While the latest ASER report on rural education has both good and bad news, it unequivocally shows the government needs to move away from the infrastructure-linked education policy to one focused on learning outcomes.
While the latest ASER report on rural education has both good and bad news, it unequivocally shows the government needs to move away from the infrastructure-linked education policy to one focused on learning outcomes. Enrolment rates across all age groups have improved, as have the availability of toilets (this was 68.7% in 2016 as compared to 65.2% in 2014) and access to mid-day meal scheme (87.1% in 2016 from 85.1% in 2014). The progress on learning has been mixed. There were some gains to be seen in lower classes, but there has been a marginal decline in the performance of the higher classes—considering the base was pretty poor to begin with, that’s not a happy state to be in.
The number of students in Class 3 who could read a Class 2 text rose from 19.6% in 2010 to 23.6% in 2014 and to 25.2% in 2016—the difference between government and private schools is around half, with just 19.3% of government-school children falling in this category versus 38% in private schools. In the case of Class 8 students, the number who could read a Class 2 text fell from 83.5% to 74.7% in 2014 (presumably the result of the no-detention policy brought in as part of the Right to Education) and further to 73.1% in 2016. In the case of maths, 68.4% of children in Class 8 could divide a 3-digit number by a 1-digit one in 2010, this collapsed to 44.2% in 2014 and then further to 43.3% in 2016. For English reading, there were some gains for Class V students from 2014, but at 24.5% it was still lower than the high of 28% it touched in 2008. But in the case of Class VII students’ ability to read simple sentences, the number came down from 53.8% in 2007 to 38.2% in 2016, which was lower than the 38.8% achieved in 2014.
With the government now talking about scrapping the no-detention policy, there could be some gains in future years. But with the levels of learning continuing to fall, the government simply has to move to a system linking teacher salaries to learning outcomes—if this is not possible, moving to much lower-paid para-teachers will at least save considerable sums of money that can be used for computer-aided learning—just 8.1% of children used computers in 2016, down from 9.3% in 2012. Also, with the gap between private and government schools worsening over time, considering scrapping government schools and replacing them with education vouchers for private schools has to be considered.