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Gujarat education model a flopshow: State's primary children one of the worst performers in India

By Rajiv Shah
The latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014, brought out by high-profile NGO Pratham, should come as a shocker for India’s powerful policy makers, including Union education minister Smriti Irani, who had wished to “replicate” Gujarat’s so-called educational model in other states. The report suggests that rural Gujarat’s quality of education at the primary level is one of the worst in India. Gujarat’s just about 46.6 per cent of class 5 children could read standard 2 text, which, ASER found, is worse than as many as 14 out of 20 major states. Even so-called Bimaru states such as Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha and Rajasthan perform better than Gujarat on this score.
In yet another revelation, the ASER study shows that Gujarat’s just about 41.7 per cent of standard 5 children could do subtraction, and this is worse than as many as 15 out of 20 major states. Here, again, the so-called Bimaru states such as Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand perform better than Gujarat, widely considered a “progressive” state. And, as for English, Gujarat’s class 5 children’s performance is worse than all 20 Indian states with the sole exception of Madhya Pradesh. Gujarat’s just about 9.8 per cent class 5 children can read English sentences, as against the national average of 24 per cent.
While providing these figures, ASER gives no explanation about why the quality of education remains so poor in Gujarat despite several years of the annual Gunotsav festival, under which top bureaucrats from Gandhinagar are made to visit villages all over Gujarat to give a hand to improve the quality of education. While Gujarat has long been praising its quality of education as a grand success, ASER studies over the last few years continue to suggest things have not changed in Gujarat. Worse, despite government claim on emphasis on English, Gujarat remains the poorest.
ASER 2014 suggests that there has been a mismatch between the quality of education and infrastructure in schools. In fact, it goes to show that improvement in basic infrastructure cannot automatically lead to improvement in the quality of education. Thus, providing details of how Gujarat has done extremely well on providing basic infrastructure, the report states, “With respect to drinking water provision and availability, drinking water was available in 75.6 per cent of the schools that were visited. In 2010, this figure was 72.7 per cent. In four states (Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh), drinking water was available in more than 85 per cent of schools.”
The report further says, “Since 2010, there has been significant progress in the availability of useable toilets. Nationally in 2014, 65.2 per cent of schools visited had toilet facilities that were useable. In 2013, this figure was 62.6 per cent and in 2010, it was 47.2 per cent). The proportion of schools visited where girls’ toilets were available and useable has gone up from 32.9 per cent in 2010 to 53.3 per cent in 2013 to 55.7 per cent in 2014. In four states, more than 75 per cent of schools visited had useable girls’ toilets. These states are Gujarat, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.”
And finally, the report states, Gujarat is in the forefront in providing computers to its schools. To quote from the report, “There is a small increase in the availability of computers in the schools visited. The 2014 figure stands at 19.6 per cent, as compared to 15.8 per cent in 2010. Several states stand out in this regard. In Gujarat, 81.3 per cent of schools visited had computers; this number was 89.8 per cent in Kerala, 46.3 per cent in Maharashtra and 62.4 per cent in Tamil Nadu.”

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