Reality Check India

Primary education – fact check

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 10, 2006

A school for our children 

Does the government really care ? Why cant we have the same zeal, the same “oversight” committees, the same timeframes, the same unlimited budgets – working for primary education.


Pic courtesy: Christian Science Monitor

Going by what happened in the past, it seems unlikely that any government will agree to study how the OBC quota is working and who the actual beneficiaries are. Even way back in 1990, no government except Gujarat was willing to provide the Mandal commission with data about representation of various communities in government employment. By delinking OBCs from a requirement to meet any objective backwardness markers, the government is basically going to have a “politically-powerful average-students quota”. Further, if the creamy layer is not excluded we are certain to have a “politically-powerful-rich-yet-average-students-quota”.

Still, I wonder if anything good can come out of this ?

I am working my way through available facts about the dismal state of primary education in India. I am convinced the only long-term way to deprive these politicians of their “mass support” is by tying together a primary education expenditure that is 8x or 10x times the obscene 12-16000 crores that is about to be spent on one of Indias least important issues (that is tertiary education in management,science and technology). The hope is the next 10-15 years, we will have all kids in unknown villages tune into TV channels or read blogs or have access to the internet. When that stage is reached, we may not have top politicians openly flaunt their uneducated mass support. 

Some facts I have collected so far.

  • Dismal outlay. Indias entire primary education budget for FY 2006 was only $1.9 billion (Rs 7.200 crores)
  • Compare this to the United States, whose *special education* budget is $8.5 billion (for trouble kids) .
  • Compare this to the $2.3 billion aid to the Tsunami victims (I understand it is a natural calamity, I am just quoting the numbers for a perspective)
  • Over 97% of the primary education budget (of the already meagre 7200 cr) goes towards salary of teachers and other staff.
  • This means that only Rs 300 CR is available for school infrastructure, classroom expenses, new schools, textbooks, and the whole gamut. To put it further in perspective, Rs300 cr translates to $67 million dollars!! The entire “non-salary” budget for primary education for the entire country is $67 million dollars ! Could this be true ?
  • The countrywide elementary school dropout rate for girls is 41%. In other words, 4 out of 10 girls in this country do not go beyond 5th standard and 6 out of 10 girls dont finish 8th standard. In some states 9 out of 10 dont complete their schooling (high school)
  • Indias primary education is not just pathetic compared to the west. India compares poorly to not just industrialised nations but also several much-poorer economies, such as Vietnam (90% literacy), Zambia (80%), Tanzania (77%), and Cambodia (70%).  
  • Teacher truancy is the highest in India schools. It is quite rare that a teacher actually shows up for class. The worst offender is Jharkhand (41.9%), followed by Bihar (37.8%) and Punjab (34.4%). This means that in Jharkand if you want into a school randomly 41% of the teachers will be absent. Remember while reading these stats, many village schools are one or two teacher (with an anganwadi worker). In those cases, 41% of the time the school is on holiday because the teacher is absent. Yes, we are talking padlocked. The all India figure is 25%. The south does not fare well on this count. Interestingly, only Uganda has a higher teacher truancy rate than India. Link:
  • Politics have plagued teachers too. Since they man polling booths, enumerate census, monitor public distribution schemes, no political party will antagonize them.  Most have other businesses take care of.
  • Can we blame the poor teachers alone ? No! The reasons they dont show up. “The most common complaint is that schools are under-equipped, underfunded, understaffed, and overcrowded,”  Would you like to teach in a cow-shed without any teaching materials, fan or light or toilet ?
  • Half of all schools have a leaking roof (try opening your textbooks). 89% have no functioning toilet (even if there is one functioning toilet it is reserved for the teachers, so the students just use the shrubs), half have no water supply. Everyone must bring their own water bottles to school.
  • Note we are not even talking about things like internet, phone lines, computer rooms, fans and lights, libraries, counsellors.

So friends, here we are now, India home to 34% of the worlds illiterate population, where schools are nothing more than cattle sheds, where 60 years after independence 4 out of 10 girls do not study beyond 5th standard, is working on a war footing. Powerful OBC committees are working behind closed doors on magic formulas for management education. Oversight committees are burning the midnight oil trying to manufacture statistics without simply agreeing to a honest study.  

We are at war baby ! Forces are standing by for an amphibious assault on very root of our problems – MBA and BTECH education. Funds cannot be a constraint, we are going to spend 12-16,000 crores on MBA institutes, tech institutes that enable people to move overseas, and critical post-grad medical studies. 

For every rupee spent on this quota, ten rupees must be spent on primary education. If this is not done, this government would have perpetrated one of the most cruel jokes on the really backward and needy masses of this country.


12 Responses

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  1. barbarindian said, on July 10, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    Most of these stats perhaps exclude the private and minority run schools.

    While primary education definitely needs some attention, spending Rs. 120K crores (according to the 10 times formula) is not very practical. Our GDP is $800b, how will the Govt. find about $26b?

    A good start would be to use the entire Rs. 12k crores earmarked for OBC quota on primary education and vocational education for rural youth.

  2. realitycheck said, on July 10, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    >>Most of these stats perhaps exclude the private and minority run schools.>>

    Yes, you are partly right. I think the dropout rate is an important stat that is independent of private and minority schools.

    If there is one area where the government *must* be involved, it is in primary and elementary education. This is in the long term interest of the country. Private and minority schools sometimes have agenda that are not honorable. In any case, most people below the poverty line cannot afford these schools.

    I guess both 10x and 8x are negotiable 🙂 I doubt that with the way divestment is going the government has money for even the OBC quota.

    My main point was we could probably get some polticians or media to link the two together. The OBC leaders might be favorable to this kind of arrangement, because they get what they want. Dont they call this type of bill an omnibus or something in the US ?

    If we *must* have this OBC quota, then atleast lets ensure something good comes out of this. I realize much of it is wishful thinking because it is in these poor children who can barely read, these politicians see their future.

  3. Bruno said, on July 10, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    With such a kind of schools in rural india, we have people who say that the kid studying there should be treated equally with those studying with “things like internet, phone lines, computer rooms, fans and lights, libraries, counsellors.”

    And if they are not treated equal, “merit” is lost ???


  4. Bruno said, on July 10, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    There are few questions

    1. The budget is Central Government Budget.

    But 99 % of primary schools are run by State Govt

    When will this site give useful statistics

  5. Bruno said, on July 10, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    Question to reality check

    1. What is the literacy rate in Tamil Naduy, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh

    2. What is the Reservation in Tamil Naduy, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh

    3. What is the literacy rate in Bihar, Assam

    4. What is the Reservation in Bihar, Assam

    Can you give some statistics for this

    After all you seems to be fond of statistics

  6. GS said, on July 10, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    >>With such a kind of schools in rural india, we have people who say that the kid studying there should be treated equally with those studying with “things like internet, phone lines, computer rooms, fans and lights, libraries, counsellors.”

    >>And if they are not treated equal, “merit” is lost ???

    A couple of questions to you.

    1) What about the upper caste students studying in such schools-You still consider them privileged??

    2) How many of these students actually benefit from reservations? Why does not TamilNadu impose creamy layer criteria for BC/MBC/SC/ST quota?

  7. barbarindian said, on July 10, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    Statewise literacy rates

    Dr. Bruno,

    Do you really believe that sending some rich OBC kids to IIT Chennai will increase TN literacy rate?

    Case in point, WB has the lowest reservation in the country (16% for SC/ST and none for OBC so far – which will be soon “fixed” I believe) yet the literacy rate is about 77% vs. 82% in TN. Interestingly the gap between male/female rates is the same (about 17%) for both TN and WB. Looks like by your logic we should have some extra reservation for females in TN.

  8. barbarindian said, on July 10, 2006 at 8:23 pm

    Also Dr. Bruno, please do not drag the entire South India into a whole big Dravidian bin for your argument. There are some serious issues there. For instance a lot of Indian Christians believe that the reason for excellent social development figures in Kerala is derived from divine powers. Chandrababu Naidu believes that the reason for Andhra excellence is due to his Janmabhoomi scheme etc.

  9. barbarindian said, on July 10, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    By the way Dr. Bruno, did you read this?

    SC raps Centre for holding back doctors’ salary

    I agree with you on a fundamental basis that strikes should not be tolerated and to demand pay for work not delivered is absurd. But the issue here is an assurance given by the Government in return for calling off the strike. By the way, do you support the DMK backed support against disinvestments?


    You might find this funny because it is so absurd:

    Looks like this hasty implementation does not have some basic common sense applied to it!

  10. realitycheck said, on July 11, 2006 at 2:59 am

    >>With such a kind of schools in rural india, we have people who say that the kid studying there should be treated equally with those studying with “things like internet, phone lines, computer rooms, fans and lights, libraries, counsellors.”

    And if they are not treated equal, “merit” is lost ???


    Exactly! You cant have these kids fight with so called OBCs who have access to all these facilities. What we need to do is re-evaluate each OBC component caste against backwardness markers ?

    Reservation in higher education has very little to do with literacy rate. Even industrialization has little to do with the quota policy.

    Reservation only has to do with social justice. If you want to measure if reservations are working, you have to find out how the beneficiaries is doing. Which segments are left behind ? How many are second, third, or fourth generation beneficiaries ? Is it reaching the really needy ?

    Since you are a doctor, tell me. Can you use a thermometer to measure blood pressure ?

    Yes, states spend on education. I am collecting stats about that. Getting these stats are difficult because most of them club “education” in one group without separating primary,elementary, and higher education.

    Some stats such as school drop out rate do not depend on who is spending.

    The report about teacher truancy covered both state and central schools.

  11. Bruno said, on July 26, 2006 at 2:14 am

    //Looks like by your logic we should have some extra reservation for females in TN.//

    WE do HAVE 30% reservation for Women in Tamil Nadu in jobs.

    Don’t you know this

    This again proves my point that you post your own whims and fancies and misguide public by hiding the truth.

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