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Far fewer children missed school in '07

Prasad Nichenametla  |  New Delhi 

NGO Pratham says Bihar, Rajasthan, UP catch up fast; all-round improvement in quality too.
The number of children between the age of six and 14 who are out of school is coming down steadily. It was 6.6 per cent in 2006 and has come down to 4.2 per cent in 2007. This is one of the findings of the "Annual State of Education Report 2007" released by NGO Pratham.
"The positive trend can be attributed to some states like Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh which were performing badly some years back. Now, winds of change are sweeping these states," said Madhav Chavan, director, Pratham.
The survey, which covered 267 districts and 16,000 villages, indicates the attendance of children and teachers is up. So is the teacher-student ratio.
"The positive trends can be attributed to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), which has focused on building schools and recruiting teachers," Chavan said.
The report, which concentrates on education in rural India, says the number of children in rural India who are going to private schools is increasing. While it was 18.7 per cent in 2006, it increased to 19.3 per cent in 2007. But Pratham says this is related more to affordability rather than the quality of education in government schools.
"There is an increasing trend here but we cannot say this is a failure of the government machinery. The tendency among the parents is to send their children to private schools as there is a perception that they deliver more," he said.
The quality of education is also encouraging. The report says the percentage of children in Class I and II who can read letters, words or more in their own language in 2007 is 78.3 per cent. This was just 73.1 per cent in 2006.
Pratham says states like Himachal Pradesh have performed remarkably, which has led to the overall increase.
"In some states like Himachal Pradesh, the percentage of government school children taking private tuitions has come down in a major way," Chavan said.
However, the level of mathematics education is coming down. The percentage of children from Class III to V who can do simple mathematics like subtraction was 65.2 per cent in 2006. This plunged to 59.4 in 2007.
There is still a need for further improvement, says Pratham. "The SSA should concentrate on teacher attendance, which has been ignored till now. In Bimaru states, the attendance of children is still very low. This year, much of the time was wasted by states and the Centre in deciding the funding pattern of the SSA."

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First Published: Fri, January 18 2008. 00:00 IST