Over 65% of students in urban areas finishing school: Survey
MUMBAI: More Indians are finishing school than ever before, indicating that policies and steps taken to promote the spread of education in the country like the Right to Education Act have borne fruit.
The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) report for 2017-18 released by the Centre shows 43.4% rural women between 15 and 29 years and 52.6% of rural men have passed secondary school. This is a huge leap from 2004-05, when only 18.5% of rural women and 28.3% of rural men in the same age group had cleared secondary school, as per National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data.
“Data from PLFS reflects the positive effects of Right to Education (RTE) Act and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA). Today, children are not only finishing primary school but are more likely to complete secondary school and beyond. PLFS data shows significant improvements in rural India,” said Prof S Chandrasekhar from Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research. The RTE Act passed in 2009 stresses on free and compulsory primary education while RMSA, launched the same year, focuses on middle school.
Illiteracy levels have also slumped in the rural areas. Around 13.4% women are illiterate now, compared to 37.7% in 2004-05. Among men, the illiteracy rate fell from 17.4% in 2004-05 to 5.9% in 2017-18.
The success story continues in urban India too. The number of boys and girls with at least secondary education have risen to a little over 65%, from 48.7% for men and 46.7% for men and 46.7% for women in 2004-05. “It is seen that in India, the literacy rate during 2017-18 was 76.9% which was nearly 10 percentage points higher than that observed during 2004-05,” reads the annual report.
Academicians now want the focus on quality of instruction and strengthening of senior schooling. “Sure, elementary education is a huge success and things have improved at the base level. But speak of skills and employability and that’s where our focus must now shift to secondary education,” said Mala Lalvani, director of the School of Economics and Public Policy at the Mumbai University.
Experts said the introduction of skill-based education at the secondary level must be India’s new focal point. “Literacy rate may not be a good indicator for where we want to get to. We need to change our goalpost,” said Lalvani.
Manisha Karne, a professor who works in education, said in case of urban students and rural boys, the improvement in secondary education was noteworthy. “There has to be focus on skill education at this stage so that employability improves.”