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The lid on illegal sand mining in TN might finally be lifted (but perhaps for the wrong reasons)

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What we talk about when we talk about Tamil Nadu

It is out. Scroll’s wrap of all our #EarToTheGround reporting from Tamil Nadu.

How is Tamil Nadu doing?

Ask a layperson this question and, chances are, they will have good things to say. It does have a reputation for being one of the country’s better governed states. A welfarist state where, in marked contrast to large swathes of India, the government provides good healthcare and education to its people.

Between February and August, Scroll.in’s #EarToTheGround project reported from the state. And it found that this perception is no longer true.

Think Tamil Nadu has good public healthcare? It’s hard to find it on the ground

the concluding part of our story on why Tamil Nadu’s healthcare system is weakening.

In India’s development circles, Tamil Nadu is viewed as one of the best performing states in the delivery of public welfare like education and healthcare.

But, as the first part of this story reported, the state is improving on some public health indices (institutional deliveries), plateauing in others (infant and maternal mortality), and slipping backwards elsewhere (vaccinations, awareness about HIV/AIDS).

Why is it yielding such contradictory outcomes? Part of the answer lies in the weakening of its public health system.

Tamil Nadu’s healthcare numbers look good – but its people aren’t getting healthier

Out today, the first part of our final #ETTG story from Tamil Nadu. This one says the state’s much-vaunted healthcare system is weakening.

On some fronts, the state’s public health system continues to work well. Today, nearly all babies in Tamil Nadu are delivered in clinics – from 87% in 2002-’04, institutional deliveries climbed to 98.9% in 2012-’13.

But in many other areas, the state’s progress is plateauing. Improvement in infant and maternal mortality rates, for instance, has drastically slowed down in recent years.

On a few parameters, however, the state is moving backwards. The number of pregnant women visited at home by health department staffers, for instance, has fallen between 2002 and 2014.

As the story asks: “Why is the state’s healthcare delivery system delivering such starkly different outcomes?”

Paneerselvam has a major task: To reverse Tamil Nadu’s slipping development standards

O Panneerselvam has a tough task ahead of him.

Contrary to popular perception, which credits Tamil Nadu with high scores on development indices and a smoothly functioning administration, the state has lost ground over the last ten or so years.

Take education. Between 2010 and now, the number of students passing the state board exams has increased from 85% to 95%. In the same period, the number of students scoring centums (100%) has spiked as well.

However, these numbers, as Scroll reported last month, are challenged by none other than the National Council of Educational Research and Training’s National Achievement Surveys, which point to a precipitous drop in the quality of school education in the state.

Or take healthcare delivery. As a forthcoming story in Scroll will show, while Tamil Nadu continues to score high on metrics like institutional delivery, its numbers on Infant Mortality Rate and Maternal Mortality Ratio have plateaued. The state has also slipped on other metrics like immunisation coverage.

A closer study of why the state does well on some metrics while faltering on others leads to an important conclusion.

Tamil Nadu tried to reform its schools – but made them much worse

the concluding part of our story on TN’s school education system.

A former official in the state examinations department traced the disarray to a handful of factors – among them the decision to do away with exams, the obduracy of matriculation schools, and rising pressure on the education department to show good results.

Tamil Nadu’s schools are in crisis (but nobody is talking about it)

How good are Tamil Nadu’s schools?

If you take a look at the exam results in the state, you would get the impression that they are in sound shape.

Between 2010 and 2016, the percentage of students passing the state’s tenth standard board exams rose from mid-eighties to mid-nineties. So did the scores and the tally of students getting a centum, or 100%.

In the same period, twelfth standard results showed a similar trend. The pass percentage increased from 85% to 91%, along with the average marks and centums.

However, these numbers clash with the findings of the National Achievement Surveys.

Conducted by the Central government’s National Council for Education, Research and Training to track learning outcomes, the survey conducts classroom tests every three years for students in the third, fifth, eighth and tenth grades in all Indian states and Union territories. Its assessment of India’s tenth standard students in 2015 placed Tamil Nadu’s students close to the bottom in every subject.

The second — and concluding — part of this story will be published tomorrow.