A critique of Meghalaya’s SDG grades

Is inclusive & equitable education possible?

By Dr Rikil Chyrmang

The need of the hour is to prioritise the thrust areas for resource allocation such as the revenue and expenditure gap. Once this gap is narrowed down then the government can mobilize its resources efficiently.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) Index in collaboration with the ministry of statistics and programme implementation (MoSPI), United Nations in India, and Global Green Growth Institute aims to provide a holistic approach to the social, economic, and environmental status of the country and its States and UTs. It also measures India and its States’ progress towards the SDGs for 2030 and to ensure that no one is left behind. A composite index for the set of parameters was constructed based on the 17 SDG goals. The composite index score ranges between 0 and 100. The Index Score categorisation: Achievers (100), Front Runner(65-99), Performers (50-64), and Aspirants (0-49).
The 17 SDG index include SDG1 (no poverty), SDG2 (zero hunger) SDG3 (good health and wellbeing), SDG4 (quality education), SGD5 (gender equality), SGD6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG7 (affordable and clean energy), SGG8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure), SDG10 (reduce inequalities), SGD11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG13 (climate action), SDG 14 (life below water), SDG15 (life on land) and SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions) and SDG17(Partnerships for the Goals).
Based on the composite SDG performance, Meghalaya scored 52 out of the total 100 marks on different parameters lower than the national average at 57 in the NITI Aayog Index 2018-19. Meghalaya was in the “performer” category (with scores in the range of 50–64) for the consecutive year. In the recent NITI Aayog Index 2020-21 Meghalaya has improved their score to 60 out of a total of 100 marks on different parameters along with Jharkhand (56), Assam (57), Arunachal Pradesh (60), Rajasthan (60), Uttar Pradesh (60), Chhattisgarh (61), Nagaland (61) and Odisha (61).
The main targets of SDG4 are to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all. Its role is not only limited to boosting economic growth by enhancing skills and opening up opportunities for sustainable livelihoods but also to enable people to lead a life of dignity, including technical and vocational training by providing lifelong learning opportunities, to achieve substantial adult literacy and numeracy. It also aims to build and upgrade education facilities for the disabled child, to bring gender-sensitivity and ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development. Meghalaya has improved its performance in the SDG4 composite index on quality education from 38 points in 2018-19 to 48 points in 2020-21. Meghalaya (48) was in the “aspirant” category (with scores in the range of 0–49) along with Jharkhand (45), Assam (43), Arunachal Pradesh (41), Madhya Pradesh (45), Tripura (42), and Nagaland (39). The poor performance of Meghalaya in SDG4 has also been reflected in the recently released report 2019-20 of the Union Education Ministry on Progression Grading Index (PGI) of school ranking where Meghalaya performs at the bottom among all Indian states. Many other scholars pointed out the abysmal performance of Meghalaya in different parameters. Where are we heading to?
No doubt, there is improvement in some indicators in the SDG4 for Meghalaya in 2020-21. But it is a matter of great concern for the set of parameters for achieving quality education. This is in particular, adjusted percentage of net enrolment ratio at elementary (Class 1-10), the percentage on learning outcomes in Language, Mathematics and Environmental Studies, Science and Social Science for Class 5-8 students, the percentage of school teachers professionally qualified recorded a very low level of Index score (0-49). Meghalaya has only 43.63% of trained teachers at the secondary level (class 9-10) below the national average of 82.62% as per the NITI Aayog 2020-21 India Index. Meghalaya performance for these sets of indicators is worst and it is in the category of an “aspirant”.
It is a sorry state of affairs, where the overall quality of education in the state is down from bad to worst. If this is the situation how can the state achieve the targeted SDGs set for 2030? Schools have ceased to attract the best students, and post-schooling most of the best students from within the state choose to move outside for higher education or training programs due to deficiency of education infrastructure. An independent assessment of rural children’s educational performance across Meghalaya shows the lowest proportion of children who can read at the highest (story) level, and that this is half the average of children across the country. Its performance in arithmetic is noteworthy, as it the only state in the country with fewer than 20% (18.69%) of its rural children being able to perform division at the grade 5 level, thus making it the worst-performing state in this regard. The SDG4 Index shows 84.76% of schools in India had access to basic infrastructure (electricity and drinking water) whereas only 28.4% of schools in Meghalaya have access to basic infrastructure.
The need of the hour is to prioritise the thrust areas for resource allocation such as the revenue and expenditure gap. Once this gap is narrowed down then the government can mobilize its resources efficiently. Meghalaya can improve its SDG composite ranking and SDG4 on quality education in the coming years with the help of the people, and all stakeholders. Meghalaya can take advantage of their revenue balance and invest more in inclusive education which should be about 6 to 7 % of the Gross State Domestic Product.
(The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Economic Studies and Policies School of Social Sciences and Policy, Central University of South Bihar, Email E-mail: [email protected], [email protected])

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