In India, poor kids are illiterate despite 4 years of education: Unesco report
Manash Pratim Gohain, TNN
NEW DELHI: In India, even after completing four years of school, 90% of children from poorer households remain illiterate. And this also holds true for around 30% of kids from poorer homes despite five to six years of schooling.
Besides, only 44% of rural students in the Std V age group in Maharashtra and 53% in Tamil Nadu could perform two-digit subtraction. And it will take another 66 years for poor young women of the country to achieve universal literacy.
These are among the many alarming findings in Unesco's 11th Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report to be released on Wednesday, which says that despite progress, most EFA goals are likely to be missed by 2015. According to the report, the pace in achieving universal primary education, lower secondary education and youth literacy is woefully slow for many countries in the region, especially for the disadvantaged. With respect to India, it said while the richest young women have already achieved universal literacy, the poorest are projected to do so only by 2080.
Reporting on the trends in financing education for all, the report states: "Around the world, governments are grappling with ways to reallocate their education budgets to those children most in need. Allocations per child still do not adequately reflect the costs of delivering quality education to the marginalized." In its India analysis, the report says that in Kerala, one of the wealthier states, education spending per pupil was roughly $685. In Bihar, the figure stood at just $100.
The report suggests that new EFA goals after 2015 should set a target for all countries to allocate at least 6% of GNP to education and at least 20% of total government expenditure on education.Though India is among 10 countries that have made the fastest progress in reducing the number of children out of school in recent years, this expansion has also created a learning crisis — a phenomenon apparent in many parts of the world, resulting in 250 million children not learning the basics globally, one-third of whom are in South and West Asia.
Progress is too slow, and particularly for the disadvantaged. Performance in mathematics remains a problem area. In rural India, wide disparities were seen between the richer and poorer states. Even within the prosperous states, the poorest girls showed lower skill levels. In the wealthier states of Maharashtra and TN, most rural pupils reached Std V in 2012. But only 44% of these in Maharashtra and 53% in TN could perform two-digit subtraction.
Besides, widespread poverty in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh affects the chances of children staying in school until Std V. In UP, only 70% of poor kids make it to Std V, while almost all from rich households are able to do so. In MP, 85% of poor pupils enter Std V, compared to 96% of rich children.
One of the reasons for the learning crisis is teacher governance, with the report saying that "absenteeism varied from 15% in Maharashtra and 17% in Gujarat — two richer states — to 38% in Bihar and 42% in Jharkhand, two of the poorest states."