Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bihar paradox: worst schools, best kids

Bihar paradox: worst schools, best kids

National survey shows nearly 60% of kids can’t read a paragraph


NEW DELHI, JANUARY 17: At a time when top on the HRD Ministry’s agenda is to stop IIM from going to Singapore comes a comprehensive national survey showing that nearly 60 per cent of the country’s school children cannot read a paragraph with long sentences.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), prepared by Pratham, NGO, paints a dismal picture of educational infrastructure nationwide putting a huge question mark on the future of an entire generation.

The only silver lining is that students in Bihar and Chhattisgarh, which have the worst educational facilities, show better learning capabilities in reading and arithmetic compared to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat which have better infrastructure. Message: lack of infrastructure is crippling tomorrow’s talent.

Covering 9,252 schools in 28 states and UTs, the survey has found that children of Bihar, more than 59 per cent in primary level, do not even have text books. Bihar is the worst on most parameters—only 51 per cent enrolled children attend schools and 13 per cent not enrolled at all.

And yet West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Uttaranchal and Bihar are among top five in reading and arithmetic categories. Still, it’s one of the five states—with UP, Rajasthan, AP and Orissa—accounting for almost three-quarters of out-of-school children. In Bihar and UP, only 38 and 53 per cent schools are served mid-day meals compared to Chhattisgarh’s 95 per cent and Kerala’s 94 per cent. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, while releasing the report, said positive aspects must be capitalised on and better monitoring of government schemes was required to ensure betterment. Singh said that the high teacher presence in rural schools was positive. Contrary to popular perception, nearly 75 per cent teachers were present in the schools surveyed.

The most alarming scene was in reading and arithmetic skills of school children. Children were tested in reading paragraphs with short sentences and long sentences, subtraction and division. Of them, 34 per cent could not read even short sentences. Students in private schools were found to be relatively better than government school students. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, home to IT hubs, were among the bottom five in terms of arithmetic abilities: 76 per cent of Standard V students in Karnataka and 68 per cent in Tamil Nadu were unable to do simple division. “These states must seriously examine the way mathematics is taught in schools,” the report suggested.

These IT hubs are in the company of Orissa (69%), UP (68%) and MP (62%). Kerala tops in terms of reading capability whereas West Bengal tops in arithmetic. Kerala finds place in only reading and Haryana in arithmetic.
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