School Attendance Doesn't Necessarily Equate To High Or Quality Learning

The latest Survey report by Annual Status of Education Report (Aser) Center, released on 16 January 2018 was done on of more than 30,000 youth, in the age group of 14-18, conducted in 1,641 villages of 24 states in India.

The dismal picture of Indian elementary and school education which was troubled with dropouts, low attendance, gender bias, caste issue has improved much as per the report.

Two generations ago, people in remote villages were mostly unlettered: there were hardly any schools in remote areas.

  • In 2001, only a little over 25% of all rural 18-year-olds were attending schools, the rest having dropped out earlier.
  • By 2016, the share of 18-year-olds in schools and colleges had gone up to 70% the report finds.

Increased number of children in this age group willing to remain in the educational system is encouraging.

There are other optimistic findings.

  • Girls have closed the gap with boys in rural areas: at age 14, 94% of girls and 95% of boys are enrolled in school;
  • By the age 18, 68% of girls and 72% of boys are still in school

Rural India now sees a rapidly rising trend of education

All very good and welcome!

But...

We need to remember,our modern economic growth has little room for people with rudimentary skills and low education levels.

Newer developments, technologies, machinery with complex processes need a better trained workforce.

And that's where things don't look so good.

On an average, the QUALITY of education in rural schools is pretty dismal.

Here are some sad examples.

Among 14 to18-year-olds surveyed by the Aser team...

  • Only 43% could solve a class IV mathematics problem.
  • Only 40% of 18-year-olds could calculate '10% of a given number'.
  • 40% could not locate their state on a map of India.
  • 27% of 14-year-olds, and 21% of 18-year-olds could not read a class II textbook in the regional language
  • More than 40% could not read a simple sentence in English (such as "What is the time?")

This shows that school attendance doesn't necessarily equate to high or quality learning.

Here's some more...

The Legatum Prosperity Index reveals that in the education sector, our country ranks 92 out of total 145 countries... way behind the ranks of other developing countries such as Philippines (76), Malaysia (51), Sri Lanka (59) and many more.

When it comes to looking for employment, what our youth, trained in this shabby and unscientific way, are going to find?

How are they going to cover the learning deficits that have accumulated from years of attending low-quality rural schools? Also,

We must not forget the drop-outs. These are still happening (as per 2016 report)

  • Still around 3.5% of children between the ages of 11 and 14 years were dropping out
  • 13.5% between the ages of 15 and 16 years were dropouts (earlier it was 14.1%)

Reasons Behind Dropouts are plenty. Some of them...

  • Terrible Pupil-teacher ratios ( 1:75 or even more)

Current teacher resources in rural India are way behind the official goal of universal elementary education. This is often due to uneven distribution of teachers between different schools and villages.

  • Reduced Effective teaching time- due to lack of teachers and engagement of teacher in non-teaching duties like census- and election-related assignments, for collection and distribution of incentives such as food rations, mid-day meal, free textbooks and other amenities etc.
  • Unscientific and Obsolete Teaching Methods- rote learning, copying, mugging up before an exam without any practicals, observations or real-life experiential learning.
  • Lack of trained teacher-Even if a teacher is trained, in the real-life situation, there is hardly any scope of implementing them in remote villages due to lack of infrastructure.
  • Lack of proper school building, class and teaching-learning amenities.

Access to education in India is sharply skewed at the primary level.

At one end are the resource-rich, mainly private schools that cater to a privileged few.

While at the other, there are a large number of ill-equipped and badly-managed government schools, which are supposed to educate the majority of children.

The contrast between these two schooling systems is so stark that they are virtually different worlds altogether.

The dropouts have consequences:

It results in loss of productivity of the education system. Because, a high dropout rate increases per unit cost of school education, and reduces human resource development.

With low quality of education and dropouts as well, if we want to see "Skill India" and "Make in India" programmes to be a success, we MUST address these two issues related to school education.

Govt teachers in India earn four times Chinese teachers' salaries but don't perform as well

Despite being paid at least four times the salaries of teachers in China, the performance of Indian teachers judged in terms of their students' learning levels, has been poor.

Up to 80% of India's public expenditure on education is spent on teachers-salaries, training and learning material.

The Budget Has Pegged An Outlay Of Rs 79,685.95 Crore (US$ 11.952 Billion) For The Education Sector For Financial Year 2017-18, Up From Rs 72,394 Crore.

Will increase in spending help? Unlikely.

Increased government spending in education is not enough to improve educational outcomes. More needs to be done.

Apart from education- infrastructure and amenities, India's education policy must be thoroughly revised to put in place better accountability and monitoring mechanisms to exploit the gains increased expenditure.

A well designed different kind Public, Private Partnership (PPP) model could be a solution.

We must study different designs and their relevance/applicability/adaptability of the models.

We must also pilot-test the chosen models to understand the effectiveness, shunt out the loopholes and then scale up gradually.

Not only in rural areas, but we can also experiment with municipal corporation level-say Nashik Municipal Corporation as well.

A suggested PPP model could be a government aided private school system.

This will involve the setting up of a school by a private, non-profit seeking organisation - a trust or voluntary organisation, managed by the private sector.

In some cases a business entity with its own funds can set up and run a school for a minimum number of years before, it becomes eligible for government aid for recurring expenditure.

In India, the different areas of education which have a PPP model are improving the study environment, enhancing the quality of education, creating and enabling innovative processes.

Government brings in advantages like large geographic access, regulatory power and a wide pool of resources (funds, people and technical).

On the other hand, the private entity brings technical expertise, efficient operational style and a result oriented methodology.

PPP definitely can be an important part of the overall strategy to achieve quality and scale.

The effectiveness of PPP will, of course, depend on some key factors; like recognition of a mutual need for partnership, respect between partners, evaluation and research of the programme's impact, self sustainability of the programmes and advocacy at an organisational level.

We also need to address the implementation challenges which include the financial disbursement bottlenecks and the scarcity of the quality human resource.

An efficiently designed PPP, with equally effective monitoring and tracking system, can help removing the bottlenecks and challenges of institutional and bureaucratic delays.

It will be a win-win proposition for all - the government, implementers and donors.

The government can use PPP model to provide quality education to children belonging to the economically marginalised section.

However, for a successful public, private partnership, the government should develop clear policies and guidelines to encourage private sector involvement in education.

PPP also helps the government to improve the quality of the public system of education and appreciation from the public.

The entire process of partnership building should be transparent from the beginning. Right from the method of the selection, operational and programmatic framework, clear financial terms to the expected outputs.

This way, both the government and the providers have a common goal of improving the quality of education in India.

The need of the hour is to align each other's vision and approach, feel the need of partnering together to improve the public education system in India.