Indicus Analytics: A class act on education, finally
Date: Thu, 2010-10-21
Universal primary education by 2015 is one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the United Nations and this is one of the MDGs that India will actually complete, with the success of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme launched in 2001. Before the programme began, India accounted for 25 per cent of the world’s out-of-school children; this is down to less than 10 per cent now. It is the largest global ongoing Education For All programme, and according to the Education For All Mid-Decade Assessment, between 2000 and 2005, primary school enrolment in India rose by 13.7 percentage points, reaching close to universal enrolment in Grade I.
However, even with these commendable efforts at enrolment, one in four children left school before reaching Grade V. Over the past five years, there has been steady progress in retaining students and 2007-08 data show a less than 10 per cent primary school dropout ratio; states with above average dropout rates are Daman & Diu, Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan.
The Gross Completion Rate, that is, total enrolment in Grade V minus repeaters in that grade as a percentage of population of age 11, is one of the best measures of primary educational attainment; this rate has consistently increased from 72 per cent in 2000 to 94 per cent in 2007 (World Bank).
As we get closer to achieving the goal of covering all children under primary schooling, it is important to take up the issue of quality of teaching. One indicator for this is the norm of having at least one qualified and trained teacher for every 30 pupils. As per District Information System for Education (DISE)-2008-09 data, the national average Pupil-Teacher Ratio was 34 at the primary level. The situation is still particularly bleak in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh with more than 50 students per teacher at the primary level, but this is not to say that there has been no progress in these states. In Bihar, for instance, the Pupil-Teacher Ratio has reduced from 65 in 2004-05 to 55. When it comes to professionally trained teachers, the percentage varied from 21.72 per cent in Nagaland to almost 100 per cent in Maharashtra, Delhi, Chandigarh and Lakshadweep. In Bihar and all the north-eastern states, except Mizoram, less than half the primary teachers have been professionally trained.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has been a success in raising enrolment, reducing dropouts, improving gender parity and raising inclusion for marginalised sections and children with special needs. With the landmark Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 marking a historic moment for Indian children, the focus now shifts to a much larger group of children up to the age of 14 years.
Though the human resources development minister has kicked off many reforms in the schooling system, there are many more that need to be put in place to bring the remaining 8 million out-of-school children into the primary school network, improve infrastructure, enlarge access to secondary schools and, in general, make schooling more meaningful to all Indians. Sixty years late, India might finally be getting its act together on schooling.
Indian States Development Scorecard is a weekly feature by Indicus Analytics that focuses on the progress in India and the states across various socio-economic parameters.