Education sector highly affected
India dropped by two points to reach the rank of 131 out of 189 nations on Human Development Index (HDI) in 2020. India has been in the medium category. India’s UNDP Representative Shoko Noda said at a press conference that the drop of India’s ranking did not mean that India did not do well but other countries did better. Actually, the HDI is different from an alternative and well-known conventional assessment of development. The other method is based on measures of per capita income and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Why does HDI deserve our interest? The HDI aims to go beyond income to provide a broader look at a country’s well-being. But many economists prefer to include other variables like different types of inequalities, environmental status, capabilities of people, freedom, political development in measuring HDI.
Indicators of HDI
The HDI is measured following three indicators. In this article some aspects of education in HDI are to be discussed. In HDI, education is considered on expected years of schooling for school aged children and also average years of schooling in the adult population (aged 25 and above). The HDI report shows that between 1990 and 2019, India’s HDI increased from 0.429 to 0.645 - an increase of 50.3%. According to the latest report of HDI, the expected number of years of schooling in India has been 12.2 years.
The present HDI report that was published December 15, 2020, is based on last year’s data when the Covid 19 pandemic was not in prevalence. But almost all experts think that HDI in 2021 will pull down the ranking of most of the countries due to the impact of Covid-19. In 2020, economies have slowed down, many economies have experienced negative GDP, high unemployment, schools have been mostly shut and there has been an increased number of deaths. All these factors are going to impact the HDI rankings. The most important and permanent damage has been in the education sector, mainly, the school education sector.
Rising drop-outs and inequality in school education
It is reported that about 320 million learners in India have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and have transitioned to e-learning. With huge regional and household disparities in access to the internet, this transition has not only been possible for all students but also for teachers. The rapid shift to e-learning promoted by the pandemic has resurfaced the issue of inequality.
A report of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), published in the end of October, pointed out that only one third of school students in India have been accessing online education. Only a small portion of that (around 32.5%), is doing online classes. Only 11% of all students - both in private and government schools – have enrolled in online classes. The other 21.5% are using videos or recorded classes. In Indian government schools, only about 8.1% of students were attending online classes. According to the report, “Among enrolled children, more than 60% live in families with at least one smartphone. This proportion has increased enormously in the last two years - from 36.5% to 61.8% - among enrolled children. The percentage point increase is similar in households of children enrolled in government and private schools.”
States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Tripura that have reported that more than 30% of children whose families own at least one smartphone. But states like Odisha and Assam are lagging behind in internet penetration and usage of smart phones. In those states, students cannot depend on online classes.
Online education cannot increase the literacy or quality education in India. Those who are getting the opportunity to attend classes through digital platforms are not enjoying the learning process. It is reported that both teachers and students are critical about the digital education system. Teachers are vocal about lower attendance in classes, callousness about home work and other negative attitudes of the students.
Additionally, there are a number of students who are not attending classes. That loss cannot be made up in future. But at the same time, those who are lucky enough to attend digital classes are not being properly trained. Such skewed internet-based educational penetration will surely reflect in the HDI rankings in the coming years.