New Delhi: While political parties and experts will weigh the outcome of the upcoming assembly elections in five states as a referendum on the Central government’s note-ban exercise, there is hardly any talk on the state of education in these states. The learning outcome, especially among school students, is often reflective of the future competitiveness of a state.

In the absence of enough comparable data on Goa, Mint looked at the learning outcome of four poll-bound states: the most populous and politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Manipur.

The charts also show whether the learning outcome has improved over the last five years under the incumbent governments in each of these states.

Growing faith in private school: State governments are largely responsible for improving the state of education in government-run schools. But over the last five years, government schools have seen migration of students to private schools. While the mood is indicative of the growing aspiration among people, it also indicates the poor quality of government schools.

In 2016, more than half (above 50%) of the elementary school students in Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Punjab were enrolled in private schools; in 2012, more than 50% elementary schoolchildren were enrolled in private schools only in Manipur, among the surveyed states.

Regional disparity: The quality of education in a majority of Indian schools is disappointing. Several reports over the years have suggested that the national picture is not rosy, but what’s more worrisome is the regional disparity and the growing chasm in the learning outcome.

For example, in 2016, while almost 71% of Class 5 students in Manipur could read a book meant for students three grades below, the number is 43% in Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, in Class 3, only 22.5% students in Uttar Pradesh can read a Class 2 level text. It means, almost four out of every five Class 3 students have a grade level learning deficit. And this learning deficit in states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab continues to accumulate.

Low-reading ability: Over the last five years, there is fall in reading ability among school students in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. While Punjab remains almost at the same level for the last five years, Manipur has registered an improvement in its students’ reading ability. In Uttar Pradesh, 32% of all Class 8 students could not read Class 2 level texts in 2016. In 2012, it was 30% who could not do the same.

Poor arithmetic skill: Arithmetic skill among students too has slipped in two states over the past five years. While the ability to do division among all Class 8 students in Uttarakhand has slipped by almost 11 percentage points, in Punjab it has slipped nearly six percentage points.

Though Uttar Pradesh students of the same grade registered almost a percentage point growth in 2016 over 2012, the 2016 performance is, in fact, seven percentage points less than in 2014.

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