stood at 18 and 20 per cent respectively for rural, and 15 and 17 per cent for urban.

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