Although student enrolment has increased, yet the level of learning in rural schools in Himachal Pradesh is grim, a study by Pratham, a non-governmental organisation has revealed.
The report - the 10th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 - released in New Delhi on Tuesday, says the rate of 'out of school' students (boys and girls) in both government and private schools has declined to 3.2% from 4.8% in 2013.
The report, however, reveals students prefer private educational institutions to those run by the government. ASER reveals that enrolment in private schools (from class 1 to 4) shot to 41% from just 28% in 2008; and in the class 6 - 8 category, rolls in private schools have gone up to 31% from 19% in 2008.
But what's worrisome is the drop in the levels of reading Hindi and English besides the mathematical ability of students in all rural schools across the 12 districts.
The reading level of children in class 2 who can read in their mother tongue (Hindi) has dipped to 87.8 % as compared to 97.5 % in 2010 in government schools. In private schools, the Hindi reading level has risen to 98.6% from 97.3% in 2010.
The percentage of children in class 3 who can read Hindi words has declined to 82.8% from 96.4% in 2010 in government schools, while in private schools too it has dipped to 89.8% from 96.4% for the same period.
As for English reading and comprehension in class 5 only 53.4% can read easy sentences, 27.2 % can understand simple words, 13.8% read small letters, 3.8% can read capital letters. 1.8 % cannot even read capital letters.
Similarly in class 8 only 77.1% can read easy sentences, 14.3% simple words, 6.8% small letters, 1.2% capital letters and 0.5% not even capital letters.
Significant dip in arithmetic ability
Arithmetic ability has witnessed a significant fall amongst students in various classes, the ASER says.
Class 5 students in government schools who can divide numbers are 37.9 %, having dropped from 61.8% in 2010, while in private schools it was 63.9 % against 67.7 % in 2010.
Class 4 students in government schools who can subtract are 52.8%, having fallen from 79.7% in 2010. Similarly in private schools it declined to 74.0% from 84.4% in 2010.
Slump was witnessed in both the student and teacher attendance in the government run schools. The percentage of teachers present (average) was 76.7% (2014). In 2013 it was 85.4%.
Students present (average) was 86.3%, almost same as 86.2% in 2013.