How Efficient is Indian Education?

The Right to Education Act is the foundation for bringing changes in the educational systems in India.  Consequent on the plan of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the task of achieving universal primary education was violently followed and a noteworthy effect in the staff strength has been observed.  Though the enrolment is appreciable for the past years, the assessment of the educational levels is not encouraging. It is virtually the same ‘Volume versus quality’ trade-off has played its role in this text also, like any other.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) conveys this liner approach has not gained the desired benefits.  The education levels of the students are causing a much concern and the results of the survey also confirms the same.  Now it is pertinent for the State administrations to improve infrastructure and resources should be equal to the education level of students.  At this juncture, the necessity arises for amount of efficiency to judge education systems in their skill to convert educational inputs to outputs.  This will enable us to get feedback on their education process in states and bestowing the skill merely on their inputs, or outputs.  

The main object is to initiate a system to measure the efficiency of the education delivery process and provide insights on what states can learn from peer-to-peer exchanges.  The conventional notion of efficiency defined as the ratio of output to input would not work, due to existence of multiple in/outputs.  The field of Operations Research provides an approach in the form of Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA), used in numerous investigations and researches across countries and sectors for analysis of efficiency.  DEA compares each entity with its peers in the set and gives relative efficiency to it.  For states marked efficient, it means that there is no other state performing than the given one but can’t be construed that there is no room for improvement among inefficient states.  

DEA in assessing efficiency finds related inputs and outputs for the educational process, as the first stage. The reading levels in local language, basic arithmetic ability and learning levels in English, are the outputs reported by ASER in the learning outcomes.  The inputs are the incomes and infra structure provided by the state authorities to facilitate education.  Certain minimum requirements have been conveyed by the RTE and the percentage of school adhering to those norms serve as input values in this method.

The seven factors, as mandated by RTE, considered in this analysis are: pupil-teacher ratio, classroom-teacher ratio, availability of drinking water, usable toilets, buildings and playgrounds, library with books and mid-day meals service.  The socioeconomic background of students and local village infra structure are the two additional inputs used.  These account for the specific conditions within a state and the data is from ASER reports.  The findings here are from the research conducted by IIT team, Delhi and a detailed research paper is also under consideration for publication.  The insights about the standing of various states with respect to each other emerge from the analysis.  

Since DEA compares each state to all others while computing efficiency, some states act as the superior efficient nobles, whose better efficiency results in inefficiency of others.  Himachal Pradesh and Manipur are two states that have consistently been the efficient among the most number of inefficient states.  For each of the inefficient states, it is also possible to highlight the output attribute that needs particular attention, improvement which may ultimately pave way for rise in maximum efficiency.  

Hence, in order to not trade off quality against volume, as recently emphasised by the Prime Minister, a careful inclusion of inputs as well as outputs is desirable in valuation of the status quo and data- driven insights need to be sketched to identify the right focus areas for improvement.  DEA fulfils all such requirements and can aid in the policy making process in other sectors too.  A sound elementary education system is essential for our country to tap the potential of its vast human resource, and the status of data driven policy in this situation can never be over stressed.

Source: Livemint