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Degradation of Education in India: More action than rhetoric is the way out

Sunday March 25, 2018 10:26 PM, Zeeshan Ali

Education Quality

The students of the public school systems in India are lagging massively behind in terms of learning outcomes according to the National Achievement Survey (NAS), conducted by National Council for Education and Research (NCERT). The numbers are especially stark in Mathematics with national averages of 64%, 54% and 42% at Class 3rd, 5th and 8th levels according to an Indian Express report. The situation is not much healthier for Language as the national average score is 58% at Class 5th level with Jammu and Kashmir lingering at 43%.

A district-wise report of all 700 districts was released this January taking account of results of competency tests held last November in Mathematics, Language, Environmental Science, Social Science and Science. The exercise covered 22 lakh students from 1.1 lakh schools. Rajasthan and Karnataka fared the best in terms of language and Mathematics at the three levels while Arunachal Pradesh and Jharkhand are the worst performers. The capital New Delhi showed miserable numbers especially at Class 8th level where only 32% students in English language and 34% in Mathematics could answer correctly.

According to a report in Times of India, 95% o students do like attending school but severe lack of facilities like infrastructure, electricity, toilet facilities, drinking water facilities etc. The information is gleaned from the state wise analysis of the 2017 NAS report which was tabled in the Parliament this March.

Among other issues highlighted in the report were ‘work overload’ for student and troubles in commuting to the school (which varies significantly from places like Delhi to Arunachal Pradesh). The poor student-to-teacher ratio and paucity of investment in public school has paralyzed the expectations of the RTE enactment. Halving syllabus would only be incrementalism or tokenism if the state of school machinery including facility and faculty is not given a massive upgrade.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, average enrollment in public schools across 20 states fell by 13 million whereas private schools gained 17.5 million new students within the period from 2010-11 to 2015-16. The results also display a burgeoning divide between private and public education. This form of education elitism between the two systems of educational dispensation can engender further problems, if left unarrested.

The sobering figures of Annual Status of Education Report conducted by non-governmental organization ‘Pratham’ corroborate the appalling state of rural education. In a country where half the population of 1.3 billion is in their 20s the repercussions of such education system failure can be catastrophic.

Since the enforcement of Right to Education as a fundamental right through RTE Act in 2010, competency tests have been added for the assessment of learning outcomes. These outcomes are fundamental to the Act and were added to the provisions of the Act last year and are mandatory for various states to codify. Instead of focusing on memory building, learning outcomes highlight the concepts comprehension in the respective subjects and how to apply those concepts.

HRD ministry has indicated that it will come up with intervention programmes based on the NAS data. But what is needed is more action than rhetoric. For India to realize its demographic dividend, educating and employing the youth is paramount. If the trend continues its dangerous trajectory we might end up creating a bigger population of illiterate and unemployable young people adding to the already over stressed employment sector.

[Zeeshan Ali, Jamia Milia Islamia. Originally published in]

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