Incentivising students

Every child matters: The turnaround began with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and the journey continues

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav may not have envisaged the unprecedented results of class X and XII boards that his state has recorded this year, when he was making a budgetary provision to provide free laptop computers and tablet PCs to students passing the two examinations.

Presenting his maiden budget for 2012-13 on June 1, he announced a provision of Rs 2,721.24 crore for free distribution of laptops and tablet PCs to the high school and intermediate pass students, fulfilling his promise to the electorate during the state assembly polls.

The populist announcement for free distribution of the computing devices made by Yadav may have been aimed at garnering votes in favour of the Samajwadi Party in the election, but it turned out to be a motivation for many youngsters in the state who toiled hard and performed well in their examinations. This is apparent from the high school and intermediate results, announced in the state recently.

According to UP board results, the overall pass percentage of the high school students in the state stood at 83.75 per cent, which was up by 12.93 per cent compared to the results of the last year.

In class XII board examination, the overall pass percentage of the students reached 89.40 per cent, which was 9.26 per cent higher than the pass percentage recorded last year.

“Children are now more career-oriented and focused on their studies compared to the past because of a growing competitive environment. Besides this, the promise of a free laptop, of course, seems to have worked as a catalyst which motivated many children to toil hard,” said Rampravesh Mishra of Bareilley, whose son got through class XII board examination.

Many teachers of government schools in the state feel that the announcement of free laptop and tablet PC made by the SP government would also lead to an increase in enrollment.

“This is an affirmative move by the government. Students set to take the board examination next year are already enthusiastic about it. They always ask us if they too would get a laptop on clearing the board exam. I think, the announcement will improve enrollment this year,” Anand Singh, a teacher in Sri Harihar Mahadev Inter College at Devchandrapur in Varanasi, told Deccan Herald.

He, however, suggested that the government should ensure that the procedures for distribution of the laptops are kept simple, especially for girl students.

Off the record

An official in the UP school education board, however, said on condition of anonymity that introduction of an evaluation system in schools on the lines of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has also played a key role in ensuring an unprecedentedly high pass percentage of students this year.

“For the first time, an internal evaluation system was adopted in all the schools. Under this, subject teachers of the respective schools were allowed to allot up to a maximum of 30 per cent marks to students in the subjects they taught. And rest of the marking was done on the basis of the student’s performance in the examination conducted by the board. This helped push up the pass percentage,” the official said.

Uttar Pradesh is not the only state where such populist schemes have been announced, aimed at improving school education outcomes.

While Chhattisgarh government is implementing Saraswati Cycle Yojna of awarding free bicycles to girl students entering high schools, Gujarat government has been giving out Vidhyalaxmi Bonds to girls enrolling in standard one, under which the bond amount of Rs 1000 together with the interest accruing on it is paid to the student when she passes out of standard seven.

Maharashtra government is also giving bicycles to school girls based on a system wherein the parents are required to deposit a minimal sum so as to enable their children to use the bicycles. Many non-government organisations promoting girls’ education in the state say that since last one year the scheme is being pushed quite vigorously and is slowly gaining acceptance among the parents.

To ensure zero dropout at senior secondary level, Tamil Nadu government is implementing schemes under which a cash incentive of Rs 1500 is given to every student on successful completion of class X and XI. They are given another Rs 2000 after they pass class XII.

Jayalalitha government is also implementing a free laptops scheme for senior secondary school students, besides students of government arts and science colleges, engineering colleges and polytechnics,  in keeping with her party’s 2011 Assembly poll promise.

Bihar government, which introduced Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojana in 2006, perhaps has been witnessing the most remarkable positive results of launching such a populist scheme as the cash payment for purchase of bicycles has resulted in a steep rise in girls’ enrollment in schools. This year, an increased sum of Rs 2500 per candidate will be given to girls under the bicycle scheme, benefitting an estimated 5,83,860 girls.

The government has extended the scheme to boys now, besides providing Rs 500 a year to girl students of Standards III to V for purchase of two sets of uniforms and stationery items required for their study, and  Rs 700 a year to students of Standard VI-VIII for the same purpose.

“The girls used to dropout of schools due to the long distance and poor conveyance. In a way to help them reach the school, Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojna was initiated in 2006. This gave a tremendous boost. The state witnessed a sharp increase in the number of enrollments in schools ever since,” a Bihar government official said.

Under Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojna, over 5.83 lakh girls and 6.55 lakh boys have benefited till March 2012. Besides, Dr Rajendra Prasad Merit Scholarship Award was instituted for toppers of the secondary school examinations from 2011, under which the State topper gets Rs 15,000 in cash and a laptop worth Rs 35,000 with data card. The 2nd to 10th rank holders receive Rs 10,000 in cash and a laptop with data card.

The Bihar government also has a Mukhyamantri Balika Protsahan Yojana aimed at encouraging girls to pursuing their studies. Under the scheme, all girls who have passed the matriculation examination with first division are rewarded with a sum of Rs 10,000 so that they can pursue higher studies.

Recently, the Bihar government decided to include girl students of class IX to XII under the cash incentive scheme and provide them Rs 1000 each. The scheme is expected to benefit about seven lakh girl students, according to the official.

Copycat Patnaik

Last year in October, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced a ‘bicycle’ scheme, emulating the Bihar example, for girls studying in class X and also for boys belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe.

The Akali Dal-BJP combine in Punjab too promised free laptops in its poll manifesto this year for scores of students of classes XI and XII. The promise, which was so far confined to a manifesto commitment, seems to be turning into reality.

On June 20, when the budget session of the state assembly commences, the plan may get approved, sources in the Punjab government said. The proposed scheme is already a hit as the mere idea of owning a free laptop is whipping up a euphoria among students.The Parkash Singh Badal-led state government in Punjab is hoping to see some tangible impact of the scheme on the performance of students as well as in their near future. Political mileage, they say, is inherent in the scheme.

The Punjab government’s bicycles scheme for girl students too has been a great hit. In fact, the Badal government started to give out cycles to school girls of class X onwards much before the elections in Punjab. Notwithstanding the controversy over the picture of the CM in front of the cycle basket, the scheme has been extended. Officials say, those who were left out will soon be getting cycles. “The least the scheme has ensured is a better attendance in classes,” an official said.

(With inputs from Odisha, Punjab, Maharashtra, Bihar and Chennai.)   


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