It’s income, not caste PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 29 March 2018 04:15
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Prosperity of states, primarily, defines education outcomes


The latest National Achievement Survey (NAS), conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training, largely mirrors the dismal results of the ASER surveys. The NAS that surveyed 2.2 million school children across the country, in Classes 3, 5 and 8, found that Class 8 students, on an average, could answer 57% of the language questions, 42% of the mathematics questions, 44% each of the science and social science questions correctly. ASER 2017 had found that only about 53% of 14-year-olds surveyed under it could read sentences in English while only 43% of 14-18-year-olds could divide correctly a three-digit number by single-digit number.

However, the NAS results reinforce what has been known for a long time, that children in better-off states tend to be benefitting more from schooling. In Bihar, which had a per capita income of Rs 35,590 in FY17, Class 8 students in rural areas were able to answer 45% mathematics questions correctly, compared with 48% for Gujarat (per capita of Rs 156,691) and 50% for Kerala (per capita income of Rs 162,718). What is more interesting is that the impact of the prosperity of the state was more important than the impact of caste, suggesting that politicians would do better to improve the economic standards of the state by attracting more industry or fixing agriculture than by simply mandating more reservations for various caste groupings. In the case of a Bihar, in the case of mathematics, 39% of ST students answered their questions right and this rose to 43% in the case of SCs and 46% for the OBC and general category students.

In the case of the much more prosperous Gujarat, however, SCs had almost the same educational achievement as the OBCs and general category candidates in Bihar. This trend is even stronger in the case of the mother tongue and science. In Bihar, 45% of general category students were able to answer science questions correctly while even SC students in Gujarat fared better with a 52% score. In the case of language, general category students in Bihar got 60% of their answers right versus 63% for STs in Gujarat. Similarly, when it came to earnings, the PRICE all-India income survey found that, in 2013-14, an upper caste household headed by an illiterate person earned Rs 10,000 per annum less than an SC household that was headed by someone who had studied till only primary school.

While the differences in educational achievement across various states are important, the fact that the overall scoring is quite poor suggests there is an issue with the pedagogy. The fact that only 47% of children in Class 8 in Gujarat and 50% in Kerala got their maths questions right is worrying. Whether this can be fixed by intensive teacher training or by using more AI-based tools in education needs to be explored.


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