The second Millennium Development Goal (MDG) is, “to ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling.” This was supposed to be done by 2015. But, MDG report, 2010, released by UNDP, tells a different story. The report says, “Enrolment in primary education has continued to rise, reaching 89 per cent in the developing world. But, the pace of progress is insufficient to ensure that, by 2015, all girls and boys complete a full course of primary schooling.” It seems much more true to the context of India.
Despite, implementation of Right to Education (RTE) and much hyped investments in the field of primary education by the government of India, the number of those children, who are yet to see the face of school, presents a dire picture. According to a government estimate there are 2.8 million out-of-school children. But, the joint review mission (JRM) of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the government’s flagship programme for universalization of elementary education, questioned the veracity of the government’s estimate.
JRM revealed that some small independent studies in Orissa and Varanasi had shown that actual number of out-of-school children were six to eight times the government’s estimates from the same households. Calculation based on net enrolment ratios reported by JRM reveals that around 44 million children do not go to school.
A serious problem with Indian education system is the drop out rate. Over 50% of children who join up in Class I drop out by Class VIII. According to District Information System for Education (DISE) and National University for Educational Planning and Administration, total enrolment in primary classes (Class I to V) was 134.4 million in 2008-09, the latest year for which the complete data is available. In Class VI to VIII, the total enrolment had dramatically dropped to 53.4 million. Earlier study of same agencies containing class-wise enrolment shows that with each successive class, students quit in large numbers. By Class V, every third kid has dropped out and by Class VIII every second student no longer attends school.
According to the JRM report, nearly 2.7 million children drop out of school every year. On the other hand 7th All India School Education Survey (AISES) says, of a 100 enrolled in grade I, only 53 boys and 55 girls are expected to complete grade X. Even, the performance of Bangladesh is better than India on the front of drop out rate. According to UNDP, the drop out rate from primary education in Bangladesh was 33 percent in 2004. UNESCO says that the drop out rate from primary education in India was at 39 percent in 2006.
RTE can help a lot in achieving MDG-2 but its performance entirely depends on implementation. Apart from this, government must address the huge problem of dropouts. Policy makers need to look at the factors that lead children to leave school at various stages. National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) got some jaw-dropping answers. NSSO survey says that about 42 percent of girls said that they were told by their parents to look after the housework and 14 percent girls said that their elders thought that more education was unnecessary for them. These two reasons were given by only 11 percent boys. Around 68 percent boys give up their studies to supplement the family income.
The Government of India implemented RTE from April 1, 2010. Now, getting primary education has become the fundamental right of each and every children of 6 to 14 years age group. It will be quite early to comment on the performance of RTE. But, keeping the performance of earlier flagship government programmes in mind, it becomes difficult to believe that only RTE can change the dire picture of Indian education system. A lot of things need to be done at the implementation level. Otherwise, there will be no visible changes at ground level.
This is the second article of a series on MDG. The next will appear on Monday.
You can also read previous post here-