Secondary education in India has remained a neglected area with decline in investment in this sector in recent years, World Bank has said.

“India has given importance to primary education in a big way in the recent years, while secondary education has been a neglected area. It has remained as a forgotten middle,” Sam Clarison, Lead Education Specialist, South Asia Human Development Sector of the World Bank, told reporters.

Releasing the report on ‘Secondary Education in India’, Mr. Clarison said the decline in investment in secondary education has been a recent phenomena.

While primary education gets largest share of 52 per cent of total spending on education, the secondary education, which plays an important role for building up a skilled workforce, gets 30 per cent of the spending, the report pointed out.

Higher education gets 18 per cent of the total spending on education.

“As a share of the total expenditure, elementary education has increased steadily since 2000, while secondary education has declined slightly,” the report said.

The gross enrolment ratio at secondary stage, the percentage of children of the relevant age group of 14 - 18 years being enrolled into secondary schools, is 40 per cent which is much low than the GERs of its global competitors in East Asia and Latin America.

The GERs in secondary education in East Asian countries is 70 per cent while it is 82 per cent in Latin America, the World Bank report said.

Even countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh, which have lower per capita income than India, have higher enrolment rate at secondary stage of education.

It also pointed out that about 27 per cent of the districts of the country have less than one secondary school per every 1,000 children in the relevant age group.

The report said that there would be a demand for nearly 17 million students in secondary education during the next decade and the challenge before India is to increase access and quality of education at this level simultaneously.

Making a comparative analysis, the report said that about 16 per cent of the labour force in India in 2004 had got secondary education while 31 per cent of the labour force in China had got such education in 1975.

The report assumes significance as the Human Development Index report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) yesterday put India at 134th place among 182 countries on the human development index.

India should explore innovative public-private partnership models to increase the number of secondary schools in the country. More teachers should be hired and trained and double shift teaching should be started wherever possible, it suggested.

The government needs to strengthen the secondary education teachers’ training. The number and quality of Class VIII students have to be increased, the report said. At present, about 60 per cent of the students are completing elementary education.

There should be provision of financial and in-kind assistance for poor and disadvantaged students, it said.

An area of concern in secondary education is that the failure rate of students at this stage is 37 per cent. Eleven per cent students drop out at this stage, taking the total percentage of students being washed out to 48.

Joint Secretary in the Ministry of HRD Subash Khuntia said that the government has started a new scheme, Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiya, for improving quality and access in secondary education.

He said the Centre is encouraging State governments to start open schooling system to bring the out-of-school children back to the stream of education. About 14 States have already started the open schooling system.

He said the learning achievement survey conducted by NCERT at Class III, Class V and Class VIII will be extended to secondary level. Besides, there is proposal to give financial autonomy to secondary schools.