Bhubaneswar, Feb. 11: Around 82 per cent of Class V students in rural schools of Odisha cannot perform two-digit division — supposed to be a Class II competency skill, while 53 per cent of them cannot read Class II text and almost six per cent cannot even identify letters or numbers.
These statistics were published in the Annual Status of Education Report (Aser)-2012, a survey of government and private schools in rural areas across the country conducted by NGO Pratham and its affiliate organisations.
In Odisha, around 18,000 children in the three to 16 age group were surveyed in an informal setting during this private audit of elementary education in October-November last year.
The survey, which was first conducted in 2005, indicates that learning outcomes in the state’s rural primaries have gone from bad to worse.
Official figures show there are 37,008 primary and 20,467 upper-primary schools in Odisha. However, despite the many incentives and schemes like mid-day meal or free bicycles (only for Class X girls and their male counterparts from ST/SC communities), student exodus to private schools continues.
“What is particularly shocking is the fact that core learning levels are declining despite the implementation of Right to Education Act and heavy funding for the primary education sector. School and mass education secretary Usha Padhee said though she doesn’t agree with the exact numbers, an in-house assessment system would be introduced in March to track learning standards,” said Pratham-Odisha advisor, Dhanandakanta Mishra, while releasing the Odisha figures of Aser-2012 here today.
However, the only achievement for the state is the high enrolment rate in government schools. Over 95 per cent of all children aged between six and 14 years are enrolled in schools, the fourth consecutive year that enrolment levels crossed the 90 per cent mark.
But that is little consolation. For, the proportion of children in the same age group who are not enrolled in schools has gone up from 3.7 per cent in 2011 to 4.1 per cent in 2012.
Besides, the share of “out of school” students aged 15 to 16 years is 26.6 per cent — higher than the national average of 17 per cent — and this figure for girls has registered a marginal increase.
As far as reading levels are concerned, they have dipped over the years with children enrolled in private schools reading better compared to those in government schools. For instance, 47.5 per cent of all children in Class III failed to read a Class I level text in 2009, the same proportion has increased to 58 per cent in 2012.
Every second child in Class VIII cannot read English sentences but of those who could read words or sentences, well above 60 per cent could convey the meaning in their own language. The trend of private tuitions among Classes I to VIII students in all schools has remained more or less constant at around 46 per cent.
They seem to be equally bad with numbers. Odisha is among the worst five states of the country showing extreme poor performance in arithmetic.
While in 2011, around 47 per cent of Class I students were at “nothing” level, it increased to almost 50 per cent.
Though the teacher-student ratio has somewhat shown improvement, teacher truancy continues. Multi-grade teaching (students of different classes taught by a single teacher under a single roof) is also rampant and toilet facilities, playgrounds and drinking water supply are still deplorable.
State representative for the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Ranjan Mohanty said the government’s failure to ensure quality education has resulted in the declining learning levels.
“Our schools lack basic infrastructure and trained teachers. The Right to Education Act stipulates creation of a permanent and professional cadre of teachers for an ideal teacher-pupil ratio but we make do with sikshya sahayaks,” Mohanty said, adding a friendly classroom environment and including relevant content in the curriculum was also imperative.
Minister of school and mass education Rabi Narayan Nanda said he was not aware of the survey findings.
“However, I will discuss the findings with the secretary of my department and ensure that the situation is addressed,” he added.