Mumbai: In the latest grading of India’s school education system, all 28 states and eight Union territories (UT) scored below 50% on learning outcomes and quality, ‘perhaps the most important domain’ and the ‘ultimate goal’ of the Ministry of Education’s Performance Grading Index (PGI) 2.0. This is lower than their scores on the preceding PGI, when the worst performing state (Arunachal Pradesh) scored 58% in this domain.

Three regions (Chandigarh, Punjab and Rajasthan) scored between 41-50% on learning outcomes and quality, while the majority (19 states/UTs) fell in the 21-30% bracket. The 11-20% and 31-40% brackets had the remaining 10 and four states/UTs, respectively.

Overall performance, too, remained low. Chandigarh was the highest scoring region with an overall score of 659 out of 1,000, followed by Punjab, with a score of 647.4. The lowest scoring states were Meghalaya, with a score of 420.6, and Mizoram, with a score of 453.4.

PGI 2.0 looks at academic year 2021-22 for government and private schools, and was released on July 9, 2023. It evaluates the performance of the school education system across 748 districts, across six domains: Learning Outcomes and Quality, Access, Infrastructure & Facilities, Equity, Governance Processes, and Teacher Education & Training.

Other surveys which track the learning outcomes of students, including the National Achievement Survey 2021 (also included as one measure in the PGI) and the Annual Status of Education Report 2022, also showed low learning levels post the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The state of learning in the country was moribund way before Covid119, the pandemic just made it worse,” said Sheshagiri K. M. Rao, Education and Adolescent Development Specialist at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). He explained that India had one of the longest school lockdowns in the world, resulting in children missing school for a long time, which was bound to have an impact on learning outcomes.

In India, most children from pre-primary to Grade VIII did not attend school from the beginning of the lockdown in March 2020 to one-and-a-half years later. This affected children from poor families and vulnerable social groups the most as they were least able to access online education or get parental help in learning, our reporting from Rajasthan in August 2021 showed.

He added that the low learning outcomes are also related to teacher preparedness. For instance, states are trying to have all government schools teach in English, but teachers are not prepared for it, Rao said. In August 2020, we reported how early schooling in a child's mother tongue, also recommended in the new National Education Policy, can improve learning, increase student participation and reduce the number of dropouts.

“It also shows that the online system of teaching and learning [implemented during the pandemic] were not effective. There also existed a digital divide; not every child had access to classes, and reading materials. The quality of online classrooms could never match the physical classroom. I think it will take years for us to overcome that learning deficit.”

Change in PGI after Covid-19

The PGI began in 2017-18, with the latest conducted for the year 2020-21. It scores states out of a total of 1,000 points, and includes 73 indicators, across six domains, divided into two categories: outcomes and governance management.

The report uses data from Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE +), the National Achievement Survey (NAS), the PM POSHAN portal (for child health and education), PRABAND portal (for project appraisal, budgeting and data handling of the education system), and Vidyanjali Portal, a school volunteer programme.

The highest achievable grade is Daksh, ranging between 91% to 100%, and the lowest possible grade is Akanshi-3, which is for scores up to 10%.

The PGI 2.0 changed the weightage given to some indicators as compared to the previous PGIs. For instance, PGI 2.0 added a new domain in 2021-22, ‘Teacher Education and Training’, and reduced the weightage given to ‘Governance Processes’.

Other indicators, the report says without elaborating, became irrelevant due to Covid-19-induced changes. We have asked the ministry for more details on what these indicators are, and on other aspects of PGI 2.0, and will update the story when they respond.

How states fared

The index graded ‘Access’ on measures including enrolment, retention of students, transition to higher class/levels, identification and mainstreaming of out-of-school children. On this indicator, Delhi scored the highest with 72.4 out of 80, while Nagaland with 39.8 scored the lowest.

In the domain ‘Infrastructure and Facilities’, Chandigarh scored the highest (115.5 out of 190), and Bihar scored the lowest (41). This includes working toilets, clean drinking water, clean and attractive spaces, electricity, computing devices, internet, libraries, and sports & recreational resources. The indicator also measures availability of information and communication technology facilities and the timely availability of textbooks and uniforms.

‘Equity’ includes measures for access, participation in school education, for different social groups. On this, Delhi scored the highest, with 238.8 out of 260 and Mizoram the lowest at 200.9.

“The education system must aim to benefit India’s children so that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of circumstances of birth or background,” the report said.

‘Governance Process’, includes use of digital means, such as digital attendance of students, teachers, transfer of funds digitally, as well as the time taken by the state government to release funds to schools and filling teacher vacancies and transfer of teachers through transparent online systems, among other indicators. Gujarat scored the highest (91.2 out of 130) and Arunachal Pradesh scored the lowest (39) on governance.

“The quality of teacher education, recruitment, deployment, service conditions, and empowerment of teachers is not where it should be, and consequently the quality and motivation of teachers does not reach the desired standards,” the report said about the measure for the domain ‘Teacher Education and Training’. In this domain, the majority of states and UTs scored between 61 and 70.9 out of 100.

IndiaSpend contacted the Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSE&L), Ministry of Education. We also reached out to Anchal Katiyar who represents the education ministry from the Press Information Bureau. We will update this story when they respond.

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