Rural schools high on enrolment, but low on learning levels: Report
Akshaya Mukul,TNN | Jan 14, 2015, 01.29 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Pratham's10th Annual Status of Education Report - the country's biggest private audit of elementary education in rural India - released Tuesday has a similar story as in previous years: rising enrolment, poor learning levels in reading, mathematics and English and growth in number of private schools.
ASER also says that improvement in school facilities - pupil teacher ratios, playgrounds, kitchen sheds, drinking water facilities, toilets - continues. However, HRD ministry is going to strongly dispute ASER's claims on falling learning outcomes since government's own report gives a different picture.
With Pratham gaining worldwide presence - from Pakistan to Africa - the ceremony, again like in the past, was a glittering event attended by industrialists, entrepreneurs and even chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian.
Report for 2014 done after survey of 16,497 villages, 5.7 lakh children in over 3.4 lakh households across 577 districts says that for the sixth year in a row enrolment levels are 96% or higher for the age group of 6 to 14. The proportion of children not in school remains at 3.3%. However, in some states proportion of girls out of school is more than 8%. For instance in Rajasthan it is 12.1% and in Uttar Pradesh 9.2%.
Though enrolment has gone up, teacher and student attendance shows no major change from last year. In 2014, 71.4% of enrolled children in primary schools and 71.1% of enrolled children in upper primary school were present on the day of the survey. Since 2009, there has been a small decrease in the attendance rates of teachers. In 2014, 85% of appointed teachers were present in school compared to 89.1% in 2009. In upper primary schools, attendance in 2014 was 85.8% against 88.6% in 2009.
Rise in enrolment is being cornered by private schools in rural India, a trend that is continuously increasing. This is happening across the country except Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Kerala and Gujarat. In 2014, 30.8% of all 6-14 year old children in rural India are going to private schools, a slight increase from 29% in 2013. The report also says that families show a greater preference to send a male child to private school than girls. In 2014, 35.6% of boys in the age group of 7 to 10 are going to private schools compared to 27.7% of girls. In the age group of 11 to 14 years, 33.5% boys are in private schools compared to 25.9% of girls. Only in five states - Manipur, Kerala, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Meghalaya -- private school enrolment rates in the elementary stage are greater than 50%.
The report underlines the worrying aspect of poor learning outcomes. ASER says in 2014 in standard three only a fourth of all children can read a standard two text fluently. This number rises to just under half in standard five. It also claims that even in standard eight, only 75% can read standard two text. Reading levels have improved since last year in Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Odisha and Karnataka where students of standard five can at least read standard two level text.
Mathematics continues to be a big stumbling block. Only 25.3% of children of standard three could do two digit subtractions. For standard five children, the ability to do division has increased slightly from 24.8% in 2012 to 26.1% in 2014. The survey also found that 19.5% of children in class II cannot recognize numbers up to nine as compared to 11.3% in 2009. In class eight, proportion of students who could correctly do a three digit by one digit division problem dropped to 44.1% from 68.3% in 2010.
Even children's ability to read English has remained unchanged. About 25% of children enrolled in class five could read simple English sentences. This has remained unchanged since 2009. A sharp decline is seen in class eight students who could read simple sentences--from 60.2% in 2009 to 46.8% in 2014. However, ASER also says that regardless of grade, roughly 60% could explain the meanings of the words read. Of those who can read sentences, 62.2% in class five could explain the meaning of sentences.