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Mohit Dhyani|Jun 29, 2022
NEW DELHI: In most states, children from historically-marginalised communities fall further and further behind their general-category peers as they progress through school, the National Achievement Survey (NAS) 2021 has revealed. The gap in performance in mathematics and language between children from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and the general category only widens in higher classes suggesting deep inequity in schooling.
For instance, Class 3 SC students performed better in language than general category students in nine states – Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil nadu. But by Class 8, the general category students are far ahead in every state.
This pattern holds true across most states and subjects that the NAS 2021 covered. Narrow gaps between the mean scores of SC, ST, OBC students and those of children from forward castes widened into yawning chasms in higher classes. In lower classes, the difference in performances was drastic in only a few states.
Dalit and tribal students scored less than general category students in both language and mathematics in Class 8 in all 30 states. In mathematics, SC students were ahead only in four states.
The difference in performance was especially stark in certain states. The mean scores in language of SC and ST students in Jharkhand was 60 marks below that of general category students. In Mizoram, SC students in Class 5 recorded a mean score that was 64 marks below the score of their general category counterparts.
Conducted by the survey division of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) on behalf of the education ministry, NAS 2021 assessed children’s learning competencies at Classes 3, 5, 8 and 10. The students were marked on a scale of 500.
For the analysis of the gaps – and where they are most pronounced – Careers360 studied the scores for all classes at which the NAS 2021 test was conducted – Classes 3, 5, 8 and 10. However, for the tables below, mean scores of different groups of students at Class 8 were considered.
Class 8 marks the end of elementary education which begins at Class 1. It is also the final year of “upper primary” starting from Class 6. In India, quality elementary education is guaranteed by law – the Right to Education Act 2009 – but it has seen patchy implementation and progressive weakening.
According to the NAS 2021 report, SC, ST and OBC students performed worse than general category students in the subject-wise tests.
In Jharkhand, which recorded the widest gap in language in Class 8, the mean score for general category students was 344 while ST and SC students scored 284 out of 500. The difference is 60 marks.
In Class 8, around 21 states recorded a difference of more than 20 marks in the mean score between tribal and general category students in language. Of these 21, the difference was over 40 marks in 11 states.
The pattern in Class 8 was already visible in Class 5 but to a lesser extent. Meghalaya and Kerala recorded the highest difference in mean scores – 44 and 43 marks respectively. Odisha recorded a difference of 38. In Class 5, a gap in scores of 20 marks or more was seen in 13 states – seven more than the six in Class 3. Mizoram performed the worst in Class 3 with a difference of 40 marks between the mean scores, followed by Punjab and Kerala, both at 31.
In mathematics for Class 8, ST students were behind the general category in all states with 11 states recording a difference of 20 marks or more. Jharkhand (40), Odisha (35), West Bengal (33) recorded the highest differences. Punjab, Mizoram and Chattisgarh also recorded a difference of more than 20 in the mean score.
In Class 3, there was a gap of 20 marks or more in five states – Mizoram, Punjab, Kerala, West Bengal and Meghalaya. This number grew to 10 states in Class 5 and 12 in Class 10 at which level, the gap was widest in Madhya Pradesh.
A similar pattern emerged in the comparison between SC students and general category students in Class 8 for language.
However, like tribal peoples, representation of Scheduled Castes in population is not uniform everywhere. In Mizoram, for example, SCs constitute less than 1% of the state population which is over 90% tribal – ST. This means that forward castes and other groups that form the “general category” are in a minority.
In language for Class 8, general category students scored more than SC students with a difference of more than 20 in 19 states. The differences in the mean scores were highest in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. As with ST students, SC students in Jharkhand scored 60 marks less than general category students. Chhattisgarh (45) and Odisha (43) also had high gaps between the mean scores.
In language for Class 3, five states recorded a difference of 20 or more in the mean scores of SC and general category students – Andhra Pradesh (31), Meghalaya (29), Manipur (26), Delhi and Jharkhand. In Class 5, the number of states rose to 11.
In mathematics for Class 8, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Mizoram and West Bengal recorded a difference of more than 20 between mean scores of general category and Dalit students.
In mathematics for Class 10, SC students scored less than general category students in all but two states. In 11 states, the difference was greater than 20. In Class 3, the gap was that wide in just one state and in Class 5, in seven.
In mathematics for Class 8, OBC students fared better than SC, ST students, in comparison with forward caste students. The gaps are narrower in the case of maths in general.
In 15 states, the difference in the mean score was more than 20 in the language test. In Jharkhand, OBC students scored 60 less marks than general category students.
In language for Class 5, the difference in mean score between general category students and OBC students was highest in Jharkhand (32) followed by Meghalaya (30).
Mizoram recorded the highest difference for OBC students – 64 marks – in the language test for Class 5. Meghalaya and Goa are the two other states with a difference of over 20.
The difference in mean score between OBC students and general category students crossed 20 in only three states. Mizoram, however, recorded a huge difference of more than 30 marks.
In Class 3, the difference in scores was more than 20 marks for OBC students only in Meghalaya.
The NAS 2021 data shows that SC, ST, OBC students performed at similar levels to general category students in Class 3. In fact, in some subjects and states, their mean scores were higher.
For instance, Class 3 SC students performed better in language than general category students in nine states – Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil nadu. But by Class 8, they fell far behind the forward castes in all states. In Kerala, Class 3 SC students’ mean score in language was one mark more than that of general category students. In Class 8, however, SC students scored 31 marks less. In maths, SC students were ahead in 10 states in Class 3 and only five in Class 5.
Similarly, tribal students performed better than general category students in Class 3 for language in seven states. In Class 8, they were far worse off in all states except Arunachal Pradesh where they scored higher. In maths, ST students were ahead in three states in Class 3 but behind in all in Class 8.
In Class 3 for language, OBC students performed better than general category students in eight states. In Class 8, they fared better only in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. Class 3 students from OBC communities were ahead in eight states also in maths; where they scored less, they were behind by narrow margins. However, by Class 8, OBC students performed better only in three states and where they were behind, the gaps had widened significantly.
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