Reliability of Educational Data in the Light of NCERT Sixth Survey


Recently statistics of Sixth All India Educational Survey conducted by `National Council of Educational Research and Training' (NCERT) has been released. Over a period of time from Fifth survey (1986) to present Sixth survey (1993), a lot progress is made in all the variables for which provisional statistics has been made available. Incidentally, information on some of the variables released by NCERT is also available from the Official sources for year 1993-94. Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is the main agency responsible for collection of educational statistics in the country. Both of these sources receive information from educational institutions located at different parts of the country either through district level functionaries or through State Survey Officers. Since, the date of reference of both the sources is 30th September, it is of interest to compare the statistics in the light of goals of `Education for All' in the country.

It has been observed that Official estimates of enrolment over a period of time from Second survey to Sixth survey have been found to be higher than that of the NCERT estimates. However, the deviation both in absolute and percentage terms, vary from survey to survey but highest being in the present Sixth Survey. Further it has been observed that over a period of time not only enrolment at different levels of education is increased, but at the same time, gap between Official and NCERT estimates has also been significantly increased. At the elementary level, the gap that was only 1.92 per cent in the Second survey has now been increased to about 11.02 per cent. The corresponding estimates at the primary and middle level are 1.72 per cent to 9.67 per cent and from 0.28 per cent to 14.68 per cent. However, the deviation in percentage form for the first time is higher than 2.96 per cent recorded highest earlier in the Third survey conducted during 1973-74.

As against, Official enrolment of 108.20 million at the primary level, the Sixth Survey estimate is 97.74 million which shows a discrepancy of 10.46 million in absolute terms and 9.67 in percentage terms. When enrolment is compared at the middle level, one finds that both the estimates are not at all comparable and the discrepancy noticed is significant and higher than that at the primary level (in percentage terms). Thus at the middle level, a gap of about 5.86 million in enrolment has been noticed which is about 14.68 per cent of the Official estimates. In order to analyze the position with particular reference to `Education for All' in general and `Universalisation of Elementary Education' in particular in the country, it has been noticed that as against 148.11 million Official enrolment in Grades I-VIII, the corresponding NCERT estimate is only 131.79 million which is short by 16.32 million in absolute terms and 11.02 in percentage terms. One could understand the fate of our planning exercises in terms of realising the goals of EFA in the country which are otherwise unfortunately based on enrolment statistics quality of which is at the stake. Like all-India level, a significant deviation in enrolment has also been noticed at the state level.

Likewise, a significant deviation has also been obtained in Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) which gives us an idea about the extent to which the child population is covered in the education system. The Official enrolment ratio at the primary level is 104.5 per cent compared to 94.40 per cent reported in the NCERT survey which, if considered true, shows that the country would still take a number of years to achieve the status of `Universalisation of primary Education' (UPE). Otherwise, based on the past trend in Official enrolment, it is projected that the country would achieve the goal of UPE sometime in year 2007. Further, it has been observed that at the middle level, a significant deviation (9.95%) in GER is also noticed in both the sources. However, the deviation for boys (11.73%) is higher than deviation for girls (8.02%). Quite similar picture emerges at the elementary level where the discrepancy noticed is of the tune of 10.10 per cent.

The comparison of educational institutions reveals a gap of 2,212 primary and 5,202 middle schools. Despite being based on less number of institutions, Official enrolment is about 16.32 per cent higher than that reported in the NCERT survey. The deviation in number of teachers noticed between both the sources is 42,222 (2.28%) and 25,435 (2.35%) teachers respectively at the primary and middle level. Despite coverage of 2,212 additional primary schools in the NCERT survey, the number of primary teachers is less than that reported in the Official estimates.

Coverage, error of measurement, lack of understanding and uniformity of definitions, absence of effective monitoring agency, different date of references and lack of qualified and trained staff may be some of the probable reasons of discrepancy. The discrepancy may also due to bias in order to show fulfillment of targets assigned under different schemes. Lack of coordination between different agencies involved in data collection and understanding of concepts and definitions may unintentionally make the statistics unreliable. For efficient monitoring, Planning, Monitoring and Statistics division of Ministry of Education should be strengthened. DIET should take up the responsibility of EMIS training at the district, block and institutional level. `Educational Management Information System' (EMIS) activities should be shifted to DIET from the existing DEO office. The person responsible for EMIS should be made accountable. In order to check inconsistencies, a post of Vigilant Officer (Data) or Data Inspector may be created who should be authorized to have access to all the relevant records. A core list of variables, which may include age-grade matrix, average daily attendance etc. should be prepared and the same should form part of the annual collection of statistics which should be followed by a uniform development of concepts and definitions of different indicators.

The out-of-school children obtained for year 1993-94 shows a wide gap between those computed on the basis of NCERT and MHRD estimates. However compared to middle level, the gap noticed is wide and significant at the primary level. About 11.89 million boys and 18.34 million girls of age-group 6-10 years are found to be out-of-school as compared to 15.04 million boys and 18.36 million girls of age-group 11-13 years. In other words, out-of- school children indicate a net enrolment ratio of 70.80, 43.34 and 60.84 per cent respectively at primary, middle and elementary levels of education which is otherwise brought to hundred per cent, the dreams of UEE would not be realised. Of the total 63.62 million out-of-school children of age-group 6-14 years, 46.65 per cent are from four educationally backward states of the Hindi heartland, namely, Bihar (9.74 million), Madhya Pradesh (4.25 million), Rajasthan (3.88 million) and Uttar Pradesh (11.81 million). In order to achieve goals of UEE by 2001, enrolment would have to be increased by at least 30.62 per cent in case of boys and 59.55 per cent points in case of girls from their 1993- 94 NCERT level. In other words, about 42.13 and 47.73 million additional children respectively of age-group 6-10 and 11-13 years are required to enroll from their existing 1993-94 level.

Similarly, deviation is also noticed in dropout rates computed on the basis of survey data and those of the Official. At the all-India level, the drop-out rate computed at the elementary level shows that of 100 children who have taken admission in Grade I in year 1986-87, only 40 managed to reach Grade VIII in year 1993-94 corresponding to which MHRD estimate is 47 per cent. In absolute terms, about 8.32 million boys and 6.57 million girls dropped-out from the system before completion of an education cycle. At the state level, a mixed trend in drop-out rate has been noticed. But it is certain, that either the Official or NCERT estimates are not correct or both the estimates are incorrect which means a more confusing position of data users and researchers. The discrepancy can be reduced significantly, if both the sources re-check their statistics at least in case of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal and do not make it a point of prestige. Unless, reliable information is used in plan exercises, the results in terms of realisation of goals would continue to be far from the satisfactory. However, NCERT survey is managed by both professionals and academicians which perhaps might have improved the quality of estimates produced. But, unless data collecting personnel i.e end users themselves are involved in the process of plan formulation and implementation, the quality of data would continue to remain in its present form. The confusing position leads us to think of privatisation of `Educational Management Information System' for reliable and timely educational statistics which can also properly disseminate information. With the focus now on quality of education, the emphasis should be shifted to `Local-level Information System' (LIS) which should include indicators relating to school functioning and classroom interactions rather than aggregated indicators at the state/national level.