Interview of Prof. Arun C Mehta in Times of India, New Delhi 21st September 2021

UDISE+ 2019-20

Data generated through the Unified District Information System-Plus (UDISE-Plus) collected as on 30th September 2019 was released on 1st of July 2021 by the then Ministry of Education.

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Prof. Arun C Mehta who was associated with DISE/UDISE for more than 15 years has given his observations/comments on a wide range of issues ranging from coverage, data quality and consistency, online system and major outcome of data with regard to universalisation of school education in India which was reported in the both the print and electronic media. His observations can be seen below:

Education ministry’s school data: Hits and Misses, Careers360.com, 2nd July 2021

Is India nearing 100% school enrolment: Yes & No, Times of India, 21st September 2021

Over 43,000 schools out of education database, requires scrutiny: Educationist, Careers360.com, 6th October 2021

Is India nearing 100% school enrolment: Yes & No, Times of India, 21st September 2021

Prof. Arun C Mehta has raised a wide range of issues which, if implemented may help in improving the quality and consistency of U-DISE+ data.

UDISE+ 2019-20 enrolment indicators are based on child population provided by the Report of the Technical Group on Population Projections, National Commission on Population, ministry of health and family welfare, July 2020, which is a welcome development. It may be recalled that even the All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20, brought out by the education ministry in June 2021, was not based on the official projections. The following new variables have been added to UDISE+ 2019-20 report, perhaps for the first time.

  1. Number of schools by affiliation board
  2. Percentage of all minority groups’ enrolment, in addition to Muslim enrolment
  3. Coverage of vocational education under National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF)
  4. Number of students in Class 1 with pre-school experience
  5. Distribution of enrolment by below age 6, 6-10, 11-13, 9-10, 14-15, 16-17, and greater than 17 years

None of the tables have time-series information like statistics from three years that were available in the previously-published UDISE Flash Statistics. In the absence of this, one has to refer to individual year’s data which like UDISE+2019-20, is not available in the report form, one has to download from the portal. It would be better to bring out UDISE+ 2018-19 report in a more user-friendly format.

At the national level, most of the indicators are compared with 2012-13 UDISE data, the first year of the unification of DISE and SEMIS, but there no comparison of data for the years in between. 2019-20 data has been compared only to 2018-19 ones and that too for a few variables, such as number of teachers.

In addition to the indicators presented, a few indicators such as the source of drinking water, percentage of contractual teachers, GER of Muslim enrolment etc., should have found place in the report.

 Areas of Concern

The most important issue is concerned to coverage in terms of number of schools covered under UDISE+ in the recent years.  The number of schools declined during 2018-19 to 2019-20 is a major area of concern in general and decline in government and aided schools in particular. On the other end, during the same period number of private unaided schools covered under UDISE+ and enrolment in such schools has increased considerably contrary to which the same in case of the government and aided schools declined. It is generally said that schools covered under UDISE+ is declined because of merging of schools and up-gradation of a few existing schools and its attachment to nearby located school.

Table 1: Number of Schools (All Schools)
Year
Total Number
of Schools
Increase/Decrease
%age Change
2017-18
15,58,903
2018-19
15,51,000
– 7,903
– 0.5
2019-20
15,07,708
– 43,292
– 2.8
2017-18 to 2019-20
 
– 51,195
– 3.3
Source: UDISE & UDISE, different years. From 1994-95 to 2017-18, DISE/UDISE was maintained by NIEPA, New Delhi, and thereafter by the Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Education, Government of India.

Another major area of concern is consistent decline in enrolment in general and primary enrolment in particular which has got serious impact on India achieving the goal of universal school education.  In some major states, such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh the steep decline in enrolment needs further analysis.

Table 2: Enrolment at Primary Level of Education, 2018-19 & 2019-20
Primary
Boys
Girls
Total
2018-19
 
 
 
Govt.
3,32,88,965
3,42,50,863
6,75,39,828
Govt. Aided
28,94,720
28,35,879
57,30,599
Private unaided
2,33,98,805
1,81,84,573
4,15,83,378
Others
29,26,636
24,49,729
53,76,365
Total
6,25,09,126
5,77,21,044
12,02,30,170
2019-20
 
 
 
Government
3,28,64,878
3,39,10,220
6,67,75,098
Govt. Aided
28,23,185
27,75,718
55,98,903
Private Unaided
2,47,81,907
1,93,86,972
4,41,68,879
Others
27,81,779
23,62,044
51,43,823
Total
6,32,51,749
5,84,34,954
12,16,86,703
Difference in 2018-19 and 2019-20 in absolute numbers 
Government
-4,24,087
-3,40,643
-7,64,730
Govt. Aided
-71,535
-60,161
-1,31,696
Private Unaided
13,83,102
12,02,399
25,85,501
Others
-1,44,857
-87,685
-2,32,542
Total
7,42,623
7,13,910
14,56,533
Difference in 2018-19 and 2019-20 in percentage 
Government
-1.3
-1.0
-1.1
Govt. Aided
-2.5
-2.1
-2.3
Private Unaided
5.9
6.6
6.2
Others
-4.9
-3.6
-4.3
Total
1.2
1.2
1.2
Source: UDISE+ 2018-19 & 2019-20

UDISE+ 2019-20 reported drastic decline in dropout rate at primary level of education from 4.5 percent in 2018-19 to 1.1 percent in 2019-20 which also need a close link. A priori as it seems that decline in dropout rate is because of considering enrolment of all schools in 2019-20 instead of common schools (as per 2018-19) which gives dropout rate an underestimate of the same. Prior to 2018-19, dropout rate at all the levels of school education was used to compute on the basis of common schools i.e. schools that were covered in both the years enrolment data of which is used to compute average annual dropout rate in view of which the recent dropout rate under UDISE+ in recent years is not comparable with the dropout rate in 2017-18 and previous years. Needless to mention that recently computed indices, such as Performance Grading index either by the NITI Aayog and/or Department of School Education of the Ministry of Education is based on dropout rate which is by logic is not free from the limitations.

Computer & Internet Facilities

UDISE data over a period of time suggests that most of the facilities in schools are improving. However, availability of computers and internet connectivity in schools is far than satisfactory. Only 39 percent schools have a computer and another 22 percent have internet connectivity which has become more important because of the COVID-19 pandemic as classes are being held online. This is also crucial for UDISE+ which is said to be an online paperless system. It is easy to imagine how schools manage without an online system. School officials or teachers rush to block-level offices and cyber cafés to upload and update data online.

Table 3: Electricity, Internet & Computer Facility: All India, 2019-20
Facility
Primary only
All schools
Electricity
72.6
80.2
Internet
7.9
22.3
Computer
20.6
39.0

Because of the online learning classes across the country, it is more important to have the devices and internet connectivity or data package at home. The National Sample Survey Office’s 75th Round data reveals that only 10.7 percent households in India have got a computer and another 23.8 percent have access to internet facilities. But the same in the rural areas is as low as 4.4 and 14.9 percent respectively as against 23.4 and 42 percent in the urban areas. This shows a wide gap in the availability of computers and access to internet facilities between rural and urban areas. One could easily understand the fate of students during a pandemic. One can expect enrolment to decline but at the same time, government schools can expect migration from private schools to its fold which is expected to be reflected in 2020-21 and 2021-22 data.

Education ministry’s school data: Hits and Misses, Careers360.com, 2nd July 2021

Is India nearing 100% school enrolment: Yes & No, Times of India, 21st September 2021

Over 43,000 schools out of education database, requires scrutiny: Educationist, Careers360.com, 6th October 2021

Is India nearing 100% school enrolment: Yes & No, Times of India, 21st September 2021