Even as the government has been announcing huge investments in the education sector,the latest World Bank report on secondary education in India is hardly flattering. While there has been adequate focus on primary education,the report states,secondary education hardly gets the attention it deserves and remains highly inequitable across states.
Evidence from around the world suggests secondary education is critical to breaking the inter-generational transmission of poverty - it enables youth to break out of the poverty trap. Fortunately,the governments new ambitious schemes for secondary education will,over the next ten years,provide young people with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century and help India catch up with other countries, said Sam Carlson,Lead Education Specialist,World Bank at the release of the report.
Indias gross enrollment rate (GER) at the secondary level of 40 per cent is far inferior to the GERs of East Asia (average 70 per cent) and Latin America (average 82 per cent). Even countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh,which have lower per capita incomes than India,have higher GER,the report says.
Projections made in the report suggests an increase in absolute demand for secondary education between 2007-08 and 2017-18,with total enrollment growing from 40 to 57 million students. However,an increasing share of these students will come from rural and lower income quintile groups,who will be less able to afford private unaided secondary education.
The report, Secondary Education in India: Universalizing Opportunity,says that access to secondary education is today highly inequitable across income groups,gender,social groups,geography and states. Secondary enrollment rates also vary greatly across states from 22 per cent in Bihar to 92 per cent in Kerala and from 4 per cent in Jharkhand to 44 per cent in Tamil Nadu. In some states such as Rajasthan,Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh,enrollment of the general population at the secondary level is 80 per cent higher than that of SCs,STs and Muslims.
In fact,27 per cent of Indias districts have less than one secondary school for every 1,000 youths aged 15-19 years,the report points out.
Asking the Indian government to dramatically improve access,equity and quality of secondary education,the reports suggestions include increased investments in additional classrooms and teachers,improved curriculum and textbook development,more effective teacher education and training,introduction of new educational technologies,improved teacher management and accountability systems,PPP-based systems and examination reforms that will improve access,quality and equity of secondary education.
Amongst the key constraints the report lists are insufficient and uneven distribution of school infrastructure,lack of trained teachers and inefficient teacher deployment,sub-optimal use of private sector to expand enrollment capacity and poor schooling opportunities.