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School survey ties primary scores to caste

New Delhi, Sept. 12: An NCERT survey has found children from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes lagging behind in education at the primary school level amid a national debate on reservation in promotions for them.

The National Achievement Survey, conducted to evaluate the learning achievement of Class V students, found SC/ST students underperforming compared to general students (see chart).

Over a lakh students from 6,602 schools in 27 states and four Union Territories were tested. While 83 per cent of the schools were in rural areas, 70 per cent were run by the state governments.

Each student was asked 115 questions — 40 from mathematics, 40 from environmental studies and 35 from language.

In all three subjects tested, children belonging to Scheduled Tribes were the least successful, with the SCs performing marginally better.

“A section of researchers argues a child is gifted with a certain amount of intelligence while another school says the child can accumulate intelligence provided he gets a supportive atmosphere. In India, the accumulation is not happening and is conditioned by caste in view of the pathetic living standards of SCs and STs,” said Kancha Ilaiah, director of the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad.

The environment, training and support of parents helps every child develop intelligence, the professor said, quoting researchers. But children from the SC/ST communities miss out on environmental and parental support, he said.

The NCERT study found that parents of two-thirds students were literate or had gone to primary or higher secondary school. The remaining one-third were farm labourers or street vendors. Children of educated parents fared better in the tests.

“Studies have established a connection between parents’ education and a child’s performance. In case of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the parents are not much educated either,” Ilaiah said.

The accumulation of intelligence is also linked to nutrition, living standards and social status, he said.

Educationist Nargis Panchapakesan echoed him and attributed the poor performance of the SC and ST children to the poor socio-economic condition of these communities. “Children from a poor background also tend to underperform,” she said.

The survey, conducted by NCERT with support from SSA-Technical Cooperation Funds (TCF), found nearly 30 per cent of students took private tuition. In Bengal, the proportion of students taking private tuition was the highest at 83 per cent.

A total of 10,851 teachers filled the Teacher Questionnaire which revealed that 63 per cent were graduates or post-graduates, 23 per cent had gone to higher secondary school while the rest had studied till the secondary level or lower.

In Chandigarh, about two-thirds of the teachers were post-graduates. In Gujarat, on the other hand, 54 per cent teachers were qualified only up to middle school.

Overall, 79 per cent were regular teachers and there were 12 per cent para teachers.

“The survey did not find any evidence to suggest the para teachers are helping children. Another trend is that students of better equipped schools perform better,” said TCF team leader Jayshree Oza.