Bihar is making news — for the right reason.The pan-India Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), facilitated by Mumbai-based NGO Pratham, released at Teen Murti Bhawan, New Delhi, on Friday has commended Bihar on its initiatives to democratise its educational base.
Compared to other states in India, Bihar has among the highest percentage of children enrolled in government schools, says the report. For the 6-14 years age group, this figure has increased from 72.2 per cent in 2006 to 89 per cent in 2009.
Together with government schools (89%), private (5%), madrassa, etc. (2.1%), now 96 per cent children in the 6-14 years age group are enrolled in schools (class I to VIII).
Interestingly, the report also points out that numbers of children enrolled in private schools and other institutions like madrassa and non-formal education programmes like education guarantee scheme (EGS), have gone down during the corresponding period. However, the major gain for Bihar is the decline in the percentage of out-of-school children. Though the state still has some way to go before it can catch up with the national average, Bihar has done better than many other states.
In the 7-10 years age group, only 3 per cent boys and 3.7 per cent girls in the state were now out of school against a national average of 2.4 per cent and 5.3 per cent, respectively. Similarly, in the 11-14 years age group, 4.8 per cent boys and 6 per cent girls were out of school against a national average of 5.3 per cent and 6.8 per cent, respectively. States like Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand lagged behind Bihar on these parameters.
The ASER survey also pointed out that in a population of 1.94 crore 6-14 years children, 12.8 per cent had either never gone to school or were dropouts in 2006. This figure had now come down to 4 per cent in 2009. However, the report also pointed out certain shortcomings. The percentage of children in standard 5 who could read at standard 2 level had dropped from 64.3 per cent in 2006 to 56.7 per cent in 2009. “This means that 40 per cent of children are completing primary school in Bihar but cannot read even standard 2 level text fluently,” the report said.
The situation in maths was even more worrying. The percentage of children in standard 5 who could do division sums was 62.1 per cent in 2006. This number had dropped to 51.5 per cent by 2009, the report pointed out. This clearly reflected on the poor quality of teaching and would actually put a question mark on the ability of teachers appointed lately.
The report was also critical of school buildings and toilets. It said that the proportion of toilets that could be used in government primary schools (class I-V) had risen marginally from 21.3 per cent in 2005 to 25.7 per cent in 2009. For upper primary (class VI-VIII), the figures were 35.9 per cent in 2005 and 42 per cent in 2009.
In 2009, 62.2 per cent of primary schools and 41.4 per cent of upper primary schools did not have separate provision for girls toilets. Of the schools where there were separate girls toilets, only 12 per cent in primary schools and 22.6 per cent in upper primary schools were useable. Confirming the report, State Project Director, Bihar Education Project Council, Rajesh Bhushan told HT: “We now have in place all the key inputs like physical infrastructure, teachers, text books, leading to spurt in enrolment in government schools and drastic fall in out of schoolchildren. To improve the quality of teaching, 1.29 lakh untrained teachers out of the 2.14 lakh we have recruited since 2005 are undergoing two-year IGNOU training after which they will be given diploma in primary education. The training programme has commenced from mid-2007. It’s a process-oriented intervention. Things will certainly look up once the trained teachers are in place.”