HRD ministry says there is visible improvement in schooling, but data suggests otherwise
New Delhi: The government on Wednesday said there was a visible improvement in schooling in India since it enacted the right to education (RTE) law in 2009, countering a recent scathing report, but its own data suggests otherwise.
The human resource development (HRD) ministry seems to have scored a self goal in some parameters and in some others the improvement it claims is far from significant. In terms of the quality of education, official data for the past four years is not encouraging.
There was a “very encouraging trend of the enrolment of SC/ST (scheduled caste and scheduled tribe) and Muslim children which is representative of their share in the population”, the ministry said in a statement. But data released by its school education department shows that for the SC/ST population, enrolment hasn’t improved since 2009.
The RTE law came into force from 1 April 2010, seeking to ensure access to education for all children between the ages of 6 and 14.
SC students comprised 20% of the total number of students in elementary schools (Class I-VIII) in 2009-10, and ST students 11%. These numbers hadn’t improved in 2012-13. Among Muslims, there was a marginal improvement in enrolment, from 13% in 2009-10 to 14% in 2012-13.
The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) released last week by non-profit Pratham Education Foundation said while overall enrolment had improved, the quality of learning either showed no improvement or had actually worsened in the nine years of the United Progressive Alliance government’s rule.
Apart from the quality of education, it reported several other findings that the HRD ministry attempts to counter.
ASER said only 74% of rural schools had provision of drinking water; the HRD ministry says across India, 95% of the schools have drinking water facility.
ASER also said it found rural schools had one teacher for every 45 students, as per its survey in 550 districts across India; the HRD ministry says the ratio in 2012-13 was 1:27.
“The pupil to teacher ratio at the national level has shown a dramatic improvement. It has come down from 32 in 2009-10 at the elementary level to 27 in 2012-13,” the ministry said.
Girls accounted for 48% and 49% of the total student population in the primary and upper primary level, respectively, the ministry said.
It also said that the dropout rate from schools had reduced from 9.1% in 2009-10 to 5.6% in 2012-13. This improved enrolment largely in the upper primary level that in 2012-13 had about 10.5 million more students than in 2009-10. About 199.7 million children were pursuing elementary education last year, it said.
But the quality of education remains questionable, even by the HRD ministry’s findings. At the Class V level, students in 16 states and Union territories (UTs) scored below average in reading and comprehension, and in 15 other states and UTs they scored above average. It gets worse at the Class VIII level, with students in at least 18 states and UTs scoring below average in language skills as against 15 other regions faring above average.
In mathematics, students from 15 states and UTs scored below average in the Class V level, and 17 regions performed below average at the Class VIII level.
The HRD ministry collected data for the primary level from 31 states and UTs and from 33 such regions for the upper primary level. It scored students on a scale of 500 marks to calculate the average and below average proportion.
ASER found that the proportion of all children in Class V who could read a Class II level text had declined by almost 15 percentage points since 2005. The portion of Class VIII students who could do divisions declined by almost 23 percentage points.
Among other outcomes of the education law, the HRD ministry said all states and UTs had notified rules regarding the legislation.
“There are several major challenges for the education sector, from introducing at least one year of preschool education to building mechanisms for open learning, continuing education, vocational training, and quality education and research at the university level,” Madhav Chavan, chief executive and president of Pratham, had said in the ASER report. “Political decisions are needed to address problems and they need to take into account the overall changing realities of India.”
Two major issues that need to be tackled urgently are the dramatic shift to private school enrolment in rural areas and a crisis of learning, Chavan said.