Impact of School Closures & Mergers on Access to Education in India, 2023
An Analysis of uDISEPlus 2021-22 Data
The number of schools in India that have recently closed down or merged with other nearby schools, the number of which in a few states, is alarming. However, details of the criteria used in closing down the schools are not available in the public domain. It is also unknown whether RTE Act 2009 norms have been followed, which may severely impact India’s efforts towards universal school enrollment.
COVID-19 pandemic have had significant impacts on students around the world. According to a report by UNICEF, over 200 countries had implemented school closures, affecting more than 1.6 billion learners. The impact of school closures on students varies, may have negative effects on mental health, academic progress, and social development. Forbes reports that school closures may have long-term impacts on children’s mental health. In addition, CNN notes that the impact of school closures has been lessened where children can access remote lessons using technology like Zoom, but where social inequalities already exist, the impact has been greater.
Studying the pattern in the number of schools is essential as it provides valuable insights into education infrastructure and access to education at the all-India and state levels. Through the study pattern the study of several schools, one can get more information about the following:
Educational Infrastructure: The number of schools indicates the availability and capacity of educational institutions in a region. By studying the pattern, we can assess if the existing infrastructure is sufficient to accommodate the population’s educational needs.
Access to Education: The number of schools directly affects access to education. A higher number of schools generally means better access to education, especially for remote or disadvantaged areas. Studying the pattern helps identify gaps in access and areas where different schools may be needed.
Educational Equity: Monitoring the pattern of schools helps evaluate the equity in educational opportunities. It allows us to identify disparities in the distribution of schools based on factors such as geography, socioeconomic status, or demographics. This information addresses inequalities and ensures equal access to quality education.
Policy and Planning: The data on the number of schools assists policymakers and education planners make informed decisions. It helps formulate strategies for school expansion, resource allocation, infrastructure development, and policy interventions to enhance the quality and reach of education.
Impact Assessment: By studying the changes in the number of schools over time, we can assess the impact of various factors, such as government policies, demographic shifts, or budgetary changes, on the education system. It allows for evidence-based analysis and evaluation of the effectiveness of interventions or reforms.
Future Projections: Analyzing the pattern of schools can provide insights into future trends and requirements. It assists in projecting the need for additional schools, estimating infrastructure investments, and planning for the changing educational landscape.
Studying the pattern in the number of schools helps us understand the status of educational infrastructure, assess access and equity in education, inform policy decisions, evaluate the impact of interventions, and plan for the future needs of the education system. It is a vital tool in ensuring inclusive and quality education for all.
Number of Schools (All Schools): All-India
|Total Private Schools
|-69,788||-4.48%||-72,157|| -6.59 %
Source: UDISE & UDISE+, different years. *Number of published schools were 3,40,753 schools in 2020-2.
Number of schools in India: 2017-18 to 2021-22
Data from the UDISEPlus sources from 2017-18 to 2021-22 has been obtained and analyzed in the present article.
Number of schools by level of school education, 2021-22
|Andaman and Nicobar Islands||416||218||76||53||69|
|Dadra and Nagar Haveli and
Daman and Diu
|Jammu and Kashmir||28805||14824||9565||3150||1266|
Source: UDISE+ 2021-22
Total Number of Schools
From 2017-18 to 2021-22, there has been a decline in the total number of schools in India, with a decrease of 69,788 (-4.48 percent).
This decline is primarily attributed to a decrease in government/Department of Education (DoE) schools, which reduced 72,157 schools (-6.59 percent) during the same period.
However, there was a slight increase of 13,643 schools (4.23 percent) in the total number of private schools.
In 2018-19, there was a slight decrease of 7,903 schools (-0.5 percent) compared to the previous year, with a significant reduction in government/DoE schools by 10,796 (-1.0 percent).
The decline continued in 2019-20, with a further decrease of 43,292 schools (-2.8 percent) overall. Government/DoE schools significantly reduced by 51,177 (-4.7 percent), while private schools decreased by 11,271 (-3.3 percent).
However, in 2020-21, there was a slight increase of 1,428 schools (0.09 percent) overall. Notably, the number of government/DoE schools remained almost unchanged (-521 schools), while private schools saw an increase of 5,815 (1.7 percent).
In 2021-22, declining schools continued, with a decrease of 20,021 (-1.33 percent). Both government/DoE and private schools experienced reductions of 9,663 (-0.9 percent) and 7,470 (-2.2 percent), respectively.
The data suggest a declining trend in India’s total number of schools, primarily driven by a decrease in government/DoE schools. However, the private school sector has shown some resilience with a slight increase over the years. Factors such as government policies, demographic changes, and educational reforms contributing to these trends must be studied. For a more comprehensive analysis of the education landscape, including student enrolment, it would be advisable to refer to additional data and reports.
Changes in the Number of Schools in Indian States/Union Territories
The number of schools in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands remained relatively stable, with a minor decrease of 1 school in 2019-2020. The trend continued in 2020-2021, with no significant change in the number of schools. However, the projected data for 2021-2022 suggests a further decrease of 1 school, resulting in a 0.24 percent decrease compared to 2017-2018.
In Andhra Pradesh, there was a marginal increase in schools between 2017-2018 and 2019-2020. However, the following year, 2020-2021, saw a decline of 481 schools, representing a 0.75 percent decrease. The projected data for 2021-2022 indicates a more considerable decrease of 1,395 schools, resulting in a 2.20 percent decrease compared to 2019-2020. These numbers highlight a significant drop in the number of schools in the state.
|Number of Schools (Total)|
|State/UT||2017-18||2019-20||2020-21||Change over 2019-20||%age Change||2021-22||change over 2020-21||%age Change||Change over 2017-18|
|A & N Islands||417||418||417||1||-0.24||416||-1||-0.24||-1|
|Dadra and Nagar Haveli and
Daman and Diu
|Jammu & Kashmir*||29335||28863||28930||67||0.23||28805||-125||-0.43||-530||-1.81|
|Source: UDISE, different years.|
Arunachal Pradesh witnessed a decrease of 9 schools in 2019-2020, but the number remained relatively stable in 2020-2021. However, the projected data for 2021-2022 indicates a further decrease of 72 schools, resulting in an overall decline of 458 schools (-11.28 percent) compared to 2017-2018. This decline highlights a considerable decrease in the educational infrastructure of the state.
In Assam, the number of schools has been on a downward trend. The state experienced a decline of 704 schools in 2020-2021, representing a 1.07 percent decrease compared to the previous year. The projected data for 2021-2022 suggests a further decrease of 4,344 schools, resulting in a significant decline of 13.16 percent compared to 2017-2018. These numbers indicate a substantial reduction in the educational resources available in Assam.
The state of Bihar witnessed an overall increase in the number of schools, with 3,184 more schools in 2020-2021 compared to 2019-2020, representing a 3.53 percent increase. However, the projected data for 2021-2022 indicates a slight decrease of 294 schools, resulting in a marginal decrease of 0.31 percent compared to the previous year. Despite the minor decline, Bihar still shows a significant increase of 5.59 percent in the number of schools compared to 2017-2018.
These trends in different states and Union Territories highlight the diverse situations in terms of educational infrastructure. While some regions have experienced stable or minimal changes, others have witnessed substantial fluctuations, increasing and decreasing the number of schools. These changes have implications for access to education and the availability of resources for students in these areas. Further analysis is needed to understand the underlying factors contributing to these variations and to address any potential challenges in the education sector.
Reason for the decline in the Number of Schools
The provided data alone does not reveal the exact reasons for the decline in the schools in different States & Union Territories. However, several factors can contribute to such declines:
Demographic changes: Declines in the number of schools can be influenced by changes in population, particularly in regions experiencing a decrease in the school-age population. The child population, if it decreases significantly, leads to a decline in the number of schools to align with the reduced demand.
Consolidation and mergers: Schools may sometimes be consolidated or merged to improve efficiency and optimize resources. This may occur when multiple smaller schools are combined into larger ones, or underutilized schools are closed down.
Infrastructure issues: Schools may be closed or temporarily shut down due to infrastructure-related issues such as unsafe buildings, lack of necessary facilities, or environmental factors, leading to a decrease in the overall number of operational schools.
Policy changes: Government policies, educational reforms, or shifts in educational priorities can also impact the number of schools. For example, the government may introduce policies to enhance the quality of education by merging smaller schools or focusing on fewer but larger educational institutions.
Economic factors: Economic conditions can influence the establishment and maintenance of schools. Economic downturns or budgetary constraints may lead to a decrease in funding for education, affecting the opening or continuation of schools.
Migration patterns: In regions with high levels of migration, the number of schools may fluctuate as people move in or out. Employment opportunities, economic conditions, or social and political factors influence migration patterns.
Please note that the reasons for the decline in the schools can vary significantly from one State/Union Territory to another. In-depth analysis, local context, and additional information beyond the provided data would be necessary to determine the specific reasons behind the observed changes in each case.
Closing/Merging of Schools
The closure or merger of schools in different states can be based on various factors typically assessed by education authorities and policymakers. Some of the common considerations include:
Enrollment and student population: Schools with consistently low enrollment numbers may be considered for closure or merger. If the student population in a particular area declines significantly, it may lead to an excess number of schools, making consolidation necessary to optimize resources.
Utilization of resources: Schools that are underutilized regarding facilities, staff, and resources may be targeted for closure or merger. This ensures efficient use of available resources and promotes cost-effectiveness in education delivery.
Geographic distribution: In cases where multiple schools are located close, consolidation may be considered to avoid duplication of resources and ensure better utilization of educational infrastructure.
Educational quality and performance: Schools that consistently perform poorly in terms of academic achievement, infrastructure, or quality of education may be identified for closure or merger. This approach aims to improve educational outcomes by reallocating students and resources to better-performing schools.
Infrastructure and safety concerns: Schools facing significant infrastructure challenges, including safety concerns, may be closed down or merged with other schools that offer better facilities. This ensures a conducive learning environment for students and addresses potential risks.
Policy and administrative decisions: Educational policies and administrative decisions at the state or national level can influence the closure or merger of schools. These decisions may be driven by various factors, including educational reforms, changes in government priorities, or strategic planning to enhance the overall education system.
The criteria and processes for closing and merging schools vary from location to location and also depend on local regulations and educational policies. The decision-making process typically involves consultations with education officials, school administrators, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders who assess the feasibility and impact of such changes on the educational landscape.
Privatization of School Education
As of the cutoff in September 2021, India has been experiencing growth in private schools, particularly in urban areas. This trend has led to discussions and debates about the role of private unaided schools and the potential direction toward privatizing school education. It is still important to observe that the situation may vary across different states and regions in the country.
Factors contribute to the increasing presence of Private Schools
Demand for quality education: Many parents, especially in urban areas, seek better education for their children. Private schools, often perceived to provide better facilities, infrastructure, and teaching standards, are seen as an option to fulfill this demand.
The limited capacity of public schools: Public schools, particularly in densely populated areas, may face challenges in accommodating all students due to limited resources and infrastructure. Private schools often fill this gap by offering additional education options.
The growing middle-class population in India has increased affordability and willingness to pay for private school education, further driving the demand for private schools.
Government initiatives: Government policies, such as the Right to Education Act, have encouraged private participation in education and supported public-private partnerships, which have contributed to the growth of private schools.
The Government of India plays a significant role in the education sector. The government-run public schools remain the backbone of the education system, particularly in rural areas and for economically disadvantaged sections of society.
Additionally, the government has implemented various measures to regulate and monitor private schools to ensure quality standards and prevent profiteering. This includes establishing education boards, accreditation bodies, and guidelines for fee structures and admissions.
The direction of school education in India is subject to ongoing policy discussions and changes even though education is on the concurrent list. It is essential to refer to the latest information and updates from official government sources to understand the current status and any shifts in the approach towards privatization in the education sector.
Implications of a decline in the Number of Schools
The decline in the number of schools can have several implications:
Access to Education: A reduction in the number of schools can limit access to education, especially for students in rural or remote areas, which may result in longer travel distances, leading to increased transportation costs and potential difficulties in attending school regularly. This can disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities, hindering their educational opportunities.
Overcrowding and Quality of Education: With fewer schools available, the existing schools may become overcrowded, leading to larger class sizes and a strain on resources which may harm the quality of education as teachers may struggle to provide individual attention and personalized instruction to students. Overcrowding can also affect the overall learning environment and student well-being.
Educational Equity: The decline in schools may exacerbate educational inequities, particularly for marginalized groups and economically disadvantaged students. If the reduction primarily affects government/DoE schools, which often serve lower-income communities, it can widen the educational divide between different socioeconomic groups.
Teacher Employment and Professional Development: The closure of schools can decrease the demand for teachers, potentially leading to unemployment or job insecurity for educators. It may also limit opportunities for professional development and career advancement within the education sector.
Impact on Local Communities: Schools often serve as community centers and play a vital role in the social fabric of local communities. The closure of schools can negatively impact community cohesion and social interaction, affecting not only students but also parents, teachers, and other stakeholders who rely on schools as hubs of social and cultural activities.
Government Spending and Resource Allocation: The decline in the number of schools may influence government spending and resource allocation in the education sector. With fewer schools to support, governments may redirect funds and resources to other areas, potentially affecting educational infrastructure, teacher training, and the provision of educational materials and technologies.
Policymakers must consider the implications and work towards ensuring equitable access to quality education, even in the face of declining school numbers. Strategies such as school consolidation, innovative approaches to distance learning, and targeted investments in underserved areas may help mitigate the adverse effects of a declining school system.
RTE 2009 Norms & Closing/Merging of Schools
The RTE Act 2009 outlines certain norms and guidelines for school closures and mergers. According to the RTE Act, the closure or merger of schools should be carried out in compliance with specific provisions to protect the right to education of all children. These provisions include:
Public Notice: Before closing or merging a school, the concerned authorities must issue a public notice stating the reasons for the proposed action. This notice should be widely disseminated to ensure awareness among the community, parents, and other stakeholders.
Consultation: The RTE Act emphasizes the importance of consultation with parents, teachers, and local authorities before deciding on a school closure or merger. Their opinions and concerns should be taken into consideration during the decision-making process.
Proximity and Accessibility: The Act stipulates that every child has the right to attend a neighborhood school within a specified distance from their residence. When considering school closures or mergers, the authorities must ensure that alternative schools are available within a reasonable distance, maintaining proximity and accessibility.
No Detriment to Children’s Education: The RTE Act places paramount importance on safeguarding the continuity of education for all children. If a school is closed or merged, arrangements must be made to ensure the affected children are transferred to other nearby schools without any disruption to their education. Adequate provisions should be in place to address the increased enrollment and maintain the quality of education in receiving schools.
Implementing the above norms and guidelines may vary across states and regions within India. While the RTE Act provides a framework for school closures and mergers, the specific application of these norms may be subject to the discretion and policies of the respective education departments and local authorities.