Monday, February 4, 2008

Elementary Education: Kerala tops, Bihar lags, Muslim enrolment poor

One of the significant findings of a new report commissioned by the Ministry of Human Resource Development is that Muslim enrolment both at the primary and upper primary levels of education, recorded for the first time ever, is poor. This is so even in states that have performed well in school education.

Kerala continues to be a top achiever in composite rankings of primary and upper primary education, according to new statistics released by the central government. But it has badly neglected the education of Muslims, who comprise one-fourth of its population. Bihar remains the state with the worst elementary education report card, while Jharkhand is second-last.

According to ‘Flash Statistics: Elementary Education in India and Progress Towards Universal Elementary Education (2006-07)', released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) on January 22, Kerala is followed by Puducherry, Delhi and Tamil Nadu as toppers in providing elementary education (a composite of primary and upper primary schooling).

The report was based on a survey of 1.20 million schools spread over 609 districts across 35 states and union territories of India , and conducted by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) for the HRD ministry. The survey was based on the District Information System for Education (DISE) developed by NUEPA a few years ago.

The report tracks the progress of states towards universal elementary education at the primary and upper primary levels as well as the composite elementary level. Designed as an Educational Development Index (EDI) on which rankings are given based on 23 parameters (the four broad parameters are: school access, infrastructure, teachers and outcomes).

The variables are for access (percentage of habitations not served, availability of schools per 1,000 population and ratio of primary to upper primary schools/sections), infrastructure (average student-classroom ratio, school with student-classroom ratio greater than 60, school without drinking water facilities, school with boy's toilet, school with girl's toilet), teachers (percentage of female teachers, pupil-teacher ratio, school with pupil teacher ratio greater than 60, single-teacher schools [in schools with more than 15 students], percentage of schools with three or less teachers, teachers without professional qualifications), outcomes (gross enrolment ratio -- overall, scheduled castes: gross enrolment ratio, scheduled tribes: gross enrolment ratio, gender parity index in enrolment, repetition rate, dropout rate, ratio of exit class over Class 1 enrolment [primary stage only], percentage of passed children to total enrolment, percentage of appeared children passing with 60% and above marks).

The 2006-2007 survey had an additional indicator this year, focusing on Muslim enrolment at both the primary and upper primary levels.

Though Kerala tops the combined rankings (for primary and upper primary education), as it did in 2005-06, this year Delhi was replaced in second position by Puducherry, which has climbed two spots in the past year. Tamil Nadu has fallen one spot to fourth.

Karnataka has come down to eighth slot from sixth last year, while Andhra Pradesh has fallen a significant four positions -- down from eighth to 12th.

States like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal , Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh continue to hover -- a few notches up and down -- at the bottom. Bihar and Jharkhand remained respectively at 35th and 34th position in both the composite as well as the two individual rankings.

Delhi tops the EDI for primary education, followed by Puducherry and Kerala. Surprising to many would be the fact that West Bengal lags way behind, at 30 out of 35 states and union territories. “What is especially sad to see is that Bengal did not see its poor ranking last year as reason enough to push itself upwards on the education scale,” a senior NUEPA official said.

In 2005-06, Bengal ranked an abysmal 32 out of 35 states and union territories, with Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar behind it. Arunachal has now swapped places with Bengal while Uttar Pradesh -- that ranked 31, just ahead of Bengal last year -- has hoisted itself up to 26 in the rankings.

For upper primary education, Kerala is the top-ranking state, followed by Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Chandigarh .

However, Kerala too has its problems in school education, the report reveals. While the southern state is near the top in infrastructure, teaching and student performance, access to schools is poor at both the primary (34) and the upper primary (26) levels. And access at the upper primary level is worse than in overall low-ranking Bengal , for instance. It has also failed to enrol enough numbers of Muslims who comprise nearly 25% of the state's population, in school.

Government data on the Muslim community's enrolment in schools, collected for the first time, confirms what the Sachar Committee report indicated about their educational status, in late-2006. The findings showed that Muslims were the most educationally backward community in the country.

Comprising nearly 13% of India's population, Muslim enrolment at the primary school level (Class 1-5) was a meagre 9.39% of total enrolment figures for 2006-07, while at the upper primary level (Class 6-8) it was 7.52%.

All over India , about 70% of Muslim children are enrolled in primary schools; the number falls to 56% at the upper primary level. State-level data reveals a varied enrolment picture for Muslims.

In Orissa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh , Jammu and Kashmir and Puducherry, 80% of Muslim children are enrolled in school. In Orissa, Muslims make up only 2.07% of the population but total enrolment of primary and upper primary Muslims make up 7.26% and 6.48% respectively. In Karnataka, there is 13.54% enrolment of Muslims in the primary and 12.39% in the upper primary levels.

For West Bengal, Chandigarh , Assam , Maharashtra and Goa , data suggests a sudden drop in enrolment after primary school. This drop is especially steep for West Bengal and Assam and deserves investigation, say experts.

For Tamil Nadu, Delhi , Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, there is a higher enrolment percentage of Muslims in the upper primary level than in primary school. This could mean either that fewer numbers of Muslims are entering the school system than before or that Muslims' share in the population is decreasing in these states and that this is being reflected in the enrolment figures.

States of particular concern are Kerala, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Assam that have sizeable Muslim populations but very low levels of Muslim enrolment in schools.

However, sources point out that since this is the first time that data on the Muslim community's access to elementary education has been recorded separately there is the probability of some errors in the data.

There is also the possibility that a few states could have included the enrolment of OBC (other backward classes) Muslim students in the overall OBC figures rather than factoring them in separately. There is also a chance that a few schools did not report Muslim enrolment figures. “A clearer picture will emerge next year,” one ministry official said.

The survey shows that the community's access to education is poor even in states where it has a large presence, like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Kerala. Assam , Jammu and Kashmir , Andhra Pradesh and, to an extent, West Bengal are the only exceptions.

Kerala has a 24.7% Muslim population but enrolment figures for the community are abysmal -- a mere 10.13% at the primary level and 9.59% at the upper primary level.

By contrast, in Andhra Pradesh, which has a 9.17% Muslim population, enrolment at the primary level is 10% and upper primary, 9.11%. And in West Bengal , with a Muslim population of over 25%, primary level enrolment is 27.92%. But this number falls to 19.63% in the upper primary classes.

In Jammu and Kashmir , where Muslims comprise 66.97% of the population, enrolment of Muslims is 62.52% at the primary level and 60.55% in upper primary classes. And in Assam , with a 30.92% Muslim population, the community's enrolment percentage in primary schools is a laudable 30.42% but falls significantly at the upper primary level, to 17.39%.

NUEPA's statistics also show that there has been hardly any change in the elementary school enrolment percentage of scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs) and other backward classes (OBCs) over previous years. The enrolment of SCs up to Class 8 was 19.87%; for STs it was 10.69%. Among OBCs, the figures were 42% in the primary classes and 41.23% at the upper primary level.

The report did not contain separate statistics for India 's other significant religious minority, the Christian community.

This is NUEPA's second publication on India 's elementary education. Its aim is to help track the progress of states towards universal elementary education at primary and upper primary levels as well as take a composite look at elementary education. The EDI is an annual exercise that hopes to encourage states to improve their performance. It is expected that the two will aid in the effective targeting of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) (universal education) in the country's most needy districts.

Source: http://www.infochangeindia.org/bookandreportsst131.jsp

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