Considering the fee-paying nature of Shishu Niketan and simultaneous operation of various grades in different classrooms, private multi-room kindergartens were considered as comparable schools for the evaluation. All 15 Shishu Niketan schools and a similar number of kindergartens located close to those were, therefore, the subjects. In the baseline, data were collected from all the 30 schools and households of 882 students admitted in the three grades of these two types of schools. Household and school surveys were done. Moreover, teachers were interviewed to know about the training provided to them.
All the 15 Shishu Niketan started on time in January 2017 but not each of the grades in all schools. By May 2017, 16 pre-primary sections were opened in 14 schools, 17 sections of grade I in 15 schools and 12 sections of grade II in 12 schools. Out of 1,440 students supposed to be admitted in 2017, only 48% admitted by the first month. Till the end of May, the figure increased to 81.7%. The gap between expected and admitted number of students was 0.6 percentage point in pre-primary, 10.8percentage points in grade I and 43.5percentage points in grade II.
A tendency to admit under-aged children in pre-primary and over-aged children in rest two grades was observed in Shishu Niketan schools. Kindergartens admitted over-aged children in each of the three grades. The proportion of girls was more in Shishu Niketan schools than in kindergartens (47.8% versus 43.8%). Socioeconomic background of the students of kindergartens was comparatively better than those of Shishu Niketan schools in terms of income and asset of households and parental education. Out of pocket, expenditure for the education of the students of Shishu Niketan schools was more than double of that of the students of kindergartens. The major difference in expenditure occurred in cost for private tutoring. Whereas two-thirds of the students of kindergartens availed private tutoring, it was 13.3% among the students of Shishu Niketan schools. The parents admitted their children to fee-paying schools with an expectation of quality of education and holding classes on a regular basis.
Shishu Niketan schools recruited female teachers only, but kindergartens had male teachers too. Educational qualifications of the teachers of Shishu Niketan schools were more than that of the kindergartens. Majority of the assistant teachers of Shishu Niketan schools had a Bachelor’s degree, and head teachers had a Master’s degree. Kindergarten teachers were more experienced than the Shishu Niketan teachers. All the teachers of Shishu Niketan schools had basic teacher training, which was not in the case of kindergarten teachers. Proportionately more teachers of kindergartens were involved in other income generating activities including private tutoring than their counterparts in Shishu Niketan schools. Shishu Niketan teachers were facing a new challenge in using the new technology in classrooms.