New Delhi: According to a UNESCO report released this week, India has made impressive progress in enrolling its children in primary schools and in particular improving the number of female students. But India still lags behind in reducing overall adult illiteracy, and more work needs to be done to improve the quality of education, the report says.
One of the most surprising findings shows that India will be the only country in South and West Asia to have an equal ratio of girls and boys in primary and secondary school this year – a rare good news for a country struggling with widespread criticism over its treatment of women.
India has also reduced the number of out-of-school children by more than 90% since 2000, says the report titled Education For All Global 2000-2015.
The report states that India is on track to achieve universal enrollment of children in preschools and has achieved the goal of universal primary education.
“In the 1990s, the schools were completely insufficient compared to the number of children. Today, we have obtained access to school for all,” said R. Govinda, vice-chancellor of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration. “Now we have to make these schools deliver.”
Between 2005 and 2014, India increased its investment in education from around $14 billion to $62 billion. About 45% of schools now have electricity, compared to 20% in 2003. About 78% of paved roads have been built around schools, compared to 63% previously. India also passed the ambitious right of children to free and compulsory education in 2009, part of a series of rights-based laws for social services, and levied a special education tax surcharge. .
Although school infrastructure and facilities have improved, learning outcomes have remained poor. Fifth-grade students in public schools in nine Indian states cannot read second-grade textbooks, the annual State of Education report said in January.
“Children are physically present, but many of them are cognitively absent. Learning is the next big thing for us,” Govinda said. “We need to dramatically improve the quality of teachers now.”