Children whose mothers are not educated are more likely to drop out from schools and their learning ability is also less, says the Annual State of Education Report, 2006, released on Friday by Deputy Chairperson of Planning Commission Montek Singh Aluwalia.
The survey of 3.18 lakh households covering 90 per cent of the districts in the country found the state of education in public schools in poor light.
About 55 per cent of students in Class V in India cannot divide three digits by one digit correctly. And, about 47 per cent students cannot read a Class II-level text fluently.
There is no change in these percentages as compared to 2005. Although gains were reported from Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, low reading levels in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are a still matter of concern, the report said.
The good news for education planners is that there has been four to five per cent improvement in learning abilities in the lower classes - Class I and II - in the last one year.
About 73 per cent children can recognise alphabets and 59.3 per cent can recognise numbers up to 100. About 60 per cent students are also able to solve mathematical problems.
Aluwalia, however, said that the situation was not so bad as learning abilities of children in the western world was also not very high.
"Even in US, 50 per cent students may fail elementary learning ability test. What we need to do is to judge our children's learning ability as compared to children in the developed world," he said. Madhav Chavan of Prathan, the NGO that conducted the study, readily agreed.
Poor learning ability of children is related to education of mothers, apart from poor classroom teaching skills.
The survey found that over 52 per cent mothers have never been to school and about 53 per cent cannot read Class I-level text. The survey also hinted at poor education ability of literate mothers as 95 per cent of those who have completed class V or more cannot read a Class I text.
Lower education of mothers have a direct relation with dropout rate. Dropout rate of children of uneducated mothers was about 10 per cent as compared to 2.5 per cent of their educated counterparts.
The survey indicated at more gender discrimination by un-schooled mothers as only 8.4 per cent of their sons were out of school as compared to 11.4 per cent daughters.
With regard to relation between child's learning ability and mother's education, the study found that 25 per cent of children of un-schooled mothers were unable to recognise even alphabets as compared to 12.8 per cent of schooled mothers.
Chavan called for a new approach to integrate adult literacy with school education. "Education of mothers is important to improve quality of education in public schools. Schools should be centres of knowledge for all," he suggested.
The survey also found that although enrolment in India has steadied at 93.2 per cent in the 6-14 age group many parents sent their children to school at an age of five. "It indicates that rural India needs kindergarden schools," Chavan said.
Aluwalia wanted more than enrolment figures. He said there should be data on the attendance of children and minimum hours they spend in schools.
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