Going by the current trend, India could be half a century late in achieving its global education commitments and the country needs fundamental changes in the education system if it wants to meet the 2030 sustainable development goals, a Unesco report said recently. A new report by IndiaSpend, a data journalism initiative, released on Tuesday, gives a clearer picture where India is faltering badly. According to the report, by 2020, India will have the world’s largest working population — 869 million — but an analysis of indicators on literacy, school enrolment, learning outcomes, and education spending across four states — with 43.6% of India’s school-age population between the ages of five and 14 — revealed that India is unprepared to educate and train its young population. Overall, India’s literacy rate has increased 8.66 percentage points to 74.04%, between 2001 and 2011, according to Census data, but wide variations exists across states.
The crisis, the report added, in education is apparent in the four ‘BIMARU’ states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh (MP), Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (UP) — with 445.1 million of India’s 1.2 billion population and some of the lowest literacy rates in the country, according to Census 2011. Bihar had a literacy rate of 61.8%, Rajasthan of 67.1%, UP of 67.7% and MP a rate of 70.6% in 2011, lower than the all India average of 74%. Kerala has a literacy rate of 94%, the highest in the country. While these states are at the bottom of the education ladder, the overall scenario is not too healthy either: The quality of learning is a major issue and reports show that children are not achieving class-appropriate learning levels.
Improving learning will require attention to many things, including increasing teacher accountability. A Brookings report says teacher attendance is just 85% in primary and middle schools, and raising the amount of time teachers spend on-task and increasing their responsibility for student learning needs improvement. Part of this process requires better assessments at each grade level and more efficient monitoring and support systems. Overall, the public school system also needs a better general management system. Besides this, without delay the laggard states must leverage technology to meet their education goals. There is no dearth of initiatives in India that are working in content creation, teacher training and classroom learning and using technology to reach students in far flung areas.