Educationally Backward Blocks (EBBs) in India: Meaning, Origin & Criteria 2023
Origin of EBBs in India
The term “educationally backward blocks” in India refers to specific geographic areas or blocks that face significant educational development and outcomes challenges. Low literacy levels, inadequate infrastructure, limited access to quality education, and socio-economic disadvantages characterize these blocks.
Identifying educationally backward blocks emerged as part of India’s efforts to address educational disparities and ensure equitable access to education nationwide. Through its various policies and initiatives, the Government of India aims to uplift these backward blocks by focusing on improving educational infrastructure, enhancing teacher quality, and implementing targeted interventions.
While the exact timeline of the first identification of EBBs may vary slightly between different states or regions within India, identifying EBBs and allocating resources to educationally backward areas gained momentum during the initial years of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) program, which was launched in 2001. The SSA aimed to achieve universal elementary education and address educational disparities nationwide. The identification of EBBs began during the early years of the SSA implementation.
This marked the beginning of targeted interventions and policies to uplift the identified EBBs and improve educational outcomes in those areas. Since then, identifying and focusing on EBBs has been an ongoing process, with periodic reviews and updates to ensure that interventions align with the changing educational needs and priorities. The government and educational authorities continue to use data-driven approaches to identify EBBs and allocate resources to uplift those blocks that face educational backwardness.
Several factors contribute to the educational backwardness of these blocks. Poverty, lack of awareness about the importance of education, social and cultural barriers, inadequate resources, and geographical remoteness are some of the primary challenges. These factors often create a vicious cycle where poor educational outcomes lead to limited economic opportunities, further perpetuating the cycle of poverty and educational backwardness.
Use of Educationally Backward Blocks
Educationally Backward Blocks in India are used to identify specific geographic areas that require focused attention and interventions to address educational disparities. Identifying EBBs helps the government and educational authorities allocate resources and implement targeted programs to uplift these areas and improve educational outcomes. Here are some ways in which EBBs are being used in India:
- Resource allocation: Identifying EBBs helps direct financial and infrastructural resources toward these areas. The government allocates funds specifically for developing education infrastructure, including constructing schools, providing basic amenities, and improving the quality of education in these blocks.
- Policy formulation: EBBs play a crucial role in formulating education policies and initiatives. The government analyzes these blocks’ unique challenges and needs to design targeted interventions that address their specific requirements. Policies related to teacher recruitment, training programs, curriculum development, and inclusive education are often tailored to address the issues faced by EBBs.
- Targeted interventions: EBBs serve as the focus areas for various educational interventions. Special programs and initiatives are implemented in these blocks to improve access to education, enhance quality, and reduce dropout rates. These interventions may include providing scholarships and incentives, establishing residential schools, offering remedial classes, organizing awareness campaigns, and implementing technology-enabled learning solutions.
- Monitoring progress: EBBs are closely monitored to assess the effectiveness of interventions and measure educational progress. Educational authorities regularly collect data on these blocks’ enrollment rates, attendance, learning outcomes, and infrastructure development. This helps evaluate the impact of policies and programs and make necessary adjustments to improve educational outcomes.
- Empowering local communities: Identifying EBBs encourages community participation and involvement in the educational process. Local communities are engaged in decision-making, implementing, and monitoring education-related initiatives. This participatory approach aims to empower communities, increase their ownership of educational development, and foster a sense of responsibility toward improving education in their areas.
How and when was EBB identified, and on what basis?
To address the issues of educational disparities and also to promote inclusive education, the concept of EBBs, as mentioned above, was initiated by the Government of India. The process of identifying EBBs involved the collection and analysis of various data points related to education, socio-economic indicators, and infrastructure. The criteria for identifying EBBs were primarily based on literacy rates, school infrastructure, enrollment ratios, and socio-economic indicators.
Multiple parameters were considered to assess the educational backwardness of a block, which included:
- Literacy rates: The literacy rates of the population in a particular block were considered. Blocks with lower literacy rates were considered more educationally backward.
- Enrolment ratios: The enrollment ratios of children in schools within a block were examined. Blocks with low enrollment ratios, indicating limited access to education, were identified as educationally backward.
- Infrastructure: The availability and quality of educational infrastructure, including schools, classrooms, libraries, and sanitation facilities, were assessed. Blocks with inadequate infrastructure were considered educationally backward.
- Socio-economic indicators: Socio-economic indicators like poverty, unemployment, and other relevant factors were considered. Blocks with higher levels of socio-economic disadvantages were identified as educationally backward.
Based on these parameters, a comprehensive analysis was conducted at the block level across different states in India. The data collected from various sources were analyzed to identify the blocks that required targeted interventions to address educational backwardness.
The identification of EBBs (Educationally Backward Blocks) relied on various data sources and information to assess the educational backwardness of different blocks. The primary sources of information used for identifying EBBs included:
- Census data: Census reports conducted by the Government of India provided valuable demographic and socio-economic data. Information such as literacy rates, educational attainment, and population characteristics helped evaluate the educational status of different blocks.
- Government surveys: Various government surveys, such as the National Sample Survey (NSS) and District Information System for Education (DISE), provided data on education-related indicators. These surveys collected information on enrollment rates, school infrastructure, teacher-student ratios, and other relevant parameters at the block level.
- Educational institutions: Data from educational institutions, including schools and colleges, played a significant role in identifying EBBs. Information on student enrollment, dropout rates, teacher availability, and infrastructure conditions in these institutions provided insights into the educational challenges faced by specific blocks.
- State-level reports: State governments and educational authorities contributed to the identification process by providing data and reports specific to their regions. These reports often included local-level information on educational indicators, socio-economic factors, and infrastructure conditions, helping accurately identify EBBs.
- Surveys and studies: Research studies, surveys, and evaluations conducted by educational institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other agencies also contributed to the identification process. These studies provided additional insights into different blocks’ educational disparities, socio-economic factors, and infrastructure gaps.
By collating and analyzing information from these various sources, it was possible to assess the educational backwardness of different blocks and identify EBBs. This data-driven approach helped target resources and interventions to uplift these locations and improve educational outcomes. The identification process has undergone refinements and updates to reflect changing educational priorities and emerging challenges. State governments and educational authorities have also contributed to the process by providing additional local-level data and insights to ensure the accurate identification of EBBs.
The methodology and criteria for identifying EBBs may vary slightly between different states or regions within India, as they may consider certain state-specific factors or indicators.
Are using EBBs based on 2001 data relevant now?
Identifying EBBs (Educationally Backward Blocks) in 2001 provided a starting point for addressing educational disparities in India. It is essential to note that the status of EBBs may have evolved due to various factors such as changing socio-economic conditions, educational progress, and targeted interventions.
Since the initial identification in 2001, there have been updates and revisions to the list of EBBs based on periodic reviews and assessments. The government and educational authorities have been actively monitoring and evaluating the educational status of different blocks to ensure that interventions are targeted, and resources are allocated effectively.
Over the years, certain blocks may have made significant progress and may no longer be classified as EBBs. Similarly, new blocks that have faced emerging educational challenges may have been identified as EBBs. The identification process considers current educational needs and priorities, considering factors such as literacy rates, infrastructure conditions, enrollment ratios, and socio-economic indicators.
Using the educationally backward blocks (EBBs) based on the 2001 census may not be relevant in 2021 due to several reasons:
- Time Gap: The 2001 census data is over two decades old. In this period, there have been significant changes in the education landscape of India, including improvements in infrastructure, policies, and educational access. Using outdated data may not accurately reflect the current educational backwardness of specific blocks.
- Changing Demographics: The demographic profile of blocks and regions can change over time. Factors such as migration, urbanization, and changes in population composition can influence educational indicators. Therefore, outdated census data may not capture the current socio-economic and demographic characteristics contributing to educational backwardness.
- Educational Reforms & Interventions: Over the years, the Indian government has implemented various educational reforms and interventions to improve access, quality, and equity in education. These initiatives may have had an impact on educational indicators in different blocks. Using outdated data may not consider the effects of these interventions.
- Methodological Advancements: Data collection methodologies and statistical techniques have evolved since 2001. There have been improvements in survey techniques, data quality, and the availability of more granular and reliable data at smaller administrative levels. More recent and refined methodologies can provide a more accurate assessment of educational backwardness.
- Changing Indicators: The indicators used to assess educational backwardness may have evolved. New indicators, such as learning outcomes, quality of education, digital literacy, and skill development, have gained importance in evaluating educational disparities. Using outdated indicators may not capture the holistic understanding of educational backwardness in the current context.
To ensure a correct assessment of educational backwardness & identify EBBs, it is better to use the up-to-date data, indicators, and methodologies available. This helps capture the current educational scenario and effectively addresses the challenges and disparities that exist today.
As mentioned above, the EBB was identified way back based on the 2001 Census; since then, no new list of EBB is available, even though 2011 Census data is available based on which EBBs were identified mainly in 2001. However, the absence of a recent and consolidated list of EBBs makes it challenging to provide an up-to-date and exhaustive compilation of such blocks. Therefore, referring to official government publications, reports, and announcements from relevant educational departments and agencies is recommended. These sources can provide more accurate and updated information on the identification and classification of EBBs in India.
How can the EBB list be updated & based on which data set?
As has already been mentioned that to update the Educationally Backward Blocks (EBB) list, data from various sources must be considered, which may include:
- Census Data: The periodic census in India provides valuable information on literacy rates, educational infrastructure, and socio-economic indicators. The most recent census data (2011) can be analyzed to identify areas with low literacy rates and inadequate educational facilities, which can help update the EBB list.
- Educational Surveys: Surveys specifically focused on education can provide insights into the quality of education, access to schools, availability of teachers, and other relevant factors. Surveys (such as NSSO) conducted by government bodies, educational institutions, and research organizations can contribute to identifying educationally backward areas.
- Government Reports and Studies: Government departments and educational bodies often commission studies and reports to assess educational development and identify areas of concern. These reports can provide (such as UDISE) valuable data on educational backwardness and help update the EBB list.
- Data from Educational Institutions: Data collected by schools, colleges, and universities can be analyzed to identify regions where students face challenges accessing quality education. Information on enrollment rates, dropout rates, and student performance can contribute to the identification of educationally backward areas.
- Socio-economic Indicators: Socio-economic data, such as poverty rates, unemployment rates, and social inequality, can be considered in conjunction with educational data to identify areas where socio-economic factors hinder educational development. This holistic approach helps capture the multi-dimensional nature of educational backwardness.
In a nutshell, the following are the sources of information based on which the list of the EBBs in India can be specifically updated:
- District Information System for Education (DISE): DISE is an initiative of the Ministry of Education, Government of India, which collects and provides comprehensive data on various educational parameters at the district and block levels. This can be accessed at udiseplus.gov.in for reports and data.
- Annual Status of Education Report: ASER is an annual survey conducted by the Pratham Education Foundation, which assesses education status in rural India. The report provides detailed information on literacy rates, enrollment rates, and learning outcomes at the district and block levels. The ASER reports can be found on their official website at asercentre.org.
- National Sample Survey (NSS): NSS is a large-scale household survey conducted by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India. It collects data on various socio-economic indicators, including education. The NSS reports are available on the website of the Ministry at mospi.gov.in.
- Census of India: The decennial Census of India provides valuable data on population, literacy rates, and other socio-economic indicators at the district and block levels. The website censusindia.gov.in offers access to census reports and data.
- NCERT is an apex educational research and development organization in India. They publish reports, studies, and surveys related to education, which can be accessed through their official website at https://ncert.nic.in.
- State Education Departments: Each state in India has its education department, which often publishes reports, statistics, and educational initiatives, including information on educationally backward blocks. Visiting the official websites of the respective state education departments can provide state-specific data.
Specifically, the below-mentioned indicators can be used to re-assess educationally backward blocks in India and prepare a fresh list of EBBs:
Overall Literacy Rate (percentage of the population aged seven and above who can read and write)
- Male and female literacy rates separately
- Literacy rates among different age groups (e.g., 7-14, 15-24, 25 and above)
- School Enrollment Rates:
- Gross enrollment rate (GER) at primary, secondary, and higher education levels
- Net enrollment rate (NER) at primary, secondary, and higher education levels
- Gender-specific enrollment rates (male and female)
- Dropout Rates:
- Dropout rates at primary, secondary, and higher education levels
- Dropout rates disaggregated by gender and socio-economic backgrounds
- Teacher-Student Ratios:
- Pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) at primary, secondary, and higher education levels
- Availability of subject-specific teachers (e.g., science, mathematics, English)
- Availability of Educational Infrastructure:
- Number of schools and educational institutions per thousand population
- Availability of separate toilets for boys and girls in schools
- Adequacy of classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and other essential facilities
- Socio-economic Factors:
- Poverty rates and socio-economic indicators at the block level
- Access to essential services like healthcare, sanitation, and clean water
- Income levels and socio-economic disparities within the block
These indicators, when measured and analyzed in combination, can provide a comprehensive understanding of the educational backwardness of a particular block or region. It is important to use disaggregated data whenever possible to identify disparities among different demographic groups, such as gender, caste, and socio-economic backgrounds, which may highlight specific areas of concern. It is worth noting that specific indicators and their weightage may vary based on the context, priorities, and available data at the national, state, or district levels.
Identifying educationally backward blocks (EBBs) involves comparing the indicators at a more localized level, such as the block level or even within specific clusters or villages within a block. While district and state-level indicators can provide an overall understanding of the educational landscape, EBBs are identified by examining the educational disparities and challenges within smaller administrative units.
Here is a general approach to identifying EBBs using the mentioned indicators:
- Data Collection: Gather the relevant data for the indicators mentioned, preferably at the block level. This data can be obtained from government reports, surveys, or educational institutions.
- Comparative Analysis: Compare the indicators across different blocks within a district or state. Look for significant differences and disparities in literacy rates, school enrollment rates, dropout rates, teacher-student ratios, availability of educational infrastructure, and socio-economic factors.
- Threshold Setting: Determine the threshold values for each indicator that would classify a block as educationally backward. These thresholds can be based on national, state, or district-level benchmarks or established through expert consensus or policy considerations.
- Weighting & Aggregation: Assign appropriate weights to each indicator based on their relative importance and relevance to the educational backwardness. Aggregating the indicators using a suitable methodology (e.g., weighted average, composite index) can provide an overall score for each block.
- Identification of EBBs: Based on the aggregated scores or ranking, identify blocks that fall below the predetermined threshold values. These blocks can be considered educationally backward blocks.
Updated List of EBBs
Even though no updated list of EBBs (based on the 2011 Census) is available in the public domain, in reply to a question in the parliament on July 25th, 2022, the Ministry of Education informed the house that the education ministry’s data revealed that 11 states of India had more than 50 percent of educational blocks that are backward. Other information is presented below:
- Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of backward educational blocks – 679 out of 954, about 71 percent.
- Above 98 percent of educational blocks in Bihar are termed educationally backward; 530 out of the 537 educational blocks in Bihar are termed “educationally backward blocks.”
- Jharkhand (76.5 percent) & Uttar Pradesh (71.17 percent), too, have a high percentage of EBBs.
- In Telangana (66.67 percent) & Madhya Pradesh (63.01 percent). Assam (55.10 percent), Odisha(54.75 percent), Jammu & Kashmir (51.81 percent), Andhra Pradesh (50.90 percent), and Chhattisgarh (50.68 percent) have a high percentage of EBBs. On the other hand, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab are the only other states with a percentage of educationally backward blocks amounting to less than 10 percent of the total educational blocks.
- Kerala and Mizoram had the lowest number of educationally backward blocks, with one each.
- It is mentioned in the reply that the Educationally backward blocks were identified as part of the ongoing flagship Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which has since been merged into the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan. The identification is made on twin criteria: educational blocks with a female literacy rate lower than the national average and a gender gap in literacy lower than the national average are identified as educationally backward.
- On July 2022, the Ministry of Education informed the Rajya Sabha that UG identified 374 districts educationally backward in India. However, no details are available in the public domain & the link that is provided is found dead (as of May 8th, 2023).