The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Test to gauge kids’ progress in school

New Delhi, April 28: From education quotas in IITs and IIMs, Arjun Singh has turned his glare to children’s learning levels in primary government schools.

All students in Classes II and IV in government schools throughout the country may soon have to take a mandatory test that will assess their learning skills.

A recent survey conducted by over 700 NGOs has thrown up worrying statistics on the status of primary education, prompting Arjun’s human resource development ministry to mull such a move.

According to the survey, almost 35 per cent children in the 7-14 age group cannot read a simple paragraph. Almost 60 per cent cannot read a simple story. Again, within the 11-14 age group, about 17.2 per cent cannot read easy paragraphs. About 31 per cent cannot read stories.

The statistics confirm what experts have long been saying on the quality of education being imparted to children. They also neutralise the Centre’s claims of a high enrolment rate achieved at the primary school level through the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan.

About 93.4 per cent children in the 6-14 age group are now enrolled in schools.

HRD ministry officials said most states had agreed to conduct the test, of which Karnataka and Maharashtra had already done so.

The skill test showed over 8 lakh Class IV students in Maharashtra government schools as being below the mark. They were given bridge courses to hone their skills.

The ministry believes the poor quality of education has a direct bearing on the school dropout rate that continues to be high across India.

A survey said there are over 11 million out-of-school children in India, of which 71.2 per cent are in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have over 50,000 dropouts.

The HRD ministry has written to state chief secretaries to focus on out-of-school children and take steps to address the problem. It said the 33 cap on funds for civil works should be raised so that more classrooms could be built and more teachers hired.

It has also asked the states to bring out texts in local dialects for SC/ST children.

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