Disadvantaged Children in Elementary Education and their Capabilities: A Case Study of Delhi

Ashraf, Reem (1); Kumar, Deepak (2) (2016). 'Disadvantaged Children in Elementary Education and their Capabilities: A Case Study of Delhi' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

Disadvantaged Children in Elementary Education and their Capabilities: A Case Study of Delhi
Reem Ashraf* and Deepak Kumar+
Key Words: Disadvantage Children, Free-ship education, Capability Approach, SEM
The paper intends to investigate the instrumental role of education vouchers and school choice in education for the children belonging to economically weaker sections (EWS) in context of private schools in Delhi.  The paper will attempt to look at the effects of school choice along with the role of family in transacting various functionings in education and operationalizing two sets of capabilities for these children- Senses, Imagination and Thought (SIT) and Leisure activities and Play.
It is important to consider, though the universalization of elementary education has increased access but the dropout rates for elementary level have been significantly high with poor learning levels in government schools, specially for children at margins. Since Delhi is one of the oldest state to experiment with the intervention through free-ship education for EWS children in private aided schools, in present context it is important to look at the role of investment in pre-schooling of children in expanding their capabilities. This becomes more imperative to understand in light of the Sustainable Development Goals that have focused on the need for inclusive and quality education with special role of pre-primary education in addressing inequalities in education and well-being of children in poverty and constrained households.
There has been recent literature evidence on the Indian experience with private schooling in terms of learning outcome of children in private and public schools (Muralidharan and Kremer 2008, French and Kingdon 2010 Muralidharan & Sundharaman 2011, 2013; Singh 2013), but there is need to understand that besides learning outcomes, which is one of the functionings in education, how does school choice contribute to well-being and capabilities of children at margins. There has been sociological studies and studies related to capability approach and education that have focused on the role of identity and disadvantage being built in schools (Cameron 2008, 2012; Comim et al 2011; Saito, 2003; Biggeri, 2007). In context of India, study by Di Tommaso, M.L (2007), has focused primarily using secondary data to analyse and contribute to the capability list for Indian children using Structural Equation Model (SEM). The study has focused only on school enrolments and attendance as key variables to understand education related capability, SIT.
Since, the capability to be educated becomes basic at two interrelated respects: absence or lack of opportunity to be educated harms and substantially disadvantage the individual and capability to be educated has a substantial role in expansion of other capabilities (Terzi, 2007), there is need to bridge the research gap specially with focus on the need to analyse the role of schools as institutions and families with the help of primary data to contribute towards the understanding of children’s capabilities through education.
The paper attempts to look at the interplay of capability expansion through school choice in education for EWS children in private schools. To understand how entitlements of parents and school choice affect the capability formation of children in Private and Public schools in Delhi, following objectives are intended to cover in this study.
1)      To what extent has the provision for school vouchers to EWS children in private schools has contributed in expansion of capabilities of children.
2)      To operationalize two capabilities out of Nussbaum’s central list of capabilities, SIT and Leisure and Play for disadvantaged children in Private through school vouchers as compared to their government school counterparts.
3)      To understand the household conversion factor that shapes the capabilities of children.
4)      To operationalize the role of adaptive preferences and evolving capabilities of parents through school choice.
Therefore using the framework of capability approach and conceptualising the role of schools and families in explaining the capabilities of children through education, the paper hypothesises
1-      School choice should expand the capabilities of the disadvantaged children in private schools.
2-      The capabilities and functioning of parents from weaker sections has evolved on account of school choice assuming that parents whose children are in private schools have undergone change in perception for education and have contributed to the ability of child to convert resources into valuable capabilities.
The data source for the study will be primary data from two of the districts in Delhi: North-East District (Minority Concentrated District) and South District. The sample consists of 500 children. The sample for the experimental group of EWS children in private schools will be 300 and for the control group of EWS children in government school will be 200. The paper would operationalize SIT and Leisure and Play for EWS children using SEM and would proceed towards identifying more specific functionings for these children and would also provide a critique to RTE Act (2009), by identifying the constrains towards ability to convert opportunities into actual realised outcomes for the well-being of disadvantaged children.

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