Around 91 per cent of 15-year-old children were enrolled in secondary schools in 2016 in comparison with 78 per cent in 2009, but there has been no improvement in the learning outcomes, according to a survey conducted in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The survey has been described as "pro-poor" by Young Lives India that conducted it across 205 secondary schools in the two states, including 85 government, 55 private unaided, 29 aided and 36 tribal/social welfare schools.
"It specifically brings across the plight of disadvantaged sections," Renu Singh, Country Director of Young Lives India, told IANS at the launch of the survey here on Thursday.
The survey reveals there is a large gap between the learning outcomes of more and less disadvantaged children at the start of class 9.
This gap widens further over the course of the school year, with wealthier students making more progress than poorer students, it said.
The data reveals that state government schools are only attended by the most disadvantaged children.
There is a wide range of student learning levels, with some children demonstrating advanced skills in maths and English. However, overall learning levels are too low for too many children.
Around 14 per cent class 9 students reported repeating the class once or twice.
"The longitudinal education findings highlight insights from the latest round of research collection, while looking back to the markers provided by previous research rounds," Singh said.
The key findings show that the increase in enrolment was particularly significant for girls and Backward Class (BC) children, with 90 per cent of 15-year-old girls enrolled in 2016 (compared with 74 per cent in 2009) and 91 per cent of BC children (compared with 76 per cent in 2009).
The number of children attending private schools marginally increased from 35 per cent in 2009 to 37 per cent in 2016.
The private school enrolment in 2016 remains biased towards boys (41 per cent), other castes (62 per cent), the top wealth tercile (62 per cent) and urban children (64 per cent).
"The teaching characteristics as well as characteristics of teachers are the main drivers of education and learning process for which we need to come out with specific recommendations and action plans for an effective school education," said Anil Swarup, Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development.
"Such findings coming from the studies will help us get into the roots of the problems and take the required action to improve education system in India," he added.
The survey included three cognitive tests with around 9,000 children in class 9 in Mathematics, functional English and transferable skills. It was designed to analyse what shapes children's learning and progression over an academic year.
"Making adequate investment in quality pre-school education as well as capacity building of teachers in both pre-service and in-service training is critical," said Singh.
She stressed that there is a need of social security networks for the poorest families and better implementation of Child Marriage Prohibition Act as well as Child Labour Protection and Regulation Act, to ensure that children transition smoothly through 12 years of schooling.
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