Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Low Mean & High Variance: Quality of Primary Education in Rural West Bengal; A New Report by Jyotsna Jalan and Jharna Panda

We are pleased to announce that Jharna Panda, one of our UNITWIN-affiliated researchers in India, has been working on a project for which Professor Jyotsna Jalan is principal researcher,  calling attention to the state of primary education in rural India. We invite you to read on to explore the abstract of Jyotsna and Jharna's elucidating study and to take a look at the collection of related photographs. 

Low Mean & High Variance: Quality of Primary Education in Rural West Bengal
Jyotsna Jalan with Jharna Panda

This research report studies the "quality and reach of primary education" in rural India. The investigation is based on primary surveys conducted in six districts of West Bengal - Bankura, Birbhum, Coochbehar, Murshidabad, and the North and South 24 Parganas (and a pilot study in Dumka, Jharkhand). On the basis of students performance in achievement tests in numeracy and language (designed by the researchers), the report quantifies the average academic competence of Class IV students. In addition, student attendance rates are estimated by the head count of the students present on the day that achievement tests were administered in each of 240 schools in West Bengal (and 40 schools in Jharkhand). 
On the day of the release of "Low Mean and High Variance: Quality of Primary Education in Rural West Bengal". From left to right: Jharna Panda, Professor Jyotsna Jalan, and Professor Abhirup Sarkar
Student achievement test scores and student attendance rates and dropout rates are correlated to: students' household characteristics (social group, wealth, education, and parental interest), school features (infrastructure, teacher-student ratio, pedagogy, teacher training), community engagement and parental awareness, school administration, and policy interventions like midday meals and teacher training programs.
Distributing the midday meal.
Eating the midday meal; the report cites the link
between low school budgets and poor nutrition.
Learning levels and attendance rates in primary schools are quite low in the rural areas. In rural Bengal. however, there is considerable variation in academic outcomes at various levels - across districts, within districts across blocks, within blocks across schools, and within schools across students from different socioeconomic and religious backgrounds. Such variations allow researchers to draw policy conclusions regarding ways to improve the quality and reach of primary education. The data indicates that no single intervention will be adequate to ensure the delivery of high quality primary education in rural India. A comprehensive policy that engages all stakeholders in the primary education system needs to be formulated. There is need to encourage parents to actively participate in their children's learning process, there is need to provide incentives to teachers to improve pedagogy and classroom management skills, and there is need to ensure that local communities and administrators provide better monitoring and logistical support to the primary school system. 

Jharna Panda and colleague interviewing a parent. 
Professor Sugata Marjit, Jharna Panda, and Professor Jyotsna Jalan
discuss the report during the Q&A session.