ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Learning and Language

English as Medium of Instruction in Low-cost Private Schools

In low-cost private schools in India, English as a medium of instruction attracts children of poorly educated parents with a low-income background. A primary survey in Delhi and the National Capital Region finds that mediating primary-level education through an unfamiliar language poses language barriers and adversely affects the learning outcome. The agency in using English for communication is limited. The learning deficit is undetected through successive grades in the primary level due to translation- and memorisation-based teaching processes, and focus on textbook-based exercises. The study finds that parents do not get a fair exchange in return for committing their limited resources towards education.


This study was sponsored by the Indian Council of Social Science Research.


Private share in school enrolment in India has increased rapidly at the expense of government schools. The government school share in elementary enrolment (Classes 1 to 8) declined from 80.4% in 2003 to 58.6% in 2016–17, with private schools getting a higher share of enrolment (Mehta 2006, 2016).1 In India, some privately managed schools receive government aid, and the government has a say in matters such as teacher recruitment and school fees (Kingdon 2017). Such aided schools, closer to government than private schools in their characteristics, accounted for 7.8% of elementary enrolment in 2016–17 (NIEPA 2018). Private unaided schools accounted for a much higher share of 30.7% of elementary enrolment. In this paper, we discuss private unaided schools that account for the major part of private school enrolment. These will be referred to as private schools.

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Updated On : 28th Mar, 2021
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