The recently-released National Achievement Survey (NAS) 2021 has brought to the fore the disparity in learning levels of students belonging to the Mumbai Island city and the suburbs.
According to the survey, in Mumbai city, 61.2 per cent of Class III students are proficient or advanced in levels of understanding. For suburbs, this figure is only 36.3 per cent, raising questions on the disparity in the quality of education offered within the same district.
The survey shows that understanding levels of children decline steadily as they grow up, with the divide becoming more evident in higher classes.
In Class VIII, 30.4 per cent of the students in Mumbai city were found to be proficient or advanced in the levels of understanding. This figure is only 10.1 per cent when it comes to schools in the suburbs.
In Class X, the situation is worse. A mere 8.2 per cent of students in the suburbs are proficient and advanced in the levels of understanding. In Mumbai city, the figure is much higher — 30.04 per cent.
The disparity shows that fewer children in the suburbs are proficient or advanced when it comes to the levels of understanding in classes III, V, VIII and X – the sample crowd assessed in the NAS.
While the impact of schools closing down during the pandemic is one of the reasons behind the poor performance of students, the significant difference between Mumbai city and suburbs on the performance scale has raised questions, considering that Mumbai was rather considered a privileged district when it comes to access to Internet and electricity, among others.
Senior educationist Basanti Roy, also former secretary of the Mumbai division of Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, said: “One straight forward difference is that the island city has old-established schools, most of which are government aided and undergo regular quality checks. But in suburbs, many new schools have come up that are private and unaided and not subject to government mandated quality checks.”
“These also include mushrooming slum-schools, having practically no quality check on the standards of teachers and the teaching offered. Pockets such as Dharavi, Bhandup and Malwani have seen rapid increase of small private schools run by individuals, which are not subject to any quality check.”
Madhav Suryawanshi, coordinator of Shikshan Vikas Mancha, said, “The socio-economic divide in both parts of the district should also be taken into consideration. Children living in suburbs have suffered major academic loss due to lack of access to digital devices.” Shikshan Vikas Mancha is a body run by expert educationists who discuss developments in the education sector.
Interestingly, the percentage of students who are proficient or advanced in levels of understanding is lower in Mumbai suburbs, when compared to surrounding districts like Thane, Palghar and Raigad. In Class X, the percentage of children who are proficient and advanced in levels of understanding in Thane, Palghar and Raigad is 25.3 per cent, 23 per cent and 27.9 per cent, respectively, which is much higher than Mumbai suburbs.
According to educationists, it also depends on the sample crowd that participated in the NAS.
“There is no uniformity in the kind of schools that participate in NAS. In fact, NAS 2021 was held last November amid the pandemic… the survey saw less participation as many students stayed away. This random approach too must have impacted the performance of suburban schools,” said a senior teacher from a school in Andheri.