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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Some disturbing statistics on education

By Dr. Bhamy V. Shenoy [Pratham Trustee]

It is unfortunate that when we have far more serious problems with government schools, we are engrossed on the emotional and political problem of English being introduced in those schools. Dr. Bhamy V. Shenoy, one of the Trustees of Pratham Mysore, an NGO which is striving to bring several slum kids into the educational fold through its innovative projects, the recent launch of Mobile Library being one among them, presents some disturbing statistics on education in this brief article. He also hopes that there would be a debate to improve the standard of education in government schools to end the divide between the rich and poor.

It is a well-known fact that the number of primary government schools has gone down in Mysore. What is not appreciated is the large percentage drop of 25 per cent in enrollment in those schools when the overall drop is just 11 per cent.

The poor would also like to send their children to the private unaided schools where the student/teacher ratio is often very high (because of high turn-over and part-timers, statistics on teachers for unaided for 2004-2005 is not comparable to government schools) and English is usually the medium of instruction. Even teachers of govern-ment schools send their children to private schools. The reason often given is the medium of instruction being English. Though that may be one of the reasons, there are other reasons too.

The teachers in government schools are paid three to five times more than the teachers in private schools on average, have better qualification, are better trained and have access to more resources. Despite these advantages, why are the students in government schools doing poorly?

A survey conducted by Pratham last year has revealed that about 10 per cent of children attending government primary schools can read word level, 14 per cent at alphabet level and a shocking 13 per cent cannot read at all. We need to be agitated equally or more on the subject of why the teachers in government schools are not held accountable for such poor state of affairs. If only the government schools are better managed, there will be no mushrooming of profit-oriented so-called “convent” schools in Mysore.

The above table also reveals another shocking reality. The drop-out rate for government primary schools is about 60 per cent whereas it is only about 20 per cent in 2004-2005 for private schools. There is one silver lining in that there are more students in government high schools last year than in 2000-2001.

Let us hope that we can now start a debate on what should be done to improve the standard of education in government schools so that we can close the glaring educational divide between the poor and the rich.

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