Quality Not Quantity

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					Special Report

                                                                                           are they learning? more children have
                                                                                       started attending schools recently, but are they
                                                                                       getting the kind of education that would ensure
                                                                                                       them decent jobs in the future?

 Quality Not Quantity
The student enrolment rates in primary and secondary levels have
increased significantly. But does going to school guarantee
that students are benefiting from it?
rupaK d sharma in poKhara                   its language of instruction from Ne-       read alphabets and 53.7 per cent failed
                                            pali to English to compete with private    to identify numbers. While 47 per cent

                                            schools in the locality, which were at-    of children in Grade 5 could not even
             t the library of Sishu         tracting more students due to their        read a Grade 2 text fluently.
             Shishu Kalyan Primary          English medium courses.                      Another study conducted in Paki-
             School in Bharatpokhari,          The initiative taken by this school—    stan showed that a bare majority of
             around 10km from scenic        where most of the government-run           Grade 3 students had mastered the
             western city of Pokhara in     institutions fail to adapt to change       Grade 1 mathematics curriculum and
             Nepal, a drawing hanging       as long as they get state subsidy—is       only 31 per cent could correctly form
             on the wall shows a ciga-      praiseworthy. But what kind of prod-       a sentence with the word ‘school’
rette and a cross on top of it. The title   ucts will it generate is a big question.   in the vernacular Urdu. While in
of the sketch warns: “Don’t Smoking”.          This kind of quality-related problem    Laos, only 1 per cent of the children
   This gives a hint of the quality of      in education sector is not only preva-     completing Grade 5 were found to
English that the primary school is of-      lent in Nepal. In India, a survey con-     have reached a level of competency
fering. Ironically, the state-owned         ducted in 28 states found that 38.2 per    in mathematics that would allow
Shishu Kalyan has recently changed          cent of the Grade 1 students could not     them to continue their studies fur-

asianews • June 27-July 3, 2008                                                                                                       15
Special Report
ther. The corresponding figure for
language was 17 per cent.
   These instances sum up the qual-
                                            East Asia seem to be having relatively
                                            more number of qualified teachers,
                                            the situation is particularly startling      Still
                                                                                         A Boys’
ity of education provided by public         in South Asia. In Nepal, only 31 per
schools in Asia, where enrollment           cent of the teachers have received
rates in primary and secondary levels       professional training. In Bangladesh,

have increased significantly in the last    the number is 48 per cent, while in
two decades but very few are getting        Afghanistan only 36 per cent of the
the kind of education that would make       teachers are trained.
them competitive and ensure them de-           “Even in countries where more
cent jobs in the future.                    than 70 per cent of teachers have
   This low quality of education is         received professional training, one          rupaK d sharma in poKhara
feared to take a toll on the children of    finds wide variation across different        ASIA NEWS NETWORK

poor families.                              regions,” says professor Rangachar
   As is known, most of the students        Govinda of National University of                     hirty-something Raj Kumar
attending public schools belong to          Education Planning and Admin-                         Thapa likes to call himself an
economically disadvantaged fami-            istration of New Delhi.                               open-minded father. Although
lies. These families do not even earn          For instance, the northeastern states              the fruit seller cannot give a
US$1 a day and thus cannot afford           in India have a very low propor-                      clear definition of an ‘open
expensive private school education.         tion of trained teachers compared            minded’ person, he deems it has to be
Low quality education in this seg-          with other regions. While in other           someone like him. “Someone who does
ment means imparting knowledge              countries, schools located in dif-           not discriminate between a boy and a
and skills that will not get recognition    ficult terrain and schools attended          girl child,” he says.
in the market. In today’s knowledge-        by linguistic minority groups suffer            In a conservative male-dominated
based society, where people can also        from lack of trained teachers.               society like Nepal, where daughters
generate self-employment through               But in some cases it is also apathy of    are still considered an economic liabil-
the education, low quality education        teachers. In countries like Nepal, public    ity and thus denied equal opportunity,
will ultimately force them and their        school teachers usually draw more salary     Thapa’s definition of ‘open mindedness’
families to stay in the bottom rungs of     than private school teachers and are at      holds some meaning. But what contra-
the economic ladder.                        times better trained than private school     dicts his assertion is his choice.
   Another important feature of the         teachers. However, their performance            Thapa, a resident of a small village
students belonging to economically          seems to be lagging behind mainly due        in Hemja, around 10km from Pokhara
disadvantaged families is that they are     to their focus on their private businesses   in Nepal, is a father of three children.
first generation learners whose par-        rather than on school work.                  From a daily income of 150 rupees to
ents have never attended school and            This is where organisations like          200 rupees (US$2.17 to $2.90), he is
do not know the true value of educa-        Ungei have to intervene, says Ra-            managing to send all of his three chil-
tion. If these first generation learners    jan Sharma, advisor of Education             dren, an eight-year-old son and two
do not see tangible benefits of formal      Journalists Group, Nepal.                    daughters aged 12 and 15, to school.
education, they, like their parents, will      Ungei—which has now taken the             The only difference is: while his son at-
not consider going to school a worth-       initiative of providing quality edu-         tends a private school his two daugh-
while mission. This may increase their      cation to all the children, including        ters go to a public school.
chances of dropping out of school,          those with disabilities and HIV/                A soft-spoken Thapa, however, does
Rakha Rashid, education specialist of       AIDS—comprises representatives of            not consider this discrimination. “It is
United Nations Children’s Education         major donor agencies, including the          a compulsion not a choice,” he says. “If
Fund (Unicef) tells AsiaNews on the         World Bank and DFID, Danida and              I had enough money I would have sent
sidelines of United Nations Girls Edu-      Norad, the international develop-            all three children to private school.”
cation Initiative (Ungei) Global Advi-      ment agencies of the UK, Denmark                In a country like Nepal, where
sory Committee meeting held recently        and Norway, respectively.                    public schools usually generate
in Kathmandu, Nepal.                           “Ungei should urge these donor            unsaleable and inferior products,
   So who should be blamed for this         agencies to create pressure on gov-          parents send their children to pri-
situation?                                  ernments to put education on top             vate school believing education in
   As many reports have said, one           of the agenda and introduce pro-             a private institution will enhance
of the important factors affecting          grammes to enhance the quality of            their competency level in the job
student achievement is teachers. A          teachers,” says Sharma.                      market. They also believe private
study conducted among 400,000                  Adds Els Heijen-Maathuis, regional        school education will teach them
students in 3,000 schools worldwide         representative of Save the Children-         how to think critically and turn them
concluded that “while school quality is     Sweden for South and Central Asia:           into smarter kids than their peers
an important determinant of student         “Delay in providing proper educa-            attending public schools.
achievement, the most important             tion to teachers may prove to be det-           But the beneficiaries of this quality
predictor is teacher quality”.              rimental to the achievements made in         education, especially in lower-middle
   This is where Asia seems to be lag-      increasing the enrollment rates of stu-      class families, usually become boys, as
ging behind. Although Southeast and         dents in schools.”                           the parents believe it is them who will

1                                                                                             June 27-July 3, 2008 • asianews
                                                                                                 ROMEO GAcAD/AFP
                                                             still left Behind: girls’ enrol-
                                                            ments have increased in schools
                                                                                         despite rising levels of education, are
                                                          but societies are far from achieving
                                                                         true gender equality.
                                                                                         ultimately limiting overall growth of
                                                                                         women and ruining their chances of
                                                                                         playing critical roles in the societies.
                                                                                            An example of education failing to
                                                                                         benefit women can be seen in Sri Lan-
                                                                                         ka’s non-agricultural labour market.
                                                                                         In spite of having higher education
                                                                                         level among women, female labour
                                                                                         participation in the country is much
                                                                                         lower than in Bangladesh and Nepal,
                                                                                         meaning most of the women are either
                                                                                         engaged in subsistence agricultural
                                                                                         activities or staying at home and tak-
                                                                                         ing care of children and participating
                                                                                         in unpaid labour.
                                                                                            Situation is pretty much the same
                                                                                         in India, which recorded lowest fe-
                                                                                         male labour participation despite reg-
                                                                                         istering high economic growth rates
                                                                                         in recent years. In fact, the whole
                                                                                         South Asia lags behind the world,
support the family once they grow old. have been made not only in Nepal where only 18 per cent of women are
“Whereas daughters are considered but throughout Asia. A few decades currently employed in non-agricul-
temporary family members, who will ago, girls constituted only one-third tural sector, compared with the world
stop contributing to the household of the total enrolment in Asia’s pri- average of 39 per cent.
economy once they get married and mary schools. Whereas today there                         “This unevenness highlights the
move to their husband’s home,” says are nearly equal number of boys complexity of efforts required for
Om Bahadur Kunwar, a teacher of Gau- and girls in schools. And in some implementing an agenda of gender
ri Shankar Higher Secondary School.          countries in Southeast Asia, such equality,” says Govinda.
   Because of this belief, parents do as Malaysia, the Philippines and                      To address this problem many gov-
not mind investing 10-20 times more Thailand, more girls have started ernments in Asia have introduced laws
on boys’ education. Girls, on the other attending school than boys.                      to ease the entry of women in the labour
hand, suffer silent exclusion like in the      But even as the presence of girls in the market and enhance their performance
case of Thapa’s youngest daughter, schools are increasing, gender dispari- in every sector. Some of the countries
Ritu, who, despite performing well, ties still persist in subtle and insidious like Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, In-
was transferred from private to public ways like in the small village in Nepal.          dia, Sri Lanka and Maldives have also
school while in Grade 3.                       “These unchallenged gender biases established special organisations to
   This tendency of sending boys to and stereotypes are seriously con- streamline gender-related concerns.
private schools is increasing the popu- straining efforts to achieve true gender            “These policy measures and mech-
lation of girls in public schools.           equalities,” says professor Rangachar anisms have undoubtedly brought
   In a village where population of girls Govinda of the National University of gender concerns to the centre stage
and boys is almost equal, statistics of Education Planning and Administra- of policymaking, says Govinda. “But
the state-owned Gauri Shankar School tion of New Delhi. These practices, actual progress at the ground level
show presence of only 134                                                                            has been very slow.”
boys as against 219 girls.                                                                              He adds: “Effective ac-
   “We do not know how to                             Net Enrollment in Primary Education            tion in this regard requires
address this problem but                                     School Year Ending in                   strong commitment on the
we fear this tendency may                                1999                     2005               part of the top leadership
develop inferiority complex                    Total (000)   % Female Total (000)      % Female      to push ahead necessary
in girls,” says Kunwar.          Brunei        46               47            46              48     reforms and legislations
   After the launch of           Burma         4733             49          4948              50     reforms with a gender per-
the Unesco-led Educa-            Cambodia      2127             46          2695              47     spective. Equally important
                                 China         -                 -        108925              47
tion For All campaign                                                                                is the role of the civil society
                                 Indonesia     -                 -        291150              48
in 1990, various govern-         Laos          828              45           891              46     in facilitating transforma-
ments, NGOs and do-              Malaysia      3040             48          3159              49     tion of social attitudes and
nor agencies have been           Philippines   12503            49         13084              49     perspectives among the peo-
working relentlessly to          Thailand      6120             48          5844              48     ple at large.”
improve girls’ access to         Viet Nam      10250            47          7773              47        Failure in this regard
formal education. And            Bangladesh    17622            49         17953              50     could spawn more people
                                 India         110986           43        146375              47
in the last 18 years, sig-       Nepal         3588             42          4503              47     like Thapa who hold biased
nificant achievements                                                                                attitude towards women.
                                Source: Education For All Global Monitoring Report 2008

asianews • June 27-July 3, 2008                                                                                                   17