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In school, barely literate

Government run schools, Learning Achievements, Literacy

– Status of education report ranks Jharkhand way below Bihar
Ranchi, Feb. 18: Out of 10 children in Classes I and II at the state-run schools of Jharkhand, five can’t recognise numbers and alphabets, according to Annual Status Educational Report (ASER) 2011.

Union minister for human resource development Kapil Sibal released the report in New Delhi last month. NGO Pratham, which facilitated it, gave state-wise tabulations to reveal how, after more than two years of the Right to Education Act (2009) which promised compulsory education to all children between 6 and 14 years, primary schoolchildren were actually faring in class.

According to the ASER report — the word was chosen as it means “impact” in Hindi — Jharkhand stands 11 in the list of states, much worse than Bihar at rank 4. Andhra Pradesh tops the list of states, which it deserves to, for 89 per cent of its children in Classes I and II can recognise numbers, 87.3 per cent know their alphabets and 64.5 per cent can do subtractions.

Compared to this, their peers in Jharkhand fare much worse. Only 49.2 per cent recognise alphabets, 49.7 per cent recognise numbers and a mere 41 per cent can attempt two-digit subtractions.

Between September and November, a team of Pratham officials carried out a survey in 22 districts, excluding two. Out of 22, the figures of two districts — Dhanbad and Jamtara — are yet to be compiled. In all, Pratham visited 537 village schools.

Interestingly, compared to 2010, reading and writing abilities of children had gone down in 2011. Even the dropout rate had increased by almost one to 4.7 per cent now.

Sadly, even in Class III, a third of children can’t even read Class I textbooks, and one-tenth can’t recognise numbers and alphabets. Only the brightest 5.8 per cent, a tiny majority, can do divisions.

Kumar Katyayani, convenor of Pratham (Jharkhand) squarely blamed the teachers.

“We came to the conclusion that learning levels of children had taken a nosedive mainly because teachers were seldom in class. They were either on strike or doing panchayat election and census duty,” he said.

The official also blamed the liberalism of the RTE Act to an extent.

“Most students were promoted to the next class without tests. The RTE Act specifies no child can be detained. So it affected learning,” he pointed out.

The ideal student-teacher ratio (30:1), mentioned by the RTE Act, is non-existent. The Jharkhand government had failed to recruit teachers in the primary level within six months.

Another factor that contributed to the dip in learning was the absence of school toilets for girls. “Around 23.4 per cent of schools have no separate provision for girls-only toilets, which discourages attendance,” said the Pratham official.

Another big reason was that most tribal children did not comprehend Hindi. “In Jharkhand, 61.2 per cent of children have one mother tongue and another language in school, which creates confusion,” Katyayani pointed out.

The Telegraph, 18 February 2012


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