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Learning precious little

The government should stop asking parents to send their children to school. After all, they learn precious little there.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 01:53 IST

The government should stop asking parents to send their children to school. After all, they learn precious little there.

While the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and the mid-day meal scheme are bringing in more children to government schools, truant teachers and crumbling infrastructure ensure that they don’t pick up the basics, says the Planning Commission.

And how will they, when on any given day, over 25 per cent of teachers skip schools and of the ones who turn up — only 50 per cent of bother to teach?

Despite that, only one principal in 3,000 has ever fired a teacher for absenteeism or teaching standard. So, after four years of schooling, 38 per cent of the children can’t read sentences meant for class II. About 55 per cent can’t divide a three-digit number by a single digit.

The number of teachers is inadequate. At the national level, the student: teacher ratio is a respectable 1:45.

But it is as high as one teacher for 74 students in Bihar, 73 in Jharkhand, 57 in Uttar Pradesh and 56 in Orissa.

Not surprisingly, the abysmal quality is driving children, especially girls, away. “The national average dropout rate is as high as 31 per cent,” says a government official. “Girls and students from the reserved categories constitute the highest percentage of dropouts,” the official said.

The national average might be 82 girls for every 100 boys in school, but Bihar and Rajasthan have less than 40 girls in school for every 100 boys.

The commission has prescribed a course correction in the 11th plan, starting from the 2007-08 fiscal.

Infrastructure and quality of education should be on a par with Kendriya Vidyalaya standards. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan should be extended to the secondary level. Decentralisation of the school system and a focus on jobs are among its other suggestions.