Primary education

Long road ahead

Print edition : June 24, 2016
Significant progress has been made at the primary schooling level, but much needs to be done to stem senior secondary dropout rates.

The announcement of examination results for classes X and XII hit the headlines recently and the performance of students in Central and State schools has once again shone the spotlight on the health of school education in the country. In this context, a look at data over the past year gives a clearer picture of how well we are doing as a nation in educating the younger generation and where there is room for improvement.

According to educational statistics for 2014 put out by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, there were more than 14.25 lakh school education institutions as of 2013-14, with 7.9 lakh of them focusing on primary education. The total number of teachers exceeded 82.68 lakh, with the vast majority of them in primary and upper primary schools. The pupil-teacher ratio was the lowest at the primary level, at 28, and the highest, at 40, at the senior secondary level.

While it is heartening to note that enrolment at all levels of schooling runs into several crores of students, it is also distressing that overall dropout rates are high and alarmingly high in the case of students from the Scheduled Castes (S.Ts) and Scheduled Tribes (S.Ts), respectively. While the dropout rates at the primary level (classes I-V) are below 20 per cent for all students and among S.Cs, the rate jumps to 31.3 per cent in the case of S.Ts. The rates keep rising as the level of education rises, and more so in the case of marginalised sections. Genderwise data show that the dropout rates are lower for girls at all educational levels and across sections.

Gross enrolment ratio, which is defined as the total enrolment in a specific level of education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the eligible official school-age population corresponding to the level during any academic year, was nearly 100 for the overall school-going population at the primary level, and significantly high up to class X, but drastically lower at the senior secondary level (classes XI-XII).

Ministry data showed that the expenditure of Central and State education departments has recorded a steady rise in from 2011-12. For the Centre, the total expenditure rose 11 per cent from Rs.60,260.80 crore in 2011-12 to Rs.66,818.97 crore the next year but zoomed 18 per cent to Rs.78,701.04 crore in the year ended 2014; for the State departments, the figure grew 22 per cent from Rs.2,09,830.99 crore to Rs.2,54,935.21 crore but saw a rise of only 13 per cent the next year to reach Rs.2,87,264.19 crore.

Historical data show that the distribution of senior secondary schools by management is now dominated by private unaided schools, which have stolen a march over private aided schools and those run by governments or local bodies.