Friday, September 23, 2005

Quality of Education in India - How many children can read?

Pratham conducted a study in various north and western Indian cities to look at some simple aspects as "How many children can read simple alphabets/sentences" and guess what are the results. The details of the study are here. (Left side-bar).

Some data from the study:

Nearly half of the all children age 7-14 cannot read simple sentences. And the number who can read only alphabets or nothing is also very bad as shown in below.

In all, 405 slum and low income communities were sampled and 41,328 children were surveyed.

Pratham conducted Reading camps in various parts of India during 2003 and the results were great as shown below.

Percentage of children in summer camps: who can
Final test
Read simple text
Read simple words & alphabets
Unable to recognize alphabets
Total children tested

This lead Pratham and Govt of Maharastra to work together to carry out bigger pilot projects. The results of the pilot (which in itself if quite large) and the mechanism are detailed in this paper. It can also be found here.

Excerpts from the paper:

"A people-government collaborative effort to rapidly enhance the reading skills of children began with a pilot project in January-March 2003 in Maharashtra. School teachers, the Zilla Parishad, the Department of Education of Government of Maharashtra, and Pratham- a non governmental agency have been participating in the effort which has now gone through three phases:
  1. Innovation of a new method and approach for rapid ‘learning to read’ by Pratham Dec 2002. (coverage 170,000 children across India)
  2. Pilots in predominantly tribal Mokhada and Igatpuri talukas of Thane and Nashik districts in Jan-March 2003.
  3. Replicating the taluka pilot to create one pilot taluka per district in 30 out of 33 districts of Maharashtra as a strategic springboard for district-wise scaling up. (coverage: 504,000 children in 5265 schools in as many villages)

Having completed the above three phases, the next phase of scaling up of the taluka pilots to district level has begun in 17 out of the 30 pilot districts. (coverage: approximately 2.5 million children).

Statewide results of district-wise pilots in one taluka in each of the 30 districts:

· Among the std II-IV children, the percentage of those “able to read” at least simple sentences-paragraphs, or more difficult texts, has increased uniformly from about 61% to 93%. Simultaneously, the percentage of those who can read nothing or can just identify alphabets reduced from 28% to 2%/

· Among the std V-VII children the percentage of those “able to read” increased from 71% to 94%, those who can read nothing or can just identify alphabets has dropped from about 13% to about 2%"

Pratham is planning to follow this up with other activites to consolidate the gains made and then improve the arthimetic and other skills.

We have to realize that absymal quality of education is one of the major reasons why children drop out of schools. Such targeted schemes are must to build a momentum in the system. All other NGO's should consider evaluating their projects and the impact they have made. In most educational projects this can be a start at the evaluations.

Some other papers looking at quality of education:
Learning Achivement at End of Primary Cycle in DPEP states


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