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Report No. 165

Chapter IV

Attempts Made for Imparting Primary Education to Children in South Asia

4.1. South Asia has emerged by now as the most illiterate region in the world, with 395 million illiterate adults (nearly one-half of the world total) and 50 million out of school children (over two-fifths of the world total). Human Development in South Asia 19981, is documented by the Human Development Centre and it reveals that what is missing is not financial resources, but political commitment, for tackling the educational tasks that lie ahead. The said report observes that income poverty is no barrier to the spread of basic education.

Thus it points out that Kerala with a per capita income of $ 1017, has a literacy rate of 90%, compared to 58% in Punjab which has more than double the per capita income of Kerala. International comparisons also corroborate the same. For example, Vietnam, with a per capita income of $ 1208 (in 1994 PPP dollars) has attained an adult literacy rate of 94%, while India (real per capita income of $ 1348) has 52% literacy; Pakistan (per capita income of $ 2154) is even further behind with 38% literacy. Thus while income is important, it is not decisive2.

1. Mahbub Haq and Khadija Haq Human Development in South Asia, 1998, Human Development Centre, p. 2.

2. Id., p. 3.

4.2. Key Education challenges examined:-The HDC report1, loudly projects three key challenges which require devising concrete strategies to address the three key shortcomings in South Asia's education system. First, the lack of access to schooling for large number of children, second the low level of primary school, completion due to drop out and repetition; and the third the low learning achievement of many students who enrol and complete school. Amongst other nations, countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Srilanka and Maldives are afflicted because of these key problems.

1. Ibid., Chapter 5.

4.3. Based on the studies undertaken in South Asian countries, the said report concludes1:-

(a) The quickest way to expand capacity is to upgrade existing school facilities, viz., provision of schools at the nearer distance, electricity in the schools, latrines, potable water, playgrounds and construction of buildings.

(b) Setting up a formal school costs 80 times more than a non-formal school in Pakistan.

(c) Flexible timings has been a key strategy for improving schooling of girls and rural children.

The report also observes that one of the mechanisms for increasing the demand for education is to ensure active community and parent participation. When parents are active in the educational process, their children are more likely to attend school.

(d) The production and distribution of text books are best handled by the private sector.

(e) Local monitoring is the most effective strategy for ensuring that schools remain open.

(f) Achieving universal primary completion is as important as universal primary enrolment.

(g) Decentralisation is the key to improving education administration in South Asia.

(h) Decisions regarding primary schooling must be taken on educational grounds rather than on political grounds.

(i) Better education data are required for efficient educational planning in South Asia.

1. Id., pp. 71-75.



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