Punjab, the land of 5 rivers, scores fairly well in agriculture but not so well when it comes to education. With the partition of British India in 1947, a large part of Punjab went to Pakistan and in 1966 some parts of Punjab went to Himachal Pradesh & Haryana. Left now is some 50,400Km2 of area with a population of roughly 2.8 crore people. It is an agriculturally rich state and is also called the “Granary of India”. Punjab produces 2% of the world’s wheat & 1% of the world’s rice. The extensive canal system and numerous rivers such as Beas, Sutlej, Ravi & Ghaggar have made the land very fertile & apt for farming. Careful observation of the map of Punjab shows how well the major rivers criss-cross through the state of Punjab. The major rivers (Ravi, Beas & Satluj) have divided the state into three regions:-
Malwa Region: Comprising Firozepur, Fazilka(newly formed), Muktsar, Bathinda, Mansa, Faridkot, Moga, Barnala, Sangrur, Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala, SAS Nagar(Mohali) & Ludhiana districts
Majha Region: Comprising Amritsar, Gurdaspur , Pathankot(newly formed) & Tarn Taran districts
Doaba Region:- Comprising Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, SBS Nagar(Nawashahr)& Rupnagar districts. This region is also called the NRI hub of Punjab.
The overall literacy level in Punjab is approx 69.7% (census 2001) which is lower compared to the national average (75%). The sex ratio is much skewed in Punjab with 876 females per 1000 males. The literacy levels of females (63.4%) are also much lower to that of males (75.2%). This variation is visible across the districts as well, with some districts having high literacy levels while others portray a very dark reality. Hoshiarpur District tops the chart with 81% literacy rate whereas Mansa district is at the bottom with 52.4% literacy rate. There are 13,397primary schools in the state benefitting 1.3 million kids studying there. As per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey in 2006, 52% of the students in standard 3 could not read a standard 1 text which improved slightly to 46% in 2010. 1.7% of the total children in the age group 6-14 are out of school children.
Close to 82.1% of the children in the age group 3-4 attend an anganwadi or a balwadi center in the state. Across the state roughly 60% of the children (age group 6-14) study in a government school whereas 38% of the children study in private schools.
Our NGO Pratham Education Foundation, started working with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan(SSA) Punjab in 2008-09 with an aim to improve the basic reading & arithmetic skills of school going children under an ambitious program called “Parrho Punjab”. Key aspects of Pratham’s intervention with SSA Punjab are:-
- Reaching out to all the school children across the state
- Introducing innovative teaching methodologies such as Combined Activity Maximize Learning (CAMAL) methodology.
- Ensuring the accountability of teachers
- Introducing supplementary material to be used by teachers/volunteers in schools.
- Working with out-of-school children
The state of Punjab, comprising 22 districts is divided into 216 educational blocks. These educational blocks are further divided into 1498 clusters. Each cluster has on average 8-9 villages with each village having a school. This is how we arrive at the total primary schools in the state which is 13,397 schools. The education is entirely free for children from 6 to 14 years of age as per Right to Education (RTE) Act of 2009.
Students are also offered mid-day meal during the school hours. The school timings are from 8AM to 2PM and the lunch break happens at 11:30 AM for half an hour. The meal provides roughly 300 calories and 8-12 grams of proteins to the kid thus making him/her healthy enough to be able to concentrate in class and also to keep the child absentee rate low. On my visits to a couple of schools in Punjab, I found that the absentees are more in classes 1 & 2 and decrease afterwards. As per a Cluster Master Trainer (CMT) “Parents are not very serious about sending their kids (those in classes 1 & 2) regularly to school”. They take them out to functions or for any work when they go out of their village” The government appointed CMTs undertake community drives to make parents understand about these issues. Pratham has appointed volunteers in about 1850 schools in the state who assist the school teachers in the delivery of the subjects in a more effective manner. These schools are spread across 38 educational blocks present across all the districts of Punjab.
There have been concerted efforts by the government of Punjab to improve the learning levels as well as the enrolment ratio of children across the state. Direct government interventions & interventions through Public-Private mode such as the Parrho Punjab(Read Punjab) have greatly improved the overall education delivery mechanism in the state.
For 2011-2012, Parrho Punjab in association with Pratham Education Foundation
has gone a step ahead by working on higher level mathematics competencies with over 3100 schools in the state(across all the education blocks).
Long way to go.. PUNJAB!!!!