Millennium Post
Opinion

Downswing trouble

Poorly performing states along the various parameters of PGI rankings must consider the indications within time to bring in needed reforms

Downswing trouble
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As the schools have started to re-open across the country in physical mode, the education system appears to be getting back on track. However, the current scenario offers a challenge — as well as an opportunity — to revisit the inconsistencies in school education along certain parameters, and start afresh to bring positive outcomes. This takes me to the Performance Grading Index (PGI) rankings, 2019-20 — approved for release by the Ministry of Education in June this year — which analyses the states' education performance on 70 discrete parameters. It has featured five states and UTs — Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Kerala, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu — at the top, with scores ranging from 901 to 950 (Grade-II) out of 1000. At the same time, on the downswing side, one UT, namely Ladakh, is flaked in the lowest grade with scores ranging from 0 to 550 (grade-VII), preceded by Meghalaya (601-650; Grade-V), and Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Nagaland (651-700; Grade-IV).

Overall, the PGI rankings of the eight Northeast states have emplaced Tripura at 20th rank, followed by Sikkim (24th), Manipur (25th), Assam (31st), Mizoram (32nd), Arunachal Pradesh (34th), Nagaland (35th) and Meghalaya (36th).

While Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh have performed outrageously worse in the PGI rankings, Tripura, Sikkim, and Manipur have performed relatively better.

Among the northeast states, Meghalaya ranked lowest, scoring 649 points out of 1,000, whereas Tripura ranked top, scoring 801 points, followed by Sikkim (772), Manipur (767), Assam (738), Mizoram (723), Arunachal Pradesh (698), and Nagaland (667).

The Indian school education system is placed amongst one of the world's largest, with over 15 lakh schools, almost 97 lakh teachers, and over 25 crore students. To assist states in prioritizing areas for intervention in school education, in 2019, the Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSEL) designed the Performance Grading Index (PGI). The goal of the PGI is to stimulate transformative change in the field of school education across the country.

For assessing the states and UTs in school education, pertinent information has been drawn from several sources, viz. the National Achievement Survey (NAS) of National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+), Mid-Day Meal (MDM) website, Public Financial Management System (PFMS), and the Shagun portal.

The total weightage under the Performance Grading Index is 1000 points with each of the 70 indicators receiving a highlight of either 10 or 20 points. For ease of better understanding, these 70 indicators have been classified into five major categories — Learning Outcomes and Quality (180), Access (80), Infrastructure and Facilities (150), Equity (230), and Governance and Management (360).

The top score in the domain relating to governance and management was secured by Punjab (346), followed by Andaman and Nicobar Island (338), Tamil Nadu (336), Puducherry (335), Delhi (324), Kerala (322), Gujarat (320), Rajasthan (307), Chandigarh (305), Haryana (305), Odisha (304), etc. On the flip side, the states/UTs including Ladakh (76), Chhattisgarh (169), Nagaland (174), Meghalaya (197), Mizoram (203), Assam (207), Madhya Pradesh (214), and Uttarakhand were among the worst performers.

Further, in the infrastructure and facilities domain, the states that recorded the lowest scores are Bihar (81) and Meghalaya (87), preceded by Karnataka (97), Tripura (99), Uttarakhand (100), Nagaland (101), Rajasthan (101), Arunachal Pradesh (108), Odisha (109), and Manipur (109). Looking on the bright side, the state of Punjab has topped in the domain with 150 points, followed by Delhi (149), Chandigarh (147), Tamil Nadu (142), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (147), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (140), Goa (137), Daman and Diu (135), and Puducherry (134), etc.

In respect of the learning outcomes and quality (average scores in mathematics, sciences, language, and social sciences), the state of Rajasthan has topped with the score of 168 points, followed by Chandigarh (160), Karnataka (160), Jharkhand (156), Kerala (154), Andhra Pradesh (154), and Gujarat (152). On the drop-off side, Arunachal Pradesh has secured the least points (100), preceded by Ladakh (114), Sikkim (116), Lakshadweep (122), Puducherry (124), Delhi (124), Nagaland (126), and Meghalaya (126) etc.

On access parameter (i.e., enrolment ratio, transition ratio, & retention rate), the states, including Kerala (79), Punjab (79), Chandigarh (77), Himachal Pradesh (77), Tamil Nadu (77), Delhi (77), and Puducherry (77) have grasped top graded points, whereas Ladakh (49), Nagaland (53), Meghalaya (53), Jammu and Kashmir (55), Arunachal Pradesh (56), Mizoram (59), Manipur (62), Bihar (62), Assam (62), and Sikkim (63) have been featured amongst the least scorers.

As regards the equity domain, the states, namely Punjab (228), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (226), Daman and Diu (226), Maharashtra (224), Delhi (224), and Chandigarh (223) have been spotted amongst the top gradings, while the states, i.e., Meghalaya (186), Ladakh (196), Andhra Pradesh (204), Lakshadweep (205), and Manipur (206) are emplaced among the lowest scorers in the PGI report card.

Henceforth, it can be said that the states including Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh with lower scores pertaining to infrastructure and facilities must direct their focus on school buildings with adequate facilities in order to improve the quality of education. The availability of ICT facilities and timely availability of textbooks and uniforms must be ensured for better performance outcomes of students.

In the case of learning outcomes, it is evidenced that the scores obtained in the higher standards are less than those in the lower standards. Further, many students are not achieving minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER, 2018) also revealed that 72 per cent of the students from class V and 56 per cent from class VIII cannot solve simple mathematical problems. Hence, it is imperative for the least performing states, namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Nagaland, and Meghalaya to ensure better interventions at the lower levels as it has a positive upswing effect at the higher levels.

Again, it is revealed in the U-DISE report (2016-17) that over 18 per cent of teachers at government schools do not have any professional training in delivering and designing structural pedagogies for effective classroom transactions. So, several competency-based robust in-service teachers' training and school principals' leadership development programmes must be organized to elevate teaching-learning ecosystems at schools.

Further, the lack of supervision and inspection, timely availability of finance, and inadequate training of the teachers are some of the factors plaguing the school education systems in worst-performing states. So, the governments must take the PGI report as an eye-opener and make more investment for its overall development, hailed by Lahkmen Rymbui, Education Minister, Meghalaya.

It also becomes imperative for the government that they must undertake immediate stimulus micro-economic packages as an intervention to help government schools, especially those located in rural remote areas — suffering from a shortage of required digital as well as non-digital resources. An inter-school library management system must be initiated to transfer learning materials among schools at distant locations at the district or state levels.

To optimize the learning outcomes, the Northeast states must be propelled towards undertaking several multi-pronged interventions. An investigation must be done to pinpoint the learning deficiencies and, accordingly, prioritize areas for interventions to ensure quality education, bracketed in the PGI report. A community-based education management system is also a pressing need for minimizing the knowledge gaps and monitoring students' inspiration as well as learning outcomes both at home and in schools.

Views expressed are personal

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