Economic survey expresses concern over lower reading levels

New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) The Economic Survey for 2015-16 has expressed concern over lower reading levels in public and private schools while stressing that inclusive growth requires bridging gaps in educational outcomes and improvement in health attainments across the population.

The survey, presented in parliament on Friday by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, said immunisation coverage of children, health of pregnant women, declining role of public health delivery systems and lack of adequate skilled personnel were the main challenges in the health sector.

It said total expenditure on social services including education, health, social security, nutrition, welfare of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes/Other Backward Classes sections during the revised estimates of 2014-15 was seven percent of Gross Domestic Product against 6.5 percent in 2013-14.

“On the education front, the declining educational outcomes reflected in lower reading levels in both public and private sector schools are areas of concern. According to Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014, there is sharp decline between 2007 to 2014 in the number of children in Standard V who can read a textbook of Standard II, in both government and private schools,” the survey said.

It said that social infrastructure scenario in the country reflects gaps in access to education, health and housing amenities and that “inclusive growth in India requires bridging gaps in educational outcomes and improved health attainments across the population”.

It said that Gender Parity Index (2013-14 provisional) shows an improvement in girls’ education, with parity having been achieved between girls and boys at almost all levels, while about 90 lakh minority community students will benefit under the pre-matric, post-matric and merit-cum-means scholarship schemes in the coming fiscal.

It said that expenditure on health as a percentage of total expenditure on social services increased from 18.6 percent in 2013-14 to 19.3 percent in 2014-15’s revised estimates and 19.5 percent in 2015-16’s budget estimates.

Noting ‘under five mortality’ has declined from 126 in 1990 to 49 in 2013, it said as per National Family Health Survey-4, the percentage of children fully immunised in the age group 12-23 months is above 80 percent in Sikkim and West Bengal, while all 12 states surveyed have more than 50 per cent children fully immunised.

On Mission Indradhanush aims to cover all those children by 2020 who are either unvaccinated, or are partially vaccinated against seven preventable diseases (diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B), it said 352 districts have been covered with 20.8 lakh children and 5.8 lakh pregnant women immunised in the first phase, 17.2 lakh children and 5.1 lakh pregnant women in the second and 17 lakh children and 4.8 lakh pregnant women in the third.

With rise in incidence of non-communicable diseases, it noted the government has initiated an integrated National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancers, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) jointly by the ministries of health and family welfare and AYUSH (ayurveda, yoga, unani, siddha and homeopathy) on pilot basis in six districts.

It said that health and access to sanitation/housing amenities were closely related and can improve the productivity and living environment to a great extent but there were “persistent regional disparities” with some states lagging with less than 25 percent coverage in the latter.

The survey points out the need to focus on the quality of education in both the public and private sectors.

“There is need for professionally qualified and trained teachers to improve educational outcomes. To strengthen the delivery of public health services and infrastructure facilities, both public investments and leveraging of private investments are necessary,” it said.

The survey said adoption of technology platforms and innovative models by leveraging Jan-Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) scheme can improve the efficiency in delivery of services.

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