India’s school education success story has a flip-side - more than half of the students in class V in rural India cannot read the text taught in class II in 2011, - even though around 97 % of children in 6 to 14 age group are now enrolled in schools.
The startling fact is finding of NGO Pratham’s annual education survey of 6.3 lakh children across India in over 16,000 villages, who under the Right To Education Act are supposed to get quality education. A non-government report, an annual feature since 2005, evaluates the learning ability of students through a simple test based on what students are taught in their classrooms.
A survey conducted 18 months after watershed RTE law was implemented found that there is a decline of 5% in learning ability of students in schools even though the parents are employing more private tutors than ever before.
Around 52% in Bihar had age appropriate learning level in Pratham’s first survey in 2006. Five years down the drain, the number has fallen to 29.9 %. Those in class V student, who can read a class II textbook, have the basic ability to learn.
Bihar is not alone. Similar decline in reading and mathematics was also reported from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Haryana even though many of the students surveyed were taking private tuitions.
“The tutor is a complementary factor and if the school functioning declines, the effectiveness of the tutor is lower too,” the survey report of 6.3 lakh children released by HRD minister Kapil Sibal said.
The survey found that falling attendance in rural government schools in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan was a clear reason for declining learning levels. Average attendance of students in Bihar has declined from 59% classes in 2007 to 50 % whereas in Uttar Pradesh it fell from 67 % to 57 %. Another reason was increase in multi-grade classrooms in these states, which Prathan chairperson Madhav Chavan termed as a “quiet disaster”
The drop in learning levels among children in government schools despite the government pumping thousands of crore of rupees for implementation of the Right To Education Act, is a reason for parents opting for private schools even in rural India, the report said.
Enrolment of number of children in 6-14 age group in private schools has increased from 18.7% in 2006 to 25.6% in 2011. The learning level in private schools in most states has either remained same or has improved.
Sibal, however, blamed the state governments for poor showing of the government schools. “Central government can bring a law, facilitate the process but implementation is with the state governments. In Hindi speaking states there is not involvement of the state governments,” he said.
On the positive, the report said the learning levels in Punjab and Tamil Nadu witnessed maximum improvement, where the state governments ran special programme to improve reading ability and numeracy under the government’s Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA).
To measure student abilities, Chavan suggested a learning evaluation test at class VIII level which Sibal termed unviable unless entire education system is changed. He also ruled out accepting another suggestion of giving money under SSA for three years and termed school education problem as “political” rather than administrative.
* Private schools enrolment increased from 18.7% in 2006 to 25.6% in 2011.
* Between 30-50% of children in rural areas of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland are enrolled in private schools.
* About 44% of students in schools take private tuitions.
* All India level 73.4% in 2007 to 70.9% in 2011.
* Bihar attendance fell from 59% to 50%. In Madhya Pradesh, 67 % to 54.5 % and in Uttar Pradesh from 64.4% to 57.3%.
* 48.2% of students in class V can read text taught in class II, a fall of about 5% since 2010.
* In Bihar, it dropped from 51.7% in 2006 to 29.9%. In UP, from 23.5% to 18%, in Rajasthan 31.6% to 22.6%.
* In Gujarat, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, the learning level in 2011 was better than 2010 with not much change observed in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
* Over 96.7% of children in 6-14 age group enrolled in primary schools.