16 Jan 2009, 0301 hrs IST, Akshaya Mukul, TNN

It's Puducherry, not Kerala, that tops education index

NEW DELHI: Puducherry has eased out Kerala from the top spot in elementary education. `God's Own Country' is now at the second position followed by Lakshadweep at third and Delhi at fourth position in the Educational Development Index for 2007-08 prepared by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA).

The Index is based on a host of variables like access to schools, infrastructure, quality of teachers and outcomes.

Despite India being an IT superpower, barely 14.25% schools have computers with a huge gap between states. In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh -- seats of big IT companies --, only 11.44% and 13.46% schools, respectively, have computers. In Delhi, Chandigarh, Kerala and Puducherry, computers are available in 60%-70% schools. In Bihar, the figure is less than 1%, West Bengal 1.79% and Uttar Pradesh 3.3%.

Last year, NUEPA for the first time started with enrolment figures of Muslim children. A year later, it's index shows an overall improvement in enrolment. Bihar has shown the way again with increase in primary enrolment to 11.27% from 8.9% and 8.22% in upper primary from 6.6% in 2006-07. Muslim girls are also doing well. They form 46.8% of primary school enrolment and 44.76% of upper primary enrolment.

Jharkhand has also done well with Muslim enrolment, but Muslim-dominated J&K has shown a decline in primary school enrolment from 62.52% in 2006-07 to 59.29%. In upper primary also, J&K has shown a reverse trend: enrolment falling to 58.22% from 60.55% in the last survey. Thankfully, girls form half of this enrolment. UP, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have also shown marginal improvement.

But the most perceptible decline in Muslim enrolment is in Orissa: from 7.26% in 2006-07 to 1.26% now in primary level and from 6.48% in the last survey to 1.6% this year in the upper primary level.

As for SC enrolment, the national comprehensive enrolment figure of primary/upper primary level stands at 19.83%, almost the same as last year's 19.87%. States with SC-dominance like Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have shown marginal change from last year's enrolment. The story is similar for ST enrolment with overall (primary/upper primary) figure undergoing a minor change from 10.69% in 2006-07 to 10.95% this year. However, like in case of Muslims, SC/ST girls form the core of enrolment above 45%.

As for enrolment in private schools (government-aided and unaided), the NUEPA report shows that 27.61% go to private schools. Government management schools still have enrolment of 72.33%. In states like Kerala, 64.77% children go to private schools, most of which are funded by government. In Goa, 65% go to private schools, again government-aided. Bihar has one of the lowest enrolment in private schools at a bare 1.77%.

The NUEPA study also evaluated what percentage of teachers are involved in non-teaching activities. From 15.06% teachers involved in non-teaching activities in 2005-06, it came down to 11.36% in 2006-07 and 10.84% in 2007-08. In Lakshadweep, 40.58% teachers were involved in non-teaching activities in 2007-08 resulting in loss of 14 working days. In the same period in West Bengal, 28.17% teachers were involved in non-teaching jobs. In Bihar, though only 13.9% teachers were doing non-teaching jobs, the loss of working days was 23.

Times of India, January 16, 2009