According to an analysis by IndiaSpend, the four BIMARU states – Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have some of the lowest literacy rates in the country in the Census 2011. Overall, India’s literacy rate has increased 8.66 percentage points to 74.04 percent between 2001 and 2011, according to Census data, but there are wide variations in the performance of different states.
The BIMARU states are home to 445.1 million of India’s 1.2 billion population and 43.6 percent of India’s school-age population between the ages of 5 and 14 but exhibit the lowest literacy rates. Bihar had a literacy rate of 61.8 percent, Rajasthan of 67.1 percent, UP of 67.7 percent and MP a rate of 70.6 percent in 2011, lower than the all-India average of 74 percent. Kerala has the highest literacy rate in the country at 94 percent.
School outcomes are also lower in the four BIMARU states.
In 2014-15, fewer students moved from grade V to grade VI in UP, with a transition rate of 79.1 percent, when compared to Goa, with a transition rate of almost 100 percent in 2014-15, according to data from the Unified District Information System for Education.
In MP, only 34.1 percent of children in grade V could read a grade II text in 2014, compared to 75.2 percent in the case of Himachal Pradesh, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014.
Similarly, in Rajasthan, 45.9 percent of children in grade V could “at least” subtract, compared to 87.4 percent in Mizoram.
Currently, only 2.5 percent of school-age children between the ages of five and 14 live in the four states — Kerala, Mizoram, Tripura and Goa — with the highest literacy in India, compared to 43.6 percent in the four BIMARU states, according to Census 2011.
Variations across states in India exist not only in literacy and enrolment, but also in factors that might impact future enrolment and learning.
Over the next century, 60 percent of the population increase in India would come from the four states of MP, Bihar, UP and Rajasthan, while only 22 percent would come from the more developed states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, according to a 2003 study published by The Economic and Political Weekly.
UP and Bihar will have India’s youngest populations over the next 10 years, as IndiaSpend reported in September 2016, together accounting for 31 percent of Indians between five and 14 years.
The BIMARU states spend less on education than their more literate counterparts. For instance, MP spends Rs 11,927 ($175) per student, while Tamil Nadu spends Rs 16,914 per student, the Economic and Political Weekly reported in September 2016. The per student spending, at Rs 5,298, in Bihar is even lower.
Another important factor, parent’s education, impacts school education, according to a 2001 paper published in the Review of Development Economics.
As many as 99.1 percent mothers in Kerala — the state with the highest literacy — received schooling, compared to 30.3 percent mothers in Rajasthan in 2014, according to the ASER – Trends Over Time report.
Further, factors such as wealth have a greater effect on enrolment in poorer states. Overall, in India, children from rich families are more likely to be enrolled in school than children from poor families, but this gap is greater in UP and Bihar than it is in Kerala, according to a 2001 study by Deon Filmer and Lant Pritchett, published in the journal Demography.
The IndiaSpend analysis of indicators on literacy, school enrolment, learning outcomes, and education spending across these four states reveal that there is a crisis in the state of education and India is ill-prepared to educate and train its young population.
Any reform in education in the BIMARU states would have the greatest impact for India.