Punjab topped the National Performance Grading Index of school education for 2019-2020 among all the states and Union Territories. The state scored 929 out of 1,000 rating points to grab the feat, followed by the UT of Chandigarh with 912 points and Tamil Nadu at 906 points. The achievement is considered to be a dramatic progress as the state ranked 22nd in 2017, 13th in 2018-19 whilst emerging as a topper in the past year. The ranking is based on analysing the states on 70 parameters, including access, governance performance, equity, infrastructural process, amongst other facilities.
Scores In Several Parameters
The state scored 346 out of 360 in 'governance processes' that includes the management and administration of school education. Equity involves learning outcomes in several categories like general and reserved, urban and rural, boys and girls, and children with special needs, and the state managed 228 out 230 points. Apart from this, Punjab scored a perfect 150 out of 150 in infrastructure and facilities that included proper toilets for children, clean drinking water, vocational training, libraries and computer labs. It scored 79 out of 80 under the head 'access' that involves enrollment and retention rate, transfer percentage, etc. However, the state lagged in learning outcomes and quality, in which it could only score 126 out of 180 points. The last category includes the most important parameters like scores in languages and mathematics in classes III, V and VIII.
A Reformed Education System
The state had completely reformed its education system by introducing a smart school policy, online teacher transfer policy, online education and distribution of free smartphones under the Punjab Smart Connect scheme, which formed the basis of improvement. The smart school policy aimed to revamp 19,000 government schools across the state by providing 50 per cent funding from the state and 50 per cent from the local people and the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) population of the state. Furthermore, all the government schools were equipped with solar panels to reduce their expenses and increase their income. The online teacher transfer policy disabled the previously existing clause that made it mandatory for teachers to serve in one station before applying for transfers. Moreover, the system became quicker because of its digitalisation. In 2020, the Punjab government distributed free smartphone handsets to class 12 students under the Punjab Smart Connect scheme. The state purchased handsets worth ₹ 92 crores and it has benefitted 1,74,015 students across the state.
While Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and the state Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla congratulated the school teachers and other education department officials for the humongous feat achieved by the state, a point of concern remains. Despite the impressive infrastructure and access of government schools to children, learning and outcomes remain low. Learning is one of the main parameters based on which a state's education graph is calculated. The positive side reflects that the enrollment in government schools has increased by 1.51 lakh students, out of which 87 per cent have shifted from private schools. The respected report comes when the state is preparing for the elections next year, and it becomes a strength for the Congress, which is being targeted by the Opposition for education.
The performance grading index is one of the latest indices and rates the performance of states based on school education. The first PGI report was released in 2019 for the reference year 2017-2018. The assessment draws data from several sources, including a Unified District Education System, National Achievement Survey, and mid-day meal. According to the government, this assessment aims to help states prioritise intervention in primary and secondary education. This grading system has 10 levels. The top-most level is for the states that score points between 951 to 1,000. Level 2 is also known as a top-notch level that has points ranging from 900 to 950. The lowest is grade seven and ranges from 0 to 550. The northeastern states of Arunachal, Nagaland and Meghalaya ranked among the bottom three states with 698, 667 and 649 points, respectively. It is for the first time that any state has reached this level. Among the Union Territories, Ladakh has been placed the lowest in level 7. One reason for this could is that it was the first time that the UT was assessed after it was carved out of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019.
31 States And UTs Improved Their Score
The Indian Express reported that overall, 31 states and Union Territories have improved their score for 2019-2020, compared to the previous two editions, and that there has been a general upward shift. Andaman and Nicobar islands, Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh have shown the maximum progress by improving 20 per cent than their previous rankings. However, there are still 31 states and Union Territories that fall under level 3 and have a lot of progress to make. The report mentioned that the states need to improve their performances under 'governance processes' since the domain carried several parameters.
The Right to Education act dictates critical inputs for a better performance of students. It includes indicators like the availability of adequate facilities to improve the overall learning experience for children. The Performance Grading Index provides states with grades instead of ranks to not demoralise any state or union territory for its performance. Grades also help the states to keep a tab on their progress and check the areas they lag under. The report's main objective is to nudge the states and territories to keep making improvements in their performance annually. In line with this objective, states and union territories have shown progress compared to their previous performances.
According to NITI Aayog, the states were divided into three categories: large states, small states and Union Territories to ease the mapping and reduce uneven comparison among various regions and states. CEO of NITI Aayog Amitabh Kant said that inclusive development hinged upon ensuring quality education. Proper schooling prepares individuals for social and civic responsibility, builds social capital and encourages effective cognitive development. Other index developers include state governments, human resource development ministry, the World Bank and sectoral experts. With more than 300 million children pursuing education, India's education sector is one of the largest in the world. It has about 1.4 million schools and 51,000 colleges and universities.