The Preschool Promise: The Opportunity to Transform Learning Outcomes for India’s Working Poor

Date

December 26, 2017

Co-Author: Ahmed Irfan

4-min read
  • FSG surveyed low-income parents in India to identify expectations they have of Affordable Private Schools (APSs)
  • Using these expectations, FSG aims to inspire APSs to strategically transform their pedagogies.
  • The full report can be downloaded here.

 Current Education Landscape of India’s Urban Working Poor

FSG surveyed over 4,000 low-income parents across 8 cities in India to understand their beliefs and behaviors on how they choose schools and how they gauge academic progress. By knowing what drives these parents’ choices, we can identify how to shift these beliefs and behaviors in order to encourage Affordable Private Schools (APSs) to enact higher-quality schooling.

As the foundation for learning, preschool can set children on a path of educational success. In India, 86%of low-income parents (who make up 70 percent of the urban population) invest in private preschooling. Unfortunately, the current quality of preschooling in APSs is extremely poor, leading to poor learning outcomes through high school.

Shifting Parents’ Expectations Toward High-Quality Preschooling

Our research uncovers several opportunities to leverage existing beliefs and motivations amongst low-income parents—particularly the demand for English and mathematics skills—in order to scale high-quality preschooling sustainably.

Insight 1: Low-income parents care deeply about their child’s education

Despite the availability of free public options, low-income parents are investing about 6%of household income per child on core preschooling-related expenses in private schools, as they believe private schools can help improve their child’s academic prospects.

1/4 of parents are also investing in tuition classes to further support their child’s academic progress, spending an additional 2% of household income.

Insight 2: Parents have 4 primary criteria when choosing a preschool provider

Parents look for schools that are: English-medium (i.e. English is the main language of instruction), Attached (i.e. provides classes beyond preprimary), Close to home (i.e. is within 10 minutes of travel time from home) and of good quality (use word-of-mouth recommendations and the school’s reputation to assess quality).

Insight 3: Parents strongly prefer schools that brand themselves as “English-medium”

Of the parents who had chosen private schools, 78% opted for an “English-medium” school, and were paying a 28% premium on core preschool expenses.

This reflects their views about which skills are needed for success in grade school and to secure a white-collar office job—an aspiration for many working poor.

Insight 4: Parents want to know their child is learning, but there is a crucial gap between what parents expect their children to learn and the markers they are using to test learning

Currently, parents are gauging their child’s learning by using “wrong” markers or markers that check their child’s rote memorization (e.g., can my child recite numbers up to 20).

Instead, “right” markers of learning or markers should be promoted to test a child’s conceptual learning (e.g., can my child pick out 12 sticks from a stack of 20. Thus, schools will need to respond by shifting their practices to activity-based approaches that support conceptual learningLeveraging existing beliefs and motivations among low-income parents could spread high-quality preschooling throughout India

Given the competitive market in which APSs operate in, and their need to satisfy parental demands for conceptual learning, more APSs will shift their practices to activity-based approaches that support holistic early development of children.

For the full report, please download here.


About Author
Sana Kazi
Sana Kazi Programme Manager FSG

Sana currently the Program Manager for FSG’s Program to Improve Private Early Education (PIPE) program. PIPE is an initiative that aims to improve the quality of the private sector’s preschool education service offerings to low-income families in India.

Prior to joining FSG, Sana worked with the PwC’s Government Reforms and Infrastructure Development (GRID) practice. While at PwC, she worked on projects in the skill development and education sectors with clients like the Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Bank. Prior to joining PwC, Sana worked with an independent public policy think tank- Center for Civil Society (CCS) on promoting affordable schooling and school choice and, with Goldman Sachs India as part of their asset management division.