Learnings about Improving Education

(Notes and References from documentation for NGOs and Teachers)
John D’Souza, Tanvi Patel and CED DocumentationTeam

State of Education and Government Schools in India

Although developing countries, including India, have scored well on the fronts of increasing enrolment in primary schools and providing access to schools, they have not achieved much in ensuring basic literacy and numeracy among children, says a World Bank report, ‘From Schooling Access to Learning Outcomes -- an Unfinished Agenda,’ released on July 13, 2006.

India has a high rate of enrollment in schools, about 94.9 percent at the primary level and 58.7 percent at the secondary level.i

The number of primary schools increased from 209,671 in 1950-51 to 572,541 in 1992-93; the gross enrolment ratios of children in the age group 6-11 increased from 42.6 per cent in 1950-51 to 105.7 per cent in 1992-93. However, nearly half the children who enter Class I drop out before reaching Class V and two-thirds of the children dropout before reaching Class VIII. A little over one-fourth of all "drop-outs" in rural as well as urban India give "not interested in education/further study" as the reason for discontinuance of education. Another 16.3 percent of rural and 20.3 percent of urban "dropouts" cite 'failure' to pass examinations as the reason for discontinuance.ii

To assess the progress towards achieving the World Summit for Children goals, a Multiple Indicator Survey (MICS) was conducted in all States and Union Territories of India in 2000.

According to the MICS, in the primary school age (6-10 years), on an average, 82 per cent (80% rural and 90% urban) children were enrolled in school in India in 2000.

Among the states, Kerala had the highest current attendance (99 percent) and Bihar the lowest (65 percent). In states such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttaranchal, Nagaland, Mizoram, between 85-94% children attended school.

(Source: Mapping India’s Childreniii)

In central states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, and the eastern states of West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya, 75-84% children got enrolled. Bihar, Jharkand and Arunachal Pradesh came last where the percentage of enrollment was below 75%.

While it is clear that over the years, number of children getting enrolled in primary school has increased, the number of children dropping out is also high.

The Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER-2005) produced by a leading NGO Pratham tells us that enrolment in schools is a whopping 93.4%, which in real terms means 12.5 million children - equal to over half the population of Australia - are not in school.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in its report ending March 2005 observed, “The objective of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) was to enroll all out-of-school children in School, Education Guarantee Centers (EGC), Alternate schools and back-to-school camps by 2003.

However out of 3.4 crore children (as on 2001), 1.36 crore (40%) in the age group 6-14 years remained out of school as of March 2005, after incurring an expenditure of Rs.11,133 crores. Several problems persist due to which dropout rates are very high.

Apart from this, it is estimated that almost half of the children, mainly from the poorer government schools are not able to read or write.
According to ASER, nearly 35 per cent children in the 6-14 age group in the slums of Mumbai cannot read, leave alone write. At the same time, Government statistics tell us that 40 per cent of the children enrolled in grade I, drop out of school before completing grade V. Over 50 per cent do not make it beyond grade VII and about 66 per cent do not cross grade X. The correlation between not being able to read and dropping out is clear and simple. The daily humiliation in class leaves these children no option but to leave school.

An independent study, initiated in 1998 by Prof B K Chandrasekhar, and conducted by a group of teachers working both in government and aided schools found that 68 per cent of students of seventh standard studying in Kannada medium in Bangalore south zone could not write the alphabets properly either in Kannada or English. Interestingly, the pass percentage in the seventh standard public examination in these schools is more than 80 per cent every year!

It is easy to conclude that high priority has been accorded to increasing enrolment in primary schools and providing access to school. However it is equally important to take away attention from “quantity” towards “quality” and focus on the crucial issue of learning outcomes.

Enrolment at schools is a necessary condition to fulfill the goal of Universal Education but not sufficient. There is a need to ensure that students do not “drop-out” and complete certain minimum levels of education, as well as learning.

i Source: www.censusindia.gov.in

ii Source: www.education.nic.in

iii Source: Mapping India’s Children, UNICEF in Action, 2004, [R.L22.641]

iv Source: Measuring Progress in Education: ASER and beyond

v Learning to teach, Dr.Madhav Chavan, Humanscape, 01/12/2003, [J.ELDOC.N00.01dec03HUS.pdf]

vi Focus on quality, Vijesh Kamath, Deccan Herald 14/09/2001, [C.ELDOC.N20.elementary_education.htm]

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