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NITI Aayog Report: Over 50% Primary Schools in Several States Have Enrollments Below 60%

The NITI Aayog’s Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital – Education (Project SATH-E) initiative, launched in 2017, aims to make a broad transformation with a focus on improving education quality. Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha were chosen for the project out of the 16 states that expressed interest in NITI Aayog’s proposal.

The recent NITI Aayog report titled ‘Learnings for Large-scale Transformation in School Education’ mentions the various structural, academic, and governance reforms implemented as part of the project. The report also emphasized the importance of school consolidation, teacher rationalization, and various professional reforms to improve educational quality.

“The Project enables a system-wide governance transformation in school education. The objective is to ensure that quality is not diluted even when we operate on a larger scale,” the report quoted B V R Subrahmanyam, CEO, NITI Aayog.

The report examines Project SATH-E implementation in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha across nine intervention categories: school consolidation, remedial learning interventions, assessments, teacher recruitment and rationalisation, teacher capacity building, management information systems and academic monitoring systems, governance and accountability, organizational strengthening, and leader schools.

The NITI Aayog report identified six issues that must be addressed in order to implement a large-scale transformation in education. This includes the following:

  • Addressing the issue of sub-scale, inadequately resourced schools head-on with strong political support
  • Solving large-scale teacher vacancies issues
  • Improving teacher quality and pedagogy
  • Enforcing accountability towards learning outcomes
  • Focus on Early Childhood Education (ECE) and contextualised Mother tongue-based Multilingual Education (MLE)
  • Strengthening the governance structures in education departments

According to the report, India has five times the number of schools as China for the same number of students enrolled. It was also mentioned that more than 50% of primary schools in many states in our country have fewer than 60 students enrolled. The NITI Aayog proposes school consolidation as a cost-cutting measure for such small-scale schools.

The project included school merging, and the report presented positive results from the action plan. According to the report, third-party studies in SATH-E have also shown that when mergers are carried out rigorously, the benefits are overwhelmingly positive and can lead to improved learning outcomes.

Using Madhya Pradesh as an example, the report stated that 35,000 schools were merged into 16,000 same-campus schools with the goal of improving educational quality. The merged large schools had adequate teachers and resources, and 55% of the schools now had a principal, up from 20% before the merger. Similarly, 4380 schools in Jharkhand and 2000 small-scale and same-campus schools in Odisha were merged.

To address the issue of unequal distribution and teacher shortages in the education sector, the report recommended teacher rationalization and the implementation of structured policies.

In line with the National Education Policy 2020, NITI Aayog emphasized the importance of prioritizing Early Childhood Education (ECE) to improve students’ school readiness.

The policy think tank has asked states to reconsider delegating authority to principals, district, and block officers. According to the report, this step will give them more financial power and autonomy to make decisions based on local needs.

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