See the bigger picture, says educationist
RANI STUDIES in Class V at a Government school. But, given a test suited for Class II students, Rani struggled to finish it correctly. Rani was not alone. Fifty per cent of Class V students in Government schools in Uttar Pradesh were unable to clear simple ability tests in reading, writing and arithmetic (the 3 Rs) recently.
These worrisome findings about the learning status of children are part of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASAR), 2005, prepared by an NGO Pratham.
As part of a project, Class V students were tested for reading but 61 per cent of students in the 7-14 age-group, at Government schools, could not clear the test meant for Class II students. Moreover, 35.9 per cent of the students in this age-group failed at the simple arithmetic test as well.
While compiling the ASER for selected villages of all the districts of the state, children in the age group of 6-14, were interviewed individually, says a Pratham representative.
The report states, in these villages, more than 7 per cent of children in the 6-14 age-group do not go to school. The gender gap in the percentages of children not going to school is almost same for the 6-10 age-group. For the 11-14 age-group, the percentage of girls not going to school was much higher than that of boys.
However, apart from ability status, other indicators of a ‘satisfactory school’ were found okay in Government schools. On all the days the survey was conducted, about 77 per cent of the teachers and 65 per cent of the children were present in each school. In almost all the schools, safe drinking water facility was available too. About 75 per cent of the children had their own course books.
An educationist, Rakesh Chandra, who has been involved in the policy-making process for primary education, says these fault-finding reports were good to an extent but somehow missed the larger perspective. He says, “A lot of work has been done in terms of infrastructure, training, curriculum development and teachers training. But still there are schools where not a single teacher is deputed and there are schools, where one teacher is managing 150 students at a time. In this situation, how can a student get learning opportunities?”
The issue of adequate teachers in a school needs to be addressed strongly.
Teachers’ task should be defined and the community-monitoring system to test the minimum level of learning of children should be strengthened. There is also need to appreciate teachers’ contribution to boost their morale, he added.