Schools in rural Maharashtra have a better student: teacher ratio than the national average, reveals data from the 2010 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) released by Pratham on Monday.
The report, prepared by non-profit group Pratham annually since 2005, surveys rural households across the country to identify learning levels, school facilities and enrollment rates in primary schools, among other things.
The report for rural Maharashtra was officially released by education minister Rajendra Darda at Mantralaya on Monday. This is the first year that the survey has looked at parameters based on the Right To Education (RTE) Act, which came into force on April 1, 2010.
According to the report, 72.7% schools in rural Maharashtra are following the 1:30 teacher: student ratio in primary schools as mandated in the RTE, compared to the country’s 55.8% average.
Maharashtra also performs better than the national average on school infrastructure parameters such as having a playground (85% schools have one), usable toilets (55%) and a school boundary wall (57.6 %).
However, despite promising signs of the RTE Act implementation, learning levels have in fact dropped since 2009, before the Act came into force.
The number of children in Classes 3 and 5 who cannot do simple subtraction and division sums has gone up by nearly 10 percentage points since 2009. Nearly 60% Class 5 students cannot do long division. Nearly 27% cannot read a Class 2 text book.
“The problem with the Act is that it does not talk about what children should be learning,” said Usha Rane, director of training at Pratham. “There needs to be a concrete focus on reading, writing and arithmetic. Children cannot just be promoted without a focus on the basics.”
However, Madhav Chavan, founder-president of Pratham also pointed out that these figures fluctuate every year.
The report also indicates that the number of children going for private tuitions in Classes 1 to 8 in both private and government has gone down by 1% to 5%. “One possible correlation could be there has been a release of pressure with the message going out that there will be no exams till Class 8,” said Chavan.