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India must focus on building quality education and skill development infrastructure

PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results ranked Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh 72 and 73 out of 74 participants, higher only than Kyrgyzstan, exposes the gaps in our education system

PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results ranked Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh 72 and 73 out of 74 participants, higher only than Kyrgyzstan, exposes the gaps in our education system

New Delhi: June 23, 2015

While only 73 per cent literacy has been achieved as per Census 2011, there has been marked improvement in female literacy. Male literacy at 80.9 per cent is still higher than female literacy at 64.6 per cent but the latter has increased by 10.9 percentage points compared to 5.6 percentage points for the former. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 was enacted by the centre to increase the quality as well as accessibility of elementary education in India in April 2010. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the designated scheme for implementation of the RTE Act.

The framework of the SSA has been revised to include reimbursement for expenditure incurred for at least 25 per cent admissions of children belonging to disadvantaged and weaker sections in private unaided schools from the academic year 2014- 15. Between 2007-08 and 2013-14, according to the DISE (District Information System for Education), total enrollment in primary schools increased from 134 million to 137 million in 2011- 12 and then declined to 132 million in 2013-14 while upper primary enrolment grew from 51 million to about 67 million. This is in line with the changing demographic age structure.
India has achieved near universal enrollment and enhanced hard and soft infrastructure (schools, teachers, and academic support staff). However, the overall standard of education is well below global standards: that PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2009+ results ranked Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh 72 and 73 out of 74 participants, higher only than Kyrgyzstan, exposes the gaps in our education system. PISA, which measures the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds with questions designed to assess their problem-solving capabilities, rates these two states at the bottom, with the scores in mathematics and science falling way behind the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) average. Shanghai-China tops the rankings followed by Singapore, while the Russian Federation is ranked at thirty-eighth position.
“Countries where students near the end of compulsory schooling perform at high levels tend to maintain their lead after these students transition from school into young adulthood…There is considerable scope for post secondary education and training systems, as well as workplaces, to intervene to improve the proficiency of young people who leave school with poor literacy and numeracy skills.” Clearly, the policy prescription lies in shifting attention away from inputs to outcomes and focusing on building quality education and skill development infrastructure.
India did not participate in PISA 2012. ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) findings have been reporting low levels of learning amongst the 5 to 16 age group in rural India since 2005. The worrying fact is that these are floorlevel tests (basic 2-digit carry-forward subtraction and division skills), without which one cannot progress in the school system. 9.8 With the changing demography and declining child population, the inadequacy of human capital at the base of the pyramid leading to a huge backlog in basic skills could become a big impediment in India’s growth. The Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat initiative to create a base for reading, writing, and math fluency is a good step. However for it to be fruitful, it is critical that the local administration is fully involved and sensitized.
(….to be continued)
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