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‘Poor education holding back South Asia’

World Bank report says India has achieved high enrolment but still suffers from poor learning levels.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
July 1, 2014 12:41:31 am

A World Bank report on ‘Student Learning in South Asia’ has cited poor quality of education in the region as a hurdle in economic

growth and said it is trapping youngsters in poverty.

The report pointed to the big differences in schooling access across South Asia even when the countries in the region may be investing heavily in education to achieve Millennium Development Goals. While Sri Lanka “a clear outlier” having achieved near-universal primary education decades ago, Afghanistan and Pakistan are behind the rest. India is somewhere in between having achieved high enrolment, but still faced with poor learning levels.

The report also said what South Asian students are taught is “procedural” or rote-based and that they are poorly prepared in practical competencies such as measurement, problem-solving, and writing meaningful and grammatically-correct sentences. It said one quarter to one third of those who graduate from primary schools lack basic numeracy and literacy skills.

The report blamed lack of important work skills for constrained private sector investment.

“Just spending time in school is not enough. There has to be a significant gain in skills that requires an improvement in the quality of education… This will help countries in the region to reap the full expected returns on their investments and generate gains in productivity and economic growth”, said Philippe Le Houérou, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region, in a press statement.

The report noted that many governments in South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) had invested heavily in education to achieve the MDG of universal primary education for all children by 2015.

This resulted in an increase in the net enrolment rate in South Asia’s primary schools from 75 per cent in 2000 to 89 per cent in 2010, bringing the region closer to the enrollment rates in Latin America and the Caribbean (94 per cent) and East Asia and the Pacific (95 per cent).

Calling for urgent intervention to raise teaching quality, the World Bank report also notes that how in India and Pakistan there are instances of teachers with extremely limited knowledge running a class.“Many South Asian teachers barely know more than their students. For example, surveys from India and Pakistan show that teachers perform poorly in math and language tests based on the curriculum they are supposed to teach.

Higher and clear standards must be enforced, absenteeism curbed, and non-merit-based promotions halted. Use financial incentives to boost quality: when extra resources have been available, they have gone to higher pay for teachers, reducing class sizes or improving facilities”, says the report.

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