Education is the most enduring tool of social transformation for both rural and urban India. It helps children to overcome the complex problems around them. Since independence the major problem before India has been the degrading level of education. The problem prevails even till this date. According to the recently released Pratham’s 10th Annual status of Education report, enrolment of children, both in public and private schools, has risen at a significant rate but there prevails poor learning levels in reading, mathematics and English.
ASER 2014 reached 577 districts and 16,497 villages, and about 570,000 children between the age group 3 and 16 were surveyed in just over 340,000 households.
The key findings of ASER 2014 are:
- 2014 is the sixth year in a row in which enrolment level is 96 percent. The proportion of children currently not in school remains at 3.3 percent.
- In some states the proportion of girls (age group 11 to 14) out of school remains greater than 8 percent. These states are Rajasthan (12.1 percent) and Uttar Pradesh (9.2 percent).
- Although enrolment levels are very high for the age group covered by the Right to Education Act (i.e. 6 to 14 years), the proportion of 15 to 16 year olds not enrolled in school is substantial. Nationally, for rural areas, 15.9 percent of boys and 17.3 percent of girls in this age group are currently out of school.
- In 2014, 30.8 percent of all 6 to 14 year old children in rural India are enrolled in private schools. This number is up slightly from 29 percent in 2013.
- Five states in India now have private school enrolment rates in the elementary stage that are greater than 50 percent. These are Manipur (73.3%), Kerala (62.2%), Haryana (54.2%), Uttar Pradesh (51.7%), and Meghalaya (51.7%).
According to the report, reading levels remain low and unchanged. In 2014, only a fourth of all children in standard III could read a standard II text fluently. While in standard VIII around 75 percent of children could read standard II level text.
Math continues to be a serious matter. In standard III, only 25.3 percent of children could do a two digit subtraction. In standard V, only 24.8 percent of children could do division. In standard II 19.5 percent of children could not recognise numbers up to 9.
Ability to read English is unchanged for lower primary grades. 25 percent of children enrolled in standard V could read simple English sentences. However there is a decline in the upper primary grades since 2009. The children who could read simple sentences in English are 46.7 percent.
Improvement in school facilities continues. The pupil-teacher ratios have increased from 45.3 percent last year to 49.3 percent in 2014. With respect to drinking water provision and availability, drinking water was available in 75.6 percent of the schools that were visited.
ASER head Rukmini Banerji told that “The need of the hour is to fix learning goals and have remedial classes for children to catch up. Several States have programmes to teach children, irrespective of the class they are in, basics that they have not yet understood. That is the way forward. Sticking to the syllabus will not help those who are left behind.”
Primary education in India is yet to achieve strong learning outcomes. I believe, the reasons behind low learning level are:
- Non-availability of adequate and highly qualified teachers.
- Absenteeism is another parasite.
- Lack of motivation to children and apt remuneration to teachers.
- Absence of moral will to learn on the part of students.
- Lack of adequate classroom facility in rural schools.
- Most of the rural schools are unable to provide basic learning environment.
- There is no transfer of technology, skills and knowledge from the urban education system to their rural counterparts.
In spite of being the “universal enrolment” country, quality of the education system of India is highly disappointing. There is a mad-race for “marks” among students as well as their parents. The focus on exams and marks in urban schools is like winning a race. Quantity over quality is favoured. Parents and teachers exert intense pressure on young buds to achieve academic skills at an age when they should be given freedom to understand and learn as a natural outcome of their innate anxiety, playfulness and eagerness to experiment.
At last, in order to improve the learning level, “all round development” should be given the utmost priority. Such development results in enhanced education and better learning. India’s education system is a low-cost system. India has one of the best opportunities in the world for generating returns from investment in education. Mild doses of capital and resources can produce significant improvement in the quality of education.
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