It has been five years since the Right to Education Act was brought into force. The tenth Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) by Pratham, a non-profit organisation, however, has stated that the quality of learning has declined and remains neglected in both urban and rural India. The ASER report has also stated that there is a decline in the enrolment of children in government schools, with numbers rising for private schools. The study covered over 5.6 lakh children from 16,497 villages of 577 rural districts across the country.
As per the report, only 48.1 per cent of class five children can read textbooks prescribed for class two. In its survey in Nand Nagri, an area located in northeast Delhi, the survey found 45.5 per cent children enrolled in Class III to V in government schools could not read a Class I text, whereas in private schools the figure comes down to 20.1 per cent. Math skills are on the wane too, with many unable to get their basics right. Less than a quarter of government school children from the same class can subtract, but more than half their counterparts in private schools are able to complete the task. Primary education in India is in terrible shape and under funded with no effective intervention by governments, both past and present. Higher education continues to receive a lion’s share of the government’s attention.
Adding to the woes of primary school students, the government’s expenditure on education as a share of our Gross Domestic Product is abysmally low. In other words, our political representatives have weeded out a large number of our population and ensured that they never get a chance at higher education, by ignoring the primary education system. The report consequently presents a very grim picture for the state school system and perpetuates a public perception that government schools cannot provide quality education. Instead of getting mired in controversies surrounding the introduction of Sanskrit in Kendriya Vidyalayas, the present government could do a lot worse than increasing expenditure in primary education and creating a workable framework to ensure the future of millions.