“Research Padyatra” -To gauge expenditure of low-income families on education

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While parents are bearing the brunt of poorly-implemented RTE admissions in the state of Gujarat, a group of motivated students at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (IIMA) got successfully running Right to Education Resource Centre (RTERC) with collaborative efforts from students of MICA,NID and GNLU. The objective of this center is to generate awareness about Right To Education Act (RTE Act) and facilitate better information sharing among the different stakeholders (Govt. ,schools and parents) to resolve issues faced in the implementation of Section 12 of RTE.

This center, an action research initiative is co-ordinating this research for understanding experiences with primary schooling. Students and staff from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and volunteers fromorganisations like Janvikas embarked on a ‘research padyatra’ to understand experiences of low-income households in acquiring education and their expenditure on it. The aim of the research was to gauge the magnitude of investments being made by low-income households on education, their expectations and realisations from it. The padyatra started from Madhavlal Shah High School in Khambhat in Anand district on January 25 and concluded at Fatehwadi in Juhapura area of Ahmedabad on January 27.

The recent ASER report highlighted an increase in private school enrolment in rural areas from 2016 to 2018 in the age group of 6-14 years. Meanwhile, the government school enrolment in villages has declined. The low-income households are spending a sizeable amount on education even at those stages which the state has declared to be a right. Despite that, reports like ASER reveal the low learning levels among students. This action research was aimed at gaining understanding for researchers and NGOs as well as make parents understand what and how much they are spending on education. It is an attempt to document challenges faced by households, the satisfaction level of parents and also to develop understanding on the tools they use to measure this.

Some of the questions that the volunteers asked the parents included: Due to what reasons you have decided to send your child to a private school; Due to what reason you have decided to send you child to a government school; from 1 to 10 how satisfied are you from your school and its teachers; Total expenses on education.

Despite the historical importance of padyatra in Gujarat, the method has been underutilized as a tool for real-time engagement and research with citizens. This is a first such research padyatra being conducted in the state.