|A girl at a primary school in Calcutta. (AFP file picture)
New Delhi, July 7: The latest economic survey has thrown up a few bright facts on education along with many darker truths about literacy and school dropout rates.
The survey has found that more children in the age group of 6-14 have become literate between 2001 and 2002. But, on the other hand, more children have dropped out of school at the upper-primary level in the same period.
“Between 2001-2002, nearly 82.2 per cent of an estimated 193 million in the 6-14 age group was enrolled in schools as compared with the 81.6 per cent in 2000-01,” the economic survey said.
However, at the upper-primary level the dropout per cent has increased from 53.7 in 2000-01 to 54.6 in 2001-02.
The survey points out that “the dropout rate is still relatively high, especially among girls, though it has declined over the years at the elementary education stage”.
The poor pupil-teacher ratio also continues to be an irritant in the education system. The ratio has remained more or less constant at 43:1 during 2001-02 despite an increase in the number of teachers in the last 10 years.
One major reason why the pupil-teacher ratio is not improving is because several state governments have chosen not to recruit teachers despite countless reminders from the Centre. Bengal and Bihar are two states that have not paid heed.
Four years ago, former human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi had launched Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, a programme for universalisation of elementary education. According to some officials, the programme has paid dividends. The survey says the number of primary schools has now increased from 6.39 lakh in 2000-01 to 6.64 lakh in 2001-02. Upper-primary schools have also increased from 2.06 lakh to 2.19 lakh.
But India is still far behind other countries in the region, like China and Sri Lanka, on achieving full literacy though it has made “dramatic” progress. The literacy rate in 2001 stood at 64.8 per cent.
The report also advocates user charges in higher education to reduce government subsidies in this sector.
The human resource development ministry, headed by Arjun Singh, has also spoken of the need to have higher fees in higher education.
The picture in the health sector is even more grim.
“The health care delivery system has created a paradoxical situation with a plethora of hospitals. But few of them are situated in areas of high morbidity,” said the economic survey.
“Facilities are poorest in the most needy, remote, rural areas in the states. There are unused diagnostic facilities and drugs,” the survey pointed out.