Delivering the Papiya Ghosh memorial lecture in the capital on Wednesday, Rukmini Banerji, director of Pratham’s ASER project, said the last 10 years in Bihar have been “the most pro-education period” in the state. ASER is short for Annual Status of Education Report.
Backing her remark, Banerji said the state had the worst figures for children out of school once but, in the last 10 years, there had been a dramatic change in that number. “Owing to the residential programmes and bridge classes often in the school compounds have helped in mainstreaming such children,” she said.
Banerji and her team have been working on a large-scale citizens’ initiative to universalise elementary education in India. At present, Pratham works in 20 states and has a presence in 250 districts.
RelatedShe credits several factors within the state for Bihar’s improving statistics as far as education is concerned. “The expenditure on education has increased. There are more schools and teachers in Bihar now than there were in 2004,” she said.
Other factors, according to her, include incentives from the government including free bicycles to girls who pass Class VIII under the Akshar Anchal scheme and 50 per cent reservation for women in panchahyats.
Even with these initiatives, the state had approximately 25 lakh students out of school in 2006-07. Banerji said a broad range of activities helped in bringing these children to school. “Mahadalits, Musahars and Muslims were the most backward group and their acute backwardness was dealt with first,” she said.
She said results come from targeting problems at the sub-village and tola level. In 2006, 17.6 per cent girls were out of school in Bihar and, by 2013, it had come down to 4.6 per cent. The same figure for UP stands at 11.1 per cent (2006) and 9.4 per cent (2013).
Banerji added, “It is unclear whether this period is a flash in the pan or it charts a path for the future.” Even with these indicators “things are far below what they need to be”, she said.
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