RTE may not be solving key issues in education, says report

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 18, 2013

Long road ahead: In the fight between covering syllabus and engaging children, learning outcomes are taking a hit. — Photo: K.R.Deepak   -  Business Line

Indian villages account for an estimated 70 per cent of the country’s population. And if the Annual Status of Education Report 2012 (ASER) is anything to go by, the future of the country looks bleak.

The report, conducted by an NGO Pratham, has found that learning outcomes, or what the school-going child takes back from the class, are not only in bad shape, but are actually becoming worse.

ASER 2012 found that only 46.8 per cent of Class V students were able to read a passage meant for a child in Class II. What is worse, the figure was over 53.7 per cent just two years ago, in 2010.

The Government’s much-hyped Right to Education (RTE), which was introduced in 2010, may not be making much of an impact, after all. The study found that the decline was even sharper in Government schools, where the figure slipped from 50.7 per cent in 2010 to 41.7 per cent in 2012.

What’s more, the country that gave the world ‘zero’, seems to be hitting new lows in its mathematical abilities. While seven out of 10 students of Class V were able to solve simple two-digit subtraction problems in 2010, now just over half of the students are able to do so.

“When the RTE Act was passed many of us said that it should not become just a right to schooling, and that is what is happening. It is not a right to learning,” said Madhav Chavan, Co-Founder and CEO of Pratham. He said the problem could be a result of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) which, he said, had led to neglect.

“There has to be a political initiative to reorient the way education is handled,” he added. The study was conducted across 567 districts, 16,000 villages in 3.3 lakh households among six lakh children in the 3-16 years age group.


On a positive note, enrolment in schools has consistently been high over the last four years. In 2012, the figure stood at 96.5 per cent of children in this group in rural India.

While the study points out that school infrastructure, such as toilets, boundary walls, class rooms and others, is improving in almost all States, the learning outcomes are less than positive.

Abhijit Banerjee, Professor of Economics at MIT, and Co-Founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, said, “There is no evidence that these kids are un-teachable. Most of the kids are subject to the tyranny of the syllabus.”

He said in the fight between covering syllabus and engaging children, learning outcomes were taking a hit.

The study also found that a larger number of students were moving to private schools in the hope of better education. In 2006, less than one-fifth of students were in private schools. This figure has risen to 28.3 per cent in 2012. The study estimates that if the transition continues at the current rate, by 2018 almost 50 per cent of students may be enrolled in private schools.

Published on January 18, 2013

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