A child in Haryana and Punjab does not need to travel more than one kilometre to reach the nearest government primary school and gets free textbooks, uniform, mid-day meal etc. These initiatives have helped increase enrolment, but alas, the learning levels remain dismal.
The performance indicators of elementary classes in state-run schools in rural areas have dipped in recent years despite the government taking various steps and pumping in hundreds of crores of rupees for improvement in learning levels – scholastic and non-scholastic – among children, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014, released in New Delhi on Tuesday. The survey has reported a drop in learning achievement levels of children in reading, comprehension and basic arithmetic and student as well as teacher attendance in government schools in the two northern states.
According to the survey, only 68% children of Class 5 of government and private schools can read a standard-2 text in their mother tongue (Hindi) and another 14% can read standard-1 text, but not more in Haryana. The remaining Class-5 children can either read just simple words or letters, but not more, whereas 3% children cannot even read letters.
In neighbouring Punjab, while 66% of the Class-5 children can read standard-2 text in their mother tongue (Punjabi) and another 15% can read only standard-1 text, the remaining children cannot read even simple sentences, and 3% cannot even read letters. In mathematics, only 44% of the children of this class in all schools can divide, 25% can subtract and 22% students can recognise numbers between 10 and 99. Of the remaining students, 8% are able to only recognise numbers between 1 and 9 and no more and 1% cannot even recognise single-digit numbers. The skills of Class 5 students of Haryana schools are only marginally better.
Sharp dip in reading, arithmetic skills
In both states, the learning achievement levels of students of Class 5 in government schools in rural areas have shown a sharp dip in reading levels and arithmetic skills in the past four years, as per the survey. However, the performance of private school students in the two states has more or less been the same, except showing a dip in arithmetic skills in Punjab, where the percentage of Class 5 students who can do division has dropped sharply from 68% in 2010 to 54% in 2014.
As for English reading and comprehension, only 51% children of Class 5 each in Punjab and Haryana can read easy sentences, whereas 25% and 21% can read simple words and not more, respectively. While 4% of the Class 5 students in Punjab cannot even read the alphabet, the percentage of such children is 5% in Haryana. Of those who can read simple sentences, only 68% and 66% children in Haryana and Punjab, respectively, are able to tell their meaning. The student and teacher attendance in the two states has also reported a declining trend in the two states.
Pvt schools preferred in rural areas
Private schools are in a great demand in rural Punjab and Haryana. Parents in the two states seem to prefer such schools to government schools despite their infrastructural deficiencies and unqualified and untrained teachers.
Almost 50% of the children in the age group of 6-14 years go to private schools in Punjab, whereas the percentage of such children in Haryana at 54%, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2014, a nationwide survey conducted by non-government organisation (NGO) Pratham. The all-India percentage of children of this age group in rural areas going to private schools is 31%. In Kerala and Manipur, more than 60% children are enrolled in private schools.
In Haryana and Punjab, the enrolment of children in private schools has risen substantially in the past decade, going up from 43% to 54% in Haryana and from 42% to 50% in Punjab. Also, parents have a preference for sending their sons to private schools. In Haryana, 60% boys go to private schools as compared to 47% girls. The trend isn’t very different in Punjab, where 53% boys and 45% girls are enrolled in private schools, according to the survey. Uneducated and semi-literate parents are drawn to private schools, which have mushroomed all over the two states, due to their craving that their children should learn to converse in English, which has become synonymous with quality education.
Private school enrolment: 2006, 14
Boys: 20% 35%
Girls: 17% 27%
Overall: 19% 31%
Boys: 48% 60%
Girls: 36% 46%
Overall: 43% 54%
Boys 45% 53%
Girls 37% 45%
Overall 42% 50%