Ayn Rand, in her famous book Atlas Shrugged, commented, “When I disagree with a rational man, I let reality be our final arbiter; if I am right, he will learn; if I am wrong, I will; one of us will win, but both will profit.”
However, our politicians do not seem to care much about reality in general. Rhetoric and doctrinaire ideologies, mostly divorced from the real state of affairs, tend to be their guiding principles. There is absolutely no harm in that as long as they do not meddle with other people's lives. But, by dint of the nature of their work in shaping and implementing public policies, their whims and fancies do influence outcomes of the lives of millions. Nothing can be more unfortunate for a society than adoption of faulty educational policies, not based on objective information. Thankfully, we have a set of educational indicators, developed by sheer talent and perseverance of many known and unsung education specialists around the world, which help us diagnose some of the main problems in any educational system without much of an effort.
Knowledge of these indicators is not only important for the policy makers in developing sound plans and monitoring frameworks but also helps us, as members of civil society, engage in meaningful public debates. Brushing up our basic understanding of some of the most important educational indicators would certainly equip us to gauge the problems in our immediate educational policy environment, evaluate the current policies and anticipate the future. Just to draw an analogy, while health indicators such as blood pressure, body temperature and total blood count indicate the condition of our physical and mental health, the educational indicators reveal the performance or health of an educational system. Indicators should have a reference point just like we have normal systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings for a healthy human being. However, in social systems like education, reference point is a more subjective undertaking and is normally based on some socially agreed-upon standard. Indicators are also compared with past readings or with similar ones in other locations.
Main indicators of educational system can be broadly classified under the following categories. The list of indicators given below is just a suggestive one, based on their relative popularity, and should no way be considered an exhaustive one:
Indicators of Educational Access and Coverage
Indicators of Efficiency of an Educational System
Indicators on Quality of Education
Indicators on Inputs
Indicators on Facilties
This week we will discuss the first two, that is, the indicators of educational access and coverage, and indicators of efficiency of an educational system.
Indicators of Educational Access and Coverage: These indicators indicate if the educational facilities are evenly distributed and utilised.
1. Net Intake Rate (NIR): New entrants in the first grade who are of official primary school-entrance age (6 years, according to RTE Act) as a percentage of population of the same age.
2. Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) by levels of education: GER for a particular level is defined as total enrolment in that level of education, regardless of age, as a percentage of the eligible official school age population of that level in a given school year. Thus GER for students in elementary education (grades I- VIII) in a particular academic year will be:
[Total students enrolled in elementary level (grades I-VIII) in that year) / Total students in the age group of 6-13 years (official age group for elementary education)] x 100%
NB: This ratio could be more than 100 if over and underage children are enrolled in any particular level. If we consider the number of children enrolled within the official age group for a particular level, excluding the over and underage children, then we arrive at the Net Enrolment Ratio(NER).
Out of School Children of primary school age- Total number of primary-school-age children who are not enrolled in either primary or secondary schools. This can also be arrived at by subtracting the NER from 100 and then multiplying the number with total number of primary school age children.
Indicators of Internal Efficiency: Internal efficiency of an education system is measured by the following indicators:
1. Survival rate to a particular grade - This is defined as cohort of students, enrolled in the first grade of primary education in a given school year who eventually reach a particular grade. This survival rate to grade X would indicate the proportion of a cohort of pupils, enrolled in a grade I nine years ago, who complete grade IX and reaches Grade X. Conversely, it also indicates 'dropout rates' before class.
2. Coefficient of Efficiency - The ideal (optimal) number of pupil-years required (i.e. in the absence of repetition and drop-out) to produce a number of graduates from a given school-cohort for a cycle or level of education expressed as a percentage of the actual number of pupil-years is spent to produce the same number of graduates. One school-year spent in a grade by a pupil is counted as one pupil-year.
We can use some of the indicators discussed above in interpreting real life education data and hone our debating skills!
Part two of this blog is available here.