Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Enrolment rate very high, learning abilities very low

Enrolment rate very high, learning abilities very low

Payal Gwalani, TNN Aug 26, 2012, 01.29AM IST

Primary education and environmental sustainability have been two issues that have constantly made headlines. With this increased awareness about these, the investment by the government as well as the corporate sector towards them has increased manifold. Despite all this, there is still much to be desired in both the areas.
The Indian government has always stressed the need of primary education. Schemes like Mid-Day Meals, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and campaigns like School Chale Hum are proof of this. Enrolment rates in the schools have risen to an unbelievable 96%.

However, the high drop out rate of girls, especially those from the rural areas is a big threat to the achievement of the goal of universal primary education. Another major concern shown by experts is the below par standard of education in many of the government schools of the country and the lack of basic facilities in them. While Indian students have always been praised for being better than those from other countries in the three R's (reading, writing and arithmetic), the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) of 2011 released earlier this year by HRD Ministry show a shocking decline among the children in these abilities.
In terms of environment, the target includes increased access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. According to a World Bank estimate, around 21% of the disease burden in the country (that can be amounted to around Rs300 crore) has its roots in poor quality of drinking water. India tops the world in the practice of open defecation according to a UNICEF report. Even today, 53 per cent of Indian households do not have toilets.
Sure, a lot has been done but a lot more is still to be achieved in both education and sanitation situation of the country.
GOALS: Achieving universal primary education; ensuring environmental sustainability;
CASE STUDY 1: Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, all children are provided with free books and other educational materials. The regional education board's resource centre was stacked with more than 1 lakh copies of the textbooks to be given away to the various schools of the district.
Six months after the school session had begun many schools claimed they had not got any of the books. Official documents, however, showed that the books had been dispatched. On enquiry, a shocking revelation surfaced.
All the books were still in the resource centre - infested by termite. Educational material worth Rs50 lakh was ruined, burning a hole into the pockets of the government as well as denying some poor children. The officials then got busy shifting the blame from their shoulders.
CASE STUDY 2: To acquaint the children from villages with modern technology, the government decided to introduce computer education in all the government-run schools. A small village in Chamorshi that has classes up to seventh standard also got some computers. These machines served purposes other than educational, too.
Some of the senior boys used the computers to watch adult content. Surprisingly, the teachers of the school knew well about it but chose to turn a blind eye to the incident. It was only after some of the parents got wind of the goings-on that action was taken against the teachers.
CASE STUDY 3: In many remote villages inhabited by the tribals, there are special hostels for children from the community in order to facilitate better educational facilities. In January this year, more than 40 students living in one such hostel had to be admitted to hospital because of food poisoning.

It was later discovered that the room used for storing and preparing the food for the inmates of the hostel was not suited for these functions. The grains that were supposed to be nutritious were full of insects, their eggs and stools.
When enquired about the incident and the unsavoury condition of the kitchen, the school officials said that since they were located in a remote place, the government preferred to send them the grains required in a bulk that makes it difficult for them to store it properly.
Even before the MDG's were conceived India was thinking about universal primary education. It is sad, though, that it took so long for something like RTE to come along. Even though the bill was passed by the Parliament, even now the implementation of the act looks iffy. Despite all kinds of schemes, only 45% children in the villages get formal education. Not many villagers are aware of the existence of a village education committee for monitoring the schools within their jurisdiction.
Today, people have realized the importance of good education and actually want it. Still, they are put-off by the absence of quality education, rickety infrastructure and wide spread corruption. With most of the educational institutions being run by politicians, there is no transparency or accountability in their administration, which also discourages people.
Nitin Choudhary | activist

Even at the national level, not much has been achieved in terms of education. Whatever little changes can be seen are because of the private institutions, with no contribution towards any improvement from the government's side.
The enrolment has definitely improved a lot over the years. But as the horror tales of the many loopholes in seemingly successful schemes like midday meals surface, the enrolment is being affected too. Even the attendance that is shown to be very high in most schools is a myth, with the reality being very different.
s earning members of the family. Only 7-10% of the students from the village ever opt for a higher education, with the number of girls being very little.
Mrunalini Fadnis | senior educator and expert member of Vidarbha Development Board
The government is making constant efforts to improve the state of education, whether it is in terms of infrastructure or utilizing new technology to raise the standards of education.
Things have improved over the last few years even in the government-run schools. Several new schools with better classrooms and other facilities have been made recently. Schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan have been especially well received. Things are changing fast, and the deficiencies that still remain will soon be ironed out, too.
Someshwar Netam | education officer, Nagpur Zilla Parishad

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