While Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populated state, goes to Lok Sabha polls with big promises; let us look at the state of education — that’s a subject that should be on top of the agenda for any party coming to power but that never happened. A fourth of Uttar Pradesh’s 200 million people are aged between five and 14 years — India’s largest child population — but the state has the fewest teachers per student, the poorest transition rate from primary to upper primary school and amongst the lowest learning outcomes in the country. The state’s literacy rate of 69.72 per cent is the eighth lowest in India, according to Census 2011. Literacy rate rose to 13.45 percentage points in UP over a decade from 2001, but there are wide regional disparities: In the North-eastern district of Shrawasti, the literacy rate is 49 per cent, while in the best performing district, Ghaziabad (in north-western Uttar Pradesh), it is 85 per cent.
The state is suffering with another irony; due to poor education system, most of the students cheat the exams and pass. This time, 10 lakh students did not appear for the Uttar Pradesh board exams. Finally, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath made an attempt for making tests simpler so that they do not scare away students. The drastic fall in the number of students who were supposed to write the exams, is also a result of strict monitoring to end cheating in the tests. Even by making question papers easy, government is still not helping the students but making it much worse.
By 2020, India will have the world’s largest working population — 869 million — but an India Spend analysis of indicators on literacy, school enrolment, learning outcomes, and education spending across four states — with 43.6 per cent of the nation’s school-age population between the ages of five and 14 —revealed that India is unprepared to educate and train its young population.
Overall, India’s literacy rate has increased to 8.66 percentage points to 74.04 per cent between 2001 and 2011, according to Census data, but wide variations exists across states.
The crisis in education is especially apparent in the four BIMARU states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — with 445.1 million of India’s 1.2 billion population and some of the lowest literacy rates in the country, according to Census 2011. Bihar had a literacy rate of 61.8 per cent, Rajasthan of 67.1 per cent, Uttar Pradesh of 67.7 per cent and Madhya Pradesh a rate of 70.6 per cent in 2011, lower than the all-India average of 74 per cent. Kerala has a literacy rate of 94 per cent, the highest in the country. In 2014-15, fewer students moved from Class 5 to Class 6 in Uttar Pradesh, with a transition rate of 79.1 per cent, when compared to Goa, with a transition rate of almost 100 per cent in 2014-15, according to data from the Unified District Information System for Education.
In Madhya Pradesh, as few as 34.1 per cent of children in Class 5 could read a Class 2 text in 2014, compared to 75.2 per cent in the case of Himachal Pradesh, according to the Annual Status of Education Report 2014. Similarly, in Rajasthan, 45.9 per cent of children in Class 5 could “at least” subtract, compared to 87.4 per cent in Mizoram.
Currently, only 2.5 per cent of school age children between the ages of five and 14 live in the four states — Kerala, Mizoram, Tripura and Goa — with the highest literacy in India, compared to 43.6 per cent in the four BIMARU states, according to Census 2011. Any reform in education in the BIMARU states would have the greatest impact on India.
Over the next century, 60 per cent of the population increase in India will come from the four states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, while only 22 per cent will come from the more developed states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, according to a 2003 study published by The Economic and Political Weekly.
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will have India’s youngest populations over the next 10 years, together accounting for 31 per cent of Indians between five and 14 years. The productivity of India’s young population would depend on how these states improve health, education and employment opportunities, according to this 2013 study published in Asia and Pacific Policy Studies.
Variations across states in India exist not only in literacy and enrolment, but also in factors that might impact future enrolment and learning. For instance, life expectancy at birth, one of the factors found to affect literacy in India, according to this 2005 World Bank study, varies across states.
For Maharashtra, the state with a literacy rate of 82.3 per cent in 2011, the projected life expectancy at birth for 2011-16 was 70.4 years, based on this report by the Population Reference Bureau. In comparison, Madhya Pradesh, with a lower literacy rate of 70.6 per cent, also had a lower projected life expectancy at birth of 61.5 years for 2011-16.
School enrolment is affected by a number of factors including parent’s education, the wealth of a household, midday meals, infrastructure and more. Still, the BIMARU states spend less on education than their more literate counterparts. For instance, Madhya Pradesh spends Rs 11,927 per student, while Tamil Nadu spends Rs 16,914 per student, the Economic and Political Weekly reported in September 2016. The per-student spending in Bihar, at Rs 5,298, is even lower.
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