DISE data gives thumbs down to Maharashtra’s elementary schools
80,000 students study in schools managed by a single teacher
Over 3,058 elementary schools across Maharashtra remain closed on a working day, if one teacher goes on leave or stays absent for any reason. Sounds absurd, but it is a shocking reality if the recently released data by the District Information System for Education (DISE) is to be believed.
If you are wondering why an elementary school that has eight standards, from Class I to VIII, remains shut on a day a single teacher bunks duty in school, here is why — of the 97,084 schools in the state, at least 3.15 per cent schools function with a single teacher. Only 62 per cent schools in urban areas have a regular headmaster and over 1,600 schools have less than 25 students.
Maharashtra may have made great strides in terms of economic development, but as far as elementary education goes, there is a lot to be desired. The recently released 2014-2015 data by DISE gives a thumbs down to Maharashtra on many crucial parameters for elementary education.
Problem of teachers
In Maharashtra, where nearly 80,000 students (0.50 per cent of 16,172,434 students) study in schools managed by a single teacher, the question of recruitment and even distribution of teachers is a major issue. State education officials agree the situation is grim.
Nand Kumar, Principal Secretary of the state school education and sports department, says the onus of ensuring even distribution of teachers lies with the local education authorities. “There are two ways to tackle this. The first is to take stock of the ground situation and immediately take measures to rectify the situation. The SARAL data entry work is already in its last phase of completion and, through this, we will get the latest updated data on school enrollment and teachers’ ratio. Secondly, we have already given instructions to district and zilla parishad officials to ensure there should be at least two teachers per school. Recently, we told them that if they are unable to do so, we will aid them. We hope by next year, the problem of single-teacher schools will be resolved to a great extent,” he said.
The problem of unrecognised schools in the state continues as DISE data shows at least 445 schools as unrecognised.
This has, however, improved over last year when 82,000 students were enrolled in 669 unrecognised schools across the state. Education activists say a twin approach is needed to resolve this issue. “On one hand, there is the issue that a school which is unrecognised also has no control over its functioning and could involve in a lot of wrongdoing, including profiteering. It is up to the state to ensure such malpractices are weeded out. However, there is also the other side where in a lot of areas, the government schools are not doing well or unable to reach out to people… like schools run by NGOs for children of stone-quarry workers which may be unrecognised schools as they do not complete certain parameters. I think there is also a need to do some re-thinking of the definitive parameters and some relaxation be given in cases where ssuch schools can be recognised,” said education activist Heramb Kulkarni.
Digital India a dream
While digital literacy remains one of the core focus areas of the much coveted Digital India project, it seems to be a hard-to-attain goal as far as Maharashtra schools are concerned. The data for elementary education shows only 54.27 per cent classrooms in the state have computers, a jump of only 4 per cent in the last one year compared to last year’s data, which showed one in two classrooms. Even if 54 per cent schools have computers, only 62 per cent of these are functional, which means effectively less than one in four schools in the state have a computer that is in working condition. Only 14 per cent schools have computer-aided learning labs. However, government officials say a slew of measures planned will soon change the scenario.
“As far as higher secondary schools go, we have been able to get computers into 8,000 institutions through the Information Communication Technology project over the last couple of years and aim to cover the others too very soon. As far as elementary and primary schools go, we have a plan to ensure that by next year, if not a computer, each school should at least have one tablet so that they can stay digitally connected, impart digital literacy as well as undertake e-learning. We are also taking help from corporates through CSR projects to bring computers into classrooms,” said Nand Kumar.
In 2009-2010, the number of students enrolled in government schools in Class I to V stood at 61,06,276. The number dipped to 47,58,698 in 2014-2015. In case of private schools, the number of students enrolled in Class I to V rose from 42,50,341 in 2009-10 to 53,08,008.