Fo­cus On Schools

Far more work is needed to in­cul­cate foun­da­tional skills across states

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - An Epiphany Of Ideas -

In data that ought to be used to strengthen school ed­u­ca­tion in the coun­try, Niti Aayog’s school ed­u­ca­tion qual­ity in­dex has high­lighted the com­par­a­tive per­for­mance of dif­fer­ent states. With 2015-16 as the base year and 2016-17 as the ref­er­ence year, the re­port pro­vides a com­pre­hen­sive as­sess­ment of school en­rol­ment and learn­ing out­comes. A cru­cial data set is the Net En­rol­ment Ra­tio (NER). While 18 states and Union ter­ri­to­ries re­ported an ad­justed NER at the el­e­men­tary level greater than 90%, Na­ga­land, Sikkim and J&K had the low­est NERs of 76.7%, 68.9% and 67.3% re­spec­tively.

Mean­while, at the sec­ondary level, the NER fig­ures drop con­sid­er­ably with only seven states and Union ter­ri­to­ries reg­is­ter­ing more than 80%. This shows that while over­all en­rol­ment rates ap­pear healthy at the el­e­men­tary level, there is still con­sid­er­able work to be done to trans­fer this trend to the sec­ondary level. The re­port also looks at the per­cent­age of out of school chil­dren main­streamed or brought back into the school­ing sys­tem. Here Arunachal Pradesh, Mi­zo­ram, Ker­ala, Pun­jab, Bi­har, Sikkim, Ch­hat­tis­garh and Mad­hya Pradesh re­ported a more than 10 per­cent­age point de­crease in main­stream­ing.

This should trig­ger a re­think of the scrap­ping of the no-de­ten­tion pol­icy by Par­lia­ment ear­lier this year, for it be­comes harder to bring stu­dents back to school if the fear of de­ten­tion hangs over their heads. On learn­ing out­comes, the re­port found that av­er­age per­for­mance on the Class III lan­guage test ranged from 79% for Andhra Pradesh to 58% for UP. In math­e­mat­ics, av­er­age per­for­mance ranged from 75% for Kar­nataka to 56% per­cent for Pun­jab. How­ever, at Class VIII this drops to the 67%-43% range for lan­guage and 57%-31% range for math­e­mat­ics across large states. This shows that as school­ing years in­crease, learn­ing out­comes de­crease, point­ing to a qual­ity prob­lem.

For long school ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia has been given short shrift. Mean­while, much en­ergy has been wasted on im­ple­ment­ing reser­va­tions at the uni­ver­sity level be­cause it is po­lit­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent. But un­less school ed­u­ca­tion is im­proved – both in terms of qual­ity and ac­cess – the coun­try won’t be able to in­cul­cate the foun­da­tional skills re­quired to cre­ate a skilled work­force. As the world pre­pares for the Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, it is im­per­a­tive that we en­sure qual­ity school ed­u­ca­tion to equip fu­ture gen­er­a­tions for 21st cen­tury jobs. Else, In­dia would have failed its bur­geon­ing num­bers of young peo­ple.

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