India and Quality Education – SDG 4

Education is an integral part for the mental development of a human being. Not just education on paper but ‘Quality Education’ which in turn allows the beings to add to the well-being of themselves as well as others without comprising anyone’s needs. Given the importance of quality education in ensuring sustainable growth of the world, one of the sustainable development goals is “Ensure Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promote Lifelong Learning Opportunities for All” (SDG 4).

Around 11 indicators have been decided by UNDP to ensure Quality Education across countries, which are:

  1. Free Primary and Secondary Education
  2. Equal Access to Quality Pre-Primary Education
  3. Equal Access to Affordable Technical, Vocational and Higher Education
  4. Increase the number of people with relevant skills for financial success
  5. Eliminate all discrimination in education
  6. Universal literacy and numeracy
  7. Education for sustainable development and global citizenship
  8. Build and upgrade inclusive and safe schools – in terms of electricity, toilets (including gender neutral toilets), apt infrastructure for disables, gender inclusive.
  9. Expand higher education scholarships for developing countries – by ensuring the sufficient volume of ‘Official Development Assistance’ flows for scholarships.
  10. Increase the supply of qualified teachers in developing schools
  11. Custodian agencies such as UNDP

The article attempts to throw light on the performance of India in the sphere of Education based on NSSO Education data. It is with no doubt that India has made great strides in this particular aspect but the challenges are always present – which will be taken up in the later section of the article.

As per the data, in 2014, total urban literacy rate stood at 86% (male: 91%; female: 81%) while total rural literacy rate was 71% (male: 80%; female: 61%). The difference between rural and urban male and female literacy rate is quite large. The reasons among many can be lack of initiatives; income-deficit; ingrained favoritism; lack of safe and inclusive schooling etc.

To better understand the Gender-gap/parity, data on Gender-Parity Index (GPI) based on Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER). It has been defined as “the ratio of GER of female students enrolled at Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Levels of education to the corresponding ratio of male students at that level” (ESAG, 2018). During 2015-16, the gender parity stood at 1.03 (Primary); 1.05 (Elementary); 1.01 (Senior-Secondary) to 0.92 (Higher Education). While up to +2 level, gender parity favors females but when it comes to higher education, it favors males. Interestingly, if we focus on the annual dropout rate in school education, 2014-15, it will come to notice that boys dropout percentage is higher in secondary (17.21%) than girls (16.88%).

To get a better grasp of gender equation, the article looks into the teaching section. The data for percentage of teachers who are females, 2014 speaks that the percentage is less than 50 at all levels – with dropping percentage as we move from Primary (49.49%), Secondary (43.21%) to Tertiary (39.03%).

Evaluation of reasons for dropout among both males and females as per NSSO brings out – for males, engagement in economic activities has been vetoed as the major reason while for females, reasons such as engagement in domestic activities followed by marriage stand out. The distance between home and school has also been one of the reasons of dropout among females.

Another set of data released by UNESCO as part of the realization of SDG 4 – ‘State of the Education Report: No Teacher, No Class’ for India, 2021 can be used as reference to right the wrongs, fill in the holes in the education scenario of the country. The report points out that there is shortage of 11.6 lakh teachers and about 1.2 lakh are single-teacher school, with 89% being in rural areas. However, in the private sector, the pupil teacher ratio increased from 21% in 2013-14 to 35% in 2018-19. With variation among states, the national average for percentage of females employed stands at 50.

The pandemic has only thrown obstacles testing the efficiency of the country in this sphere. As the world and its works shifted online, this country and sector did too. The shifting to online classes has led to many dropouts, leading to a break in the education of many pupils. When it comes to teaching, the country has faced certain inadequacy in the percentage of trained government school teacher – to use and teach using electronical devises. The Hindu (2021) reports that only 15% of government school teachers were trained and about 31% in private school.

However, when the world was still in offline mode and so the sector – various government schemes had benefitted the children. In this era of everything being online – government need to come up with new schemes focusing towards digital India, co-operating with various grassroot levels can be quite helpful in percolating the benefits to lower levels.

Image Credit: Google