School slide for Bengal, comrade still on top



New Delhi, Jan. 22: Educational standards for Classes I to VIII in Bengal have declined over the past year, widening the gap between the state and its Left-ruled partner Kerala, a central government study has said.

Bengal has slipped nearer to the bottom of the pile of states and Union territories, with only Jharkhand and Bihar below it, in the annual analysis of school education, released by the government today.

“What is especially sad to see is that Bengal did not see its poor ranking last year as reason enough to push itself upwards on the education scale,” a senior official of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration said. The university has conducted the study for the human resource development ministry.

In 2005-06, Bengal was ranked an abysmal 32 out of 35 states and Union territories, with Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar behind it. Arunachal has now swapped places with Bengal while Uttar Pradesh, ranked 31 — just ahead of Bengal — last year has hoisted itself up to 26 in the rankings.

Kerala, on the other hand, has held on to the pole position. The research studied access to schools, infrastructure, teachers and the performance of students to arrive at an educational development index (EDI) for primary (Classes I to V) and upper-primary (Classes VI to VIII) sections.

The state is ranked 30 for primary classes and 33 for upper-primary. Yet, Bengal’s overall ranking is 33 — a result of the state’s particularly pathetic education indices in the latter segment. And the state cannot blame its teachers.

Infrastructure (31), access (34) and student performance (34) at the upper-primary level are significantly worse than teaching (28), according to the research. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government may have plans to transform Bengal — at least parts of it — into an IT hub, but only one out of every 20 schools in the state (5.35 per cent) has computer facilities.

In Kerala, the figure is 61 per cent. Almost 97 per cent of Kerala schools have safe drinking water available compared with 78 per cent in Bengal.The national average is 85 per cent. Less than a third of schools (31 per cent) in Bengal have a girls’ toilet compared with 77 per cent in Kerala.

Kerala, too, has its problems in school education though, the study has revealed.

While the southern state is near the top in infrastructure, teaching and student performance, access to schools is poor at both the primary (34) and the upper-primary (26) levels. Access at the upper-primary level is worse than in Bengal. Bengal also betters Kerala in indicators related to the Muslim population.

According to the 2001 census, 24.7 per cent of Kerala’s population is Muslim. But only 10 per cent of the students — at both primary and upper-primary levels — are from the community. Bengal has a comparable Muslim population — 25.25 per cent. But as many as 28 per cent of primary students and 20 per cent at the upper-primary level are from the community.

  Wednesday , January 23 , 2008