Dr. Avnish Jolly May 30 :According to the survey conducted by Unesco’s Institute for Statistics (UIS), only about half of the rural schools in India have enough toilets for girls and less than four per cent have a telephone connection.
A comprehensive policy was needed to narrow the infrastructural chasm between the rural and urban schools to improve the learning environment of pupils and the working conditions of teachers and principals, a UN study said.
The new study entitled ‘A View Inside Primary Schools’ also highlights the strong effect of social inequality on primary education systems in many countries.The report presents the results of a survey undertaken in 11 countries in Latin America, Asia and North Africa.
Fourth grade teachers and principals from more than 7,600 schools responded to detailed questionnaires on how schools function, how teachers teach, learning conditions and the support available to teachers and principals.
“This survey offers a wealth of data. On the one hand, we see the extent to which schools lack the most basic elements—running water or electricity—that are taken for granted in the developed countries,” UIS Director Hendrik van der Pol said.
He said that the data also reveals how social inequality affects a child’s opportunity to learn, and clearly, no country—rich or poor—was immune to these disparities.Revealing data related to school infrastructure, the report said that no country had a library in every school.
It further said that in India, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Sri Lanka andTunisia, less than half the pupils were in schools with a telephone.
“In Peru, less than half of village schools are equipped with electricity, a library or toilets for boys or girls. Yet, in urban areas, nearly all schools have electricity, 65 per cent have enough lavatories and 74 per cent have libraries,” the report revealed.
The survey result said that in general, village schools are in greater need of repair. In Peru and the Philippines, for example, principals in rural areas report that about 70 per cent of their pupils are in schools that needed major repairs or complete re-building.
In Brazil, half the pupils in villages sat in run-down classrooms compared to less than 30 per cent of pupils in urban establishments.
According to the study, teachers and principals in schools serving socially-disadvantaged children tend to report lower levels of pupil motivation and more behavioural problems, which was most striking in Latin American countries.
The survey data indicated that working conditions were perceived to be more difficult in schools serving a majority of disadvantaged students. In these schools, teachers were generally dissatisfied with salary, parental support, class size and access to classroom materials. In most countries, teachers with motivated and privileged students tend to use more challenging materials and activities, the report said, adding that they also engage in more creative teaching methods.
There is an urgent need to direct more resources towards schools serving under-privileged communities. However, building repairs and school libraries will not ensure that all children have the opportunity to fulfill their academic potential, the report added.
The study further revealed that more than one in five pupils were in schools without running water in Paraguay, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.In India, Paraguay, Sri Lanka and Tunisia, few pupils were in schools with computer for administrative purposes, while Chile had an impressive number of schools equipped with computers for pupil use and with access to the Internet.
“In Tunisia, the parents of one-third of pupils were asked to pay for textbooks. This was the case for 24 per cent of pupils in Argentina and almost 10 per cent in India. Sri Lanka was the only country to provide textbooks for free to virtually all students,” the report said.
According to the survey, the mean hours of instruction a year ranged from 754 in Paraguay to more than 1,000 in Chile, India, Malaysia and the Philippines.Disparities were acute in Chile, India and the Philippines where the differences in annual instructional time among children were 440 hours or more, the survey added.
The survey revealed that India and Sri Lanka were also the only countries where more than one-half of pupils had teachers who considered their professional status higher than that of other professionals with similar educational qualifications.