CEI's India Hub Reports on the Status of Education

Shaheen Madraswala

Written by our CEI Hub, Catalyst Management Services, six reports summarizing the status of education in India as well as in five of its states- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh are now available on the Center for Education Innovations' Research and Evidence Library.

The reports present a comprehensive overview of the state of education in India on the whole as well as in the respective states. Moreover, they use the parameters determined by the Right to Education Act (RTE), 2009 to gauge individual states’ success in terms of fulfilling the national commitment to free and compulsory primary school education. These parameters include pupil-teacher ratio, drinking water and toilet facilities, libraries and the implementation of the flagship Midday Meal Program.

Key Findings and Highlights:

The India Education report observes that primary school enrollment in the 6-14 age category is high. This progress is, however, masked by the proportion of out-of-school children which continues to be high especially among girls aged 11-14 years. In the state of Rajasthan, for instance, a shocking 50 per cent of all women are illiterate and this is further compounded by the wide gender disparity in primary school enrolment, where for every 1000 boys, merely 538 girls are enrolled. According to the Rajasthan Education report, in 2012, over 11 per cent of girls aged 11-14 years were not enrolled in school.

The Madhya Pradesh Education report notes high school dropout rates among girls but also among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Overall, the report also notes that Madhya Pradesh stands out as a state that has failed to institute many of the provisions listed under the 2009 RTE Act and interestingly, school learning outcomes are actually declining in those schools which have been successful in implementing the RTE Act.

On a similar note, Gujarat, in as late as 2012, had not implemented any of the Act’s provisions. Interestingly, the Gujarat Education report notes that of the 13 per cent of the state’s budget allocated towards education, a disproportionate 52 per cent is spent on school infrastructure and maintenance leaving only small amount for other essentials such as teacher training and materials which are imperative to delivering high quality education. The report also goes onto lament that Gujarat is a good example of a state where economic gains have failed to translate into social gains.

The southern state of Tamil Nadu on the other hand is one of the few states in India likely to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of attaining universal primary education by 2015. The Tamil Nadu Education report, however, records current gaps in terms of the number of out-of-school children but also mentions that the state government is found to be leading initiatives in this respect, targeting parents and increasing awareness about the importance of education.

Lastly, the Uttar Pradesh Education report records a significant jump in primary school enrolment rates, in large part attributable to the successful implementation of government initiatives such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Midday Meal Scheme. The average school drop-out rate at the primary level, however, is observed to be much higher in Uttar Pradesh as compared to the rest of India.

While India might be successful in getting more children to school, the overall quality of education continues to remain a major source of concern. The ASER findings with respect to learning outcomes were consistent along all states- children at all class levels seem to be far behind in basic English and Mathematics skills compared to their global counter parts. Going forward, it will be as important for India to develop a strategy to keep children in school as it will be to sustain high school enrolment rates. As noted in the Gujarat Education report, children drop-out of school not because they are forced into child labor or marriage but because they are not learning anything in school. This is a pertinent observation and may as well be applicable to the national context. These reports show that though progress has been made in enrolling children into school throughout the country, there are still significant gaps both in access and in quality of learning.

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