One in Every Two Students Drops Out by Class Eight in India

Even as the country observes International Literacy Day, a study has found that one out of every two students enrolled in schools drop out before reaching ninth standard. According to the study carried out by the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry, Government of India, one out of every four students does not go beyond class five. By class eight, the dropout rate gets worse at 50.8 per cent. HRD Minister Arjun Singh also recently said that the government was striving to achieve universalisation of elementary education by 2010 and confessed that one out of five teachers at the primary level was not attending class.

The government is implementing the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All) programme for universalisation of elementary education by 2010, by augmenting availability of school infrastructure and improving the quality of education in elementary schools. But Ministry’s own survey conducted this year shows that 20% of teachers were not attending schools at the primary stage.

An independent survey was commissioned by the Government of India and conducted by Social and Research Institute, a unit of International Marketing Research Bureau (SRI-IMRB) in July-August, 2005 with the aim of assessing the number of out-of-school children across the country.

As per the findings of the survey, the number of out of school children in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh was 31.77 lakhs and 29.95 lakhs respectively.

This number has now reduced to 21.20 lakhs in Bihar and 7.86 lakhs in Uttar Pradesh as per State Reports as of March, 2007.

Context specific interventions for children who are “hard to reach” such as bridge courses, learning centres with flexible timings, seasonal hostels, home based education, mobile schools, have been taken up under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Programme. The Government of India has undertaken 19 orientation and capacity building workshops with States/UTs with illustrative case studies of good practices, to encourage State/Districts to do such context specific interventions.

The Madhya Pradesh state government has achieved considerably success in this regard over last four years. There were 700,74 out-of-school children in the year 2003 in the state. Now their number has been reduced to 65,000 following concerted efforts made in the state for enrolment of such children. Besides, the dropout rate has also come down during the period. The dropout rate at primary level was 25.6 per cent in year 2003 which has come down to 17.6 per cent in the year 2007. At middle level the dropout rate has come down from 26.6 percent in 2003 to 16.3 percent in the year 2007.

The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GNR) was 101.7 percent at primary level in the year 2003, which has increased to 104.6 per cent in the year 2007. At middle level this ratio was 56.6 per cent, which has increased to 95.3 per cent in the year 2007.

Similarly, the Net Enrolment Ratio (NER), which was 82 per cent in 2003, has increased to 95.9 per cent at primary level and in case of middle level it has gone up from 66 per cent to 88.2 per cent during the period. A joint review mission sent by Government of India for review of implementation of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) early this year lauded the achievements in Madhya Pradesh. The review mission praised the efforts of state government for enrolment of out-of-school children and to bring down the dropout rate.

The credit of these achievements has been given to “School Chalen Ham” drive, residential bridge course, non-residential bridge course, human development centres and other innovative programmes.

Meanwhile, a new funding pattern for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) was cleared by the Union Cabinet. The new pattern will be a compromise between the state governments’ demand and the union government and finance ministry’s proposal. The revised Centre-state funding pattern for the SSA would be 65:35 for the current and the next financial year. For 2009-10, it would be 60:40 and in 2010-11 it would be 55:45. By the end of the present plan period (2011-2012), the equation would be 50:50. The 50:50 pattern would be continued thereafter.

The revision is with retrospective effect from the beginning of the financial year. In view of stiff resistance from the States to the funding scheme that envisaged a withdrawal of the Centre from SSA funding with every Five Year Plan, the Union Human Resource Development Ministry suggested a staggered reduction in the Central assistance in the XIth Plan period.

A further concession has been granted to the eight North-Eastern States. Right through the Plan, they will have to cough up only 10 per cent of the expenditure in their respective States.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its nod for extending the mid-day meal scheme to children in the upper primary stage in government and government-aided schools, besides the education guarantee scheme and alternative and innovative education centres in two phases.

The SSA structure in Gujarat may be replicable in other states

Meena Bhatt, State Project Director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Government of Gujarat

In emerging trends of learning where do you place Gujarat school education system? What are the innovative learning solutions, best practices or policies specific to the state, that make it a glorified or a successful teaching/ learning system? Do you think what you have been able to do in this project or in this state’s  education sector is replicable in other states or in other educational contexts?

In Gujarat, we have started Computer Aided Education (CAE) in 2003-04 with 517 schools as an innovative activity. The idea is to make the students able to learn themselves the difficult topics of the syllabus with the help of Multimedia based Education Contents. Most of the states are implementing the same project but of course, the structure what Gujarat has created may be replicable in other states. In Gujarat, the computer labs established are having minimum 6 computers. Also the bigger schools have10 computers.

What role does the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) plays in the context of the state’s school  education system, especially in relation to the SSA project. How will the public-private partnership be built self-propelled or centrally guided?

In the initial phase of Computer-aided Learning (CAL), Gujarat has tied up with Azim Premji Foundation for the multimedia based contents on Hard spots. The Public Private Partnership plays a vital role in school education system. In Gujarat, the PPP is being built self-propelled.

What are the key areas where ICT can upgrade human resource development? What are the key skill requirements for Educators, Pedagogical/ Technical?

ICT can upgrade Human Resource Development in many areas, like Decision Making Systems, Analysis of data, Presentation of the difficult areas etc. Both technical as well as pedagogical skills are required  for Educators.

What does the state’s reaction to the current funding pattern for SSA project. How prepared is the state to take the project forward with little dependency on the Union government?

The funding pattern of centrally sponsored schemes should be 75:25 as it was at the time of begining of schemes. However, Gujarat can sustain the schemes with the existing pattern also.

What are the challenges you face in achieving the targets that you have set? What are the new programmes being planned?

Any innovative activity needs some time for the end users to accept and involvement. Similarly, the main challenge was the acceptance of the innovative activity. A strong dedicated team at the state and down level are the strong points for me.

In 5 years from now, where do you see Gujarat is going in terms of quality education? What is there in the agenda for the year 2012? How do you plan to take forward that vision?

In 5 years from now, Gujarat will be on top in terms of Quality education. In 2012 all the eligible children will be getting quality education at elementary level.