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High enrolment but poor quality education, says annual education report

Good school enrolment figures, poor reading and mathematical skills, and adherence to the requirements of the Right to Education Act says the annual status of education report card for 2010

NGO Pratham’s annual report on the status of education in rural areas in India shows that while enrolment in schools is higher, quality of education continues to decline.

Children in Class V cannot read text meant for children in Class II; not even one child in five can recognise numbers 11 to 99; and more than three out of five children cannot solve simple mathematical problems. Overall, after five years of schooling, almost 50% of children are at the Class II level.

For example, in Class III, 6.0% of children cannot read letters, 18.8% can read letters but not much more, 29.6% can read words but not Class I text or higher, 25.7% can read Class I text but not Class II-level text, and 20.0% can read Class II-level text.

Nationally, there is a decline in the ability to do basic math (recognise numbers and solve basic problems). The drop in percentage points is visible across all classes. For example, the proportion of Class I children who can recognise numbers (1-9) has declined from 69.3% in 2009 to 65.8% in 2010. The proportion of children in Class III who can do two-digit subtraction problems has dropped from 39% to 36.5% in the same period. The proportion of children in Class V who can do simple division problems has dropped from 38% in 2009 to 35.9% in 2010.

Middle-school children are also poor at doing everyday calculations. Children in Class V and above were asked a set of questions that involved calculations that people do every day. The tasks included calculations from a menu, using a calendar, estimating volume, and calculating area. In Class VIII, three-quarters of all children were able to do calculations based on the menu, about two-thirds of all children could use the calendar, and only half were able to do calculations related to area.

Observing right to education norms

Pupil-teacher ratio

At the all-India level, more than half of all schools comply with RTE norms. This means that over the next few years, about half of India’s primary and upper primary schools will need more teachers.

Teacher-to-classroom ratio

About 30% of visited schools had only one or two teachers, and most of them met the RTE norm of one room for each teacher. However, in schools with more teachers compliance was lower. Twenty per cent of schools with three teachers did not meet the norm. Around 30% of schools with four teachers did not meet the norm; the figure is 35% and above for schools with five or more teachers. This implies that at least a third of all primary and upper primary schools in rural India will need more classrooms to be built over the next few years.

School facilities

RTE stipulates norms for facilities that all schools should have. Some of these RTE indicators were observed for the first time.

  • Sixty-two per cent of all visited schools had playgrounds.
  • Sixty-three per cent of all visited schools had a collection of books other than textbooks.
  • Ninety per cent of all schools visited had toilets. However, they were useable in only half of these schools. Seventy per cent of all schools visited had a separate girls’ toilet. However, the toilet was useable in only 37% of schools; elsewhere, it was either locked or unusable.
  • Eighty-one per cent of schools had a kitchen shed. Midday meals were observed to be served in 83% of schools.
  • Seventy-two per cent of all schools had drinking water.

Student, teacher attendance at schools

Teacher attendance showed a consistent decline over three years, falling from 73.7 in 2007 to 69.2 in 2009 and 63.4 in 2010.

Children’s attendance showed no change over the period 2007-2010. Attendance remained at around 73% during this period.

Enrolment

The percentage of children (aged 6-14) not enrolled in school is at its lowest ever, at 3.5%. This number was 4.0% last year and 6.6% in 2005.

The proportion of girls (aged 11-14) who are still out of school has declined from 6.8% in 2009 to 5.9% in 2010. It was 11.2% in 2005. The percentage of out-of-school girls (11-14) is still high in some states like Rajasthan (12.1%) and Uttar Pradesh (9.7%) where the proportion has remained largely unchanged since last year. In Bihar, however, the percentage of out-of-school girls and boys in all age-groups has been dropping steadily since 2005. In 2006, 12.3% of boys and 17.6% of girls were out of school in the 11-14 age-group. By 2010, these numbers had declined to 4.4% for boys and 4.6% for girls.

Overall, enrolment in private schools for 6-14-year-olds has increased from 21.8% in 2009 to 24.3% in 2010, with higher figures in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, while it remains low in Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa.

The Pratham survey covered 7 lakh children in 14,000 villages in 522 districts.

Source: The Annual Status of Education Report, 2010
             The Indian Express, January 14, 2010