Private Schools in India: Experiences of Dalits and Adivasis


As per the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi, the proportion of private schools in elementary education across India rose from 19.49 per cent in 2007-08 to 22.74 per cent in 2014-15. This report, published by Oxfam India, highlights the discrimination faced by children belonging to Dalit and Adivasi communities in private schools (consisting of both private-aided and private-unaided schools). It details the impact of privatisation of education on children belonging to marginalised communities.

This brief report recommends policy actions to ensure that private schools are regularized and made adept to counter such financial and attitudinal discrimination. “It is critical to strengthen the public education system by enhancing spending on education to 6% of GDP,” the report adds.

This 10-page report includes four sections: Introduction (Section 1); The legal and policy framework (Section 2); Private Schools and the Dalit and Adivasi Communities: The Evidence (Section 3); Recommendations and way forward (Section 4).


  1. Citing a report published by Central Square Foundation, New Delhi, the report states that – at 12.7 per cent, children belonging to Adivasi communities have the lowest share of enrollment in private schools among all communities in 2020.

  2. Income earned by the family is the most important factor for whether a household chooses a public or private school. As per the report, a twofold increase in the per capita income of a family increases the probability of choosing a private school over a public school by about 10 per cent. Dalit and Adivasi households earn 21 per cent and 34 per cent respectively lower than the average annual household income, the report states.

  3. Data from the National Sample Survey Office reveals that the annual cost of education at the primary, upper-primary and secondary level in government schools is Rs. 1,253, Rs. 2,181 and Rs. 4,078, respectively. On the other hand, the corresponding expenditure in private schools is Rs. 14,485, Rs. 17,360 and Rs. 20,804.

  4. Oxfam India conducted a survey of 3,876 respondents across 11 states in India to find that as many as 37 per cent of students from Scheduled Castes faced harassment or abuse from the staff or their peers in private schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.

  5. Parents of children from communities which are discriminated against often fail to contribute in their child’s education in private schools also because “the notices issued from schools are in English instead of their vernacular language,” the report states.

  6. The report cites an official publication titled “Evaluation of infrastructure facilities and eligibility conditions of private schools as per RTE Act-2009, in Karnataka”, released in 2021. It states that 3.9 per cent of schools surveyed in Karnataka (14 out of 360 schools) had separate seating arrangement for “RTE Children” – those enrolled through reservations guaranteed under the Right to Education Act, 2009 – in the same classrooms.

  7. The report recommends setting up grievance redressal systems to report discrimination against children from Adivasi and Dalit communities in private schools, as well as the introduction of ‘social and equity audits’ in all schools.

    Focus and Factoids by Sehal Jain.


Anjela Taneja and Noopur


Oxfam India


29 Apr, 2022