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Despite RTE, quality of education still below par in India

Jan 18, 2011

The Annual Status of Education Report 2010, released by NGO Pratham, reveals that the Right to Education Act has only helped in increasing enrolments. The quality of education remains poor as nearly 50% class V students cannot read class II texts.

Painting a grim picture of the standard of education in Indian schools, a report on Friday disclosed that half the students in class V cannot read class II texts.

The report, released by vice-president Hamid Ansari in the Capital, said that in spite of the Right to Education (RTE) Act roll-out in April, ground realities have not changed much. The nationwide survey found that though enrolment has increased, the role of private tuition and rural students opting for private schools have increased substantially.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) disclosed that private school enrolment for rural children in the 6-14 age group increased from 16.3% in 2005-06 to 24.3% in 2010. Southern states have shown substantial increase over the past five years in this sphere.

Between 2009 and 2010, the percentage of children in the 6-14 age group enrolled in private schools “has increased from 29.7% to 36.1% in Andhra Pradesh, from 19.7% to 25% in Tamil Nadu, from 16.8% to 20% in Karnataka and 51.5% to 54.2% in Kerala”, said the ASER report. In Punjab, too, this rose eight percentage points in 2010 from the previous year.

Yet, the learning levels of students in primary schools leaves much to be desired.

“Only 53.4% children in class V can read a standard II level text. This suggests that even after five years in school, close to half of all children are not even at the level expected of them,” said the survey conducted by voluntary organization Pratham.

Madhav Chavan, chief executive of Pratham, said that other than increased enrolment, there wasn’t much change in any other aspect of education.

Social and political analyst Yogendra Yadav said bringing this “shame” to public view is essential. “Half of our school children are much below their standard,” he said. “This is a fact now. What we are lacking is outcome-based evaluation.”

Meanwhile, the trend of sending children to English-medium schools in rural India has not yielded much result.

The survey pointed out that there is a decline in basic math skills. “The proportion of standard I students who can recognize numbers (1-9) has declined from 69.3% in 2009 to 65.8% in 2010. The proportion of children in standard III who can do two-digit subtraction problems has decreased from 39% to 36.5%,” it underlined.

While the imperative for ensuring access to elementary education is well understood and enshrined as a fundamental right, the “quality agenda” is still not accorded the same priority, Ansari said.

“Evidence from around the world demonstrates that efforts to expand enrolment must be accompanied by attempts to enhance educational quality if children are to be attracted to school, stay there and achieve meaningful learning outcomes,” he said.

He suggested the “challenge can be achieved with a sharp focus on quality improvement on teacher training and curricular material development”.

ASER 2010 said states such as Bihar and Punjab have made progress. Punjab has improved quality, and in Bihar, student enrolment and equality in education among girls and boys are picking up.

“Linking education with the election agenda can have some impact and it has now shown in the survey report about Bihar. I believe it will remain an issue for the state for a few more years,” Yadav said.

Terming the Bihar story as noteworthy, ASER 2010 underlined that the percentage of children out of school in the state is steadily declining. In 2006, 12.3% of boys and 17.6% of girls were out of school in the 11-14 age bracket. By 2010, the numbers had declined to 4.4% and 4.6%, respectively.

Regarding compliance with RTE, ASER 2010 said that 60% of the 13,000 schools visited had satisfied infrastructure norms specified by the law. “More than half of these schools, however, will need more teachers,” it said.

Though RTE mandates all schools have drinking water facilities, nearly 30% schools don’t have it while around 50% don’t have usable toilets. While teacher absenteeism was almost 45% in the 13,000 schools visited, student absenteeism was almost half in these primary schools across the country. Norms regarding playgrounds and boundary walls are not observed.

“The RTE Act provides that all children will automatically progress from grade I through VIII without detention for any cause. In light of the fact that the existing system is unable to guarantee learning by children, this provision is likely to exacerbate the situation,” Amit Kaushik, one of the authors, said in ASER 2010. “We need to urgently focus on ensuring adequate infrastructure, teachers, accountability and learning, if the next generation is not to be lost.”

Source : Livemint
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