INDIA'S LEADING ECONOMIC RESEARCH FIRM
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|Thursday, 10 February 2011 04:08|
There is a need to improve learning abilities at primary levels in both public and private schools
Source: Business Standard
Enrolment in schools has increased substantially over the past few years. Out-of-school children now account for a little over 3 per cent of rural children in the age group 6 to 4 years, down from 6.6 per cent in 2005, according to the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) 2010 (Rural). For most states, the battle is on to reach out to difficult-to-access areas, to reduce the dropout ratio and, more crucially, to raise the quality and effectiveness of schooling.
Government data provided through the District Information System on Education (DISE) shows government schools continue to play a dominant role in education, with 75 per cent of the children in classes one to five enrolled in government schools in 2007-08. There are, however, huge state-wise variations. Five states/Union Territories – Lakshadweep, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and Tripura – had more than 90 per cent of children in classes one to five classes enrolled in government schools. At the other end of the spectrum were Manipur, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Puducherry, Meghalaya and Kerala where private school enrolment exceeded 50 per cent.
The latest ASER report points out that in rural areas the trend to enrol children in private schools has increased over the years. In 2005 16.3 per cent of children in the age group six to 14 years attended private schools; by 2010, this share rose to 24.3 per cent. Here again, states differ — according to provisional estimates for 2010, Manipur and Kerala have more than 50 per cent of the children in this age group enrolled in private schools, while this was less than 6 per cent in West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Tripura. (Click here for graph)
Interestingly, ASER 2010 also shows that in Tripura, West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, more than half the children enrolled in classes four to eight attend paid tuition classes. These are states with a very high share of government school enrolment, indicating that there could be major constraints of access to private schools, while parents understand the limitations of public schools and are willing to make that additional payment towards tuition. Clearly, the poor service delivery in government schools in these states doesn’t match the aspirations and needs of the people in rural areas.
There is, of course, a marked difference in the learning abilities imparted in government and private schools, as ASER tests have consistently shown. Fifty per cent of class-five children in government schools could read class-two text — this was 64 per cent in private schools. ASER also shows a decline in reading and arithmetic abilities in both government and private schools over time in rural areas. Private schools, therefore, also suffer from significant drawbacks.
Over the last decade, there has been a big push to increase the number of schools, enrolment and facilities in schools. Although it cannot be denied that progress has been made, it is important to recognise the fact that as more and more children join the schooling system, there has to be a clear focus on raising abilities, especially at primary levels to ensure that these early years do not go to waste and basic levels of learning are imparted universally.
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