NEW DELHI: AS the government works to improve quality of education and learning outcomes at school, it can draw some comfort from the dwindling number of out-of-school children.
A Educational Consultants of India/HRD ministry-sponsored survey by IMRB’s Social and Rural Research Institute puts the number of out-of-school children at 81 lakh or 4.22% of children in the age group of 6 to 13 years. While the survey quantifies positive outcomes of efforts being made in getting children into schools, it brings to light a disturbing trend — a high drop out rate at the primary school level, and higher drop out level in urban areas as compared to rural areas, giving further credence to the view that the focus needs to shift to quality of education and teacher training.
This number is significantly higher than the 1.4% worked out by the ministry through the annual work plan and budget documents of the state. However, IMRB 2009 survey figures are roughly the same as that of the Pratham sponsored ASER survey. In the 2005 survey by IMRB, the total number of out of school children was at 1.34 crore or 6.94%.
While the reduction in the number of out-of-school children is good news, the survey points to a disturbing trend in terms of drop out percentage by class. At an all-India level drop outs are highest in class 2 and 3, at 19.6% and 19.5%, respectively. It rises to 19.2% in class 5 (19.2%) after a brief lull in class 4 ( at 16.1%). The pattern is the same for both rural and urban areas. Though the drop out rates are much higher in the urban areas — in class 2 the drop out rate is 24.7% and in class 3 it is 22.7%. There is some good news, the drop out rate at the end of elementary school that is class 8 is at 2.4%; here the rate is lower for the urban areas (1.2%) than for rural areas (2.6%).
In keeping with the popular perception that private schools deliver better education than government ones, the survey found a slight increase in the number of children attending private schools—from 23% in 2005 to 25.6% in 2009. This is accompanied by a decline in number of children in government schools—from 74.5% in 2005 to 73.1% in 2009. However, there is evidence of a growing discernment —percentage of children in unrecognised private schools declined from 1.9% in 2005 to 0.70% in 2009.
Despite reductions, the percentage of out of school children among the Muslims (7.67%), Scheduled Castes (5.96%) and Scheduled Tribes (5.6%) continues to be much higher than the national average of 4.22%. The gap between the percentage of out school children among SCs and Sts and the national average has been substantially reduced—in 2005, when the national average was 6.94%, the percentage of out-of school children among Scheduled Castes was at 8.17%, while among Scheduled Tribes it was 9.54%.
While there has been a reduction in the percentage of out-of school children among Muslims, the gap between the national average of out of school children and that among Muslim has risen marginally. It was at 9.97% among Muslims in 2005, when the national average was 6.94%. While in 2009, the gap is marginally higher by 0.42%—among Muslims, out school children account for 7.67%, when the national average is at 4.22%.
2 Oct 2009, Urmi A Goswami, ET Bureau
Right to education for Indian children
When launching the country’s flagship education programme in 2001, the government promised to bring every Indian child to school by 2005. Four years on, 80 lakh (eight million) children — more than the population of Switzerland — are still out of school. An independent survey commissioned by the government, conducted as a new law makes school education a fundamental right, found that this figure includes 1.3 lakh children just in Delhi, one of India’s wealthiest cities.
The Indian Market Research Bureau conducted the survey in 2009. The bureau conducted a similar study in 2005 for the government and found that 1.3 crore children were not going to school. Investigators defined an out-of-school child as any child who had not attended school for the past two months.
The market research entity visited every district across India this year, choosing 40 per cent of the households covered by the National Sample Survey Organisation’s 64 th round of survey in 2007. The survey results are at wide variance with the estimate of 28 lakh out-of-school children by the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, raising questions about the credibility of the government’s own reporting mechanism.
A senior official in the Human Resource Development Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity because the study has not been made public yet, said, “We have to discuss these findings. How to reconcile them with the figures reported to us by each state is a challenge for us.” Officials reckon that the mid-day meal scheme — a cooked lunch meant to retain children in school — could be having the unintended effect of inflated enrolment numbers. “In order to get the meal grants and supplies, schools might be reporting students whose presence is limited to school registers,” said the official.
Educationists are also worried that India’s metropolitan cities continue to report high numbers of out-of-school children from the urban poor, who are often migrants from rural India.
In Delhi, 1.38 lakh children are out of school in 2009, up from 84,424 in 2005. In Maharashtra, the state education secretary flatly refused to conduct a survey of such children, saying Mumbai’s teeming slums were too difficult to conduct such an exercise.
An educationist, who was associated with reviewing the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan coverage this August, said, “The children of the urban poor … are emerging as a disadvantaged category in themselves. They need special policies that identify who they are, their problems, and ensure learning and retention, with a better school infrastructure.”
Chitrangada Choudhury, Hindustan Times October 04, 2009