Insights into Editorial: Still too many children out of school
The Preamble to the Indian Constitution states that the democratic Republic of India shall secure social, economic and political justice.
Education is undoubtedly the most important element in the movement to secure this end.
Although the Directive Principles of State Policy mandate the state to provide children the right to access education, and the 86th constitutional amendment and the RTE dictate its implementation, it will only be fulfilled if sincere efforts are made by the States under the guidance and prodding of a committed Centre.
Official Data: How Far it to be reliable?
The official numbers of out-of-school children in India are either out of date or contradictory.
According to the 2011 Census, the number of out-of-school children in the 5-17 age group was 8.4 crore. However, according to a survey commissioned in 2014 by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the number of out-of-school children in the 6-13 age group was only 60.64 lakh.
This is a gross underestimation. It is quite unlikely that the number of out-of-school children came down so drastically from 2011 to 2014, especially given that there were no significant changes in objective conditions, warranting such a miraculous reduction.
On the basis of the 71st round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) carried out in 2014 and taking into account the 6-18 age group, out-of-school children in this age group were more than 4.5 crores in the country
The proportion of out-of-school children was higher in rural India (17.2%) than in urban India (13.1%).
Frequent and Common Reasons for dropping out of school:
- The most important reason for boys to drop out of school was to take up jobs to supplement the family earning.
- For girls, it was the compulsion to participate in household work.
- There is also a prejudice against educating girls that is prevalent in India.
- An important reason for drop-out is the socio-economic conditions of the parents of the children. Therefore, calls for a more comprehensive approach that is not reflected in the RTE Act.
- The most important social reason for drop-out is a lack of awareness of the importance of school education and of the fact that education is now a legal right.
- According to the RTE Act and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, these out-of-school children fall under the category of child labour.
- It is, therefore, not surprising that the largest number of child labourers in the world is in India.
What can be done to bring more children to school?
- We would not have been confronted with this high proportion of drop-outs if all the provisions of the RTE Act had been implemented within the time limit prescribed in the Act (latest by April 2015).
- The Act provided for the availability of a school at a distance of 1 km from the residence of the child at the primary level and 3 km at the upper primary level
- Until an adequate number of schools at the prescribed distances from the children’s homes becomes available, it would be necessary to provide secure modes of subsidised travel to schools, particularly for girls
- Another important provision which ought to have been included in the RTE is financial support to poor parents, adequate to enable them to send their children to school
If these provisions had been implemented, a major reason for drop-out (the distance of school) would have been eliminated.
Another Important Concern: Pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) particularly in Private Schools:
It is the most critical requirement. But it has got the least public attention.
All other forward-looking provisions of the Act such as continuous assessment, a child learning at her own pace, and ‘no detention’ policy is contingent on a school with an adequate number of teachers.
No meaningful teaching-learning is possible unless trained teachers are physically present at school.
It is impractical to expect quality education without this.
Need of the Hour: All round development and learning of every Indian child:
Students should get time for various other activities that enable their all-round development and make them better human beings. At the stage of development of cognitive skills, students need to be given full freedom.
- Life education, value education, skill building and experiential learning should become a major part of their education contributing to bringing out the best in each child.
- A habit of visiting libraries and learning should be encouraged.
- Learning should be provided with a local context for enabling a child to build up her knowledge with much ease and understanding.
- India is a diverse country and therefore, learning needs are also diverse which needs to be addressed accordingly.
The RTE aimed to provide a framework for private schools to supplement the efforts of the state to uplift disadvantaged sections of society through the means of education.
We need to act immediately to address the gaps in the implementation of the law. The future of our children depends on it.
The most important social reason for drop-out is lack of awareness of the importance of school education and of the fact that education is now a legal right.
Ironically, education is the most important instrument for creating this awareness. Thus, education is a quintessential example of being vested with intrinsic as well as instrumental value being both the means and the end.