There is no let up in primary school dropout rate in the country with the northeastern states of Meghalaya and Manipur being the worst affected. The Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh too have performed poorly in retaining schools kids at the primary level.
This has led to a severe dent in the performance of UPA’s flagship education programme, ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’, which has failed to meet the stipulated target set by the government.
Official statistics furnished by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (HRD) showed that the school dropout rate in Meghalaya stood at 58.87 percent while Manipur and Rajasthan witnessed 42.31 percent and 38.89 percent dropout rates, respectively.
The primary-level girls’ dropout rate was no better. In Meghalaya, the dropout rate was 56.95 percent followed by Rajasthan at 39.41 and Bihar at 34.65 percent, respectively.
A further analysis showed that in the 6-14 age group, the school dropout rate was highest in Arunachal Pradesh at 10. 95 percent followed by Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, which observed dropout rates of 9.28 percent and 7.58 percent, respectively.
Author of ‘Why children drop out: Case study of a metropolitan city’ and assistant professor at National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), Dr Sunita Chugh said, “Financial constraints still remain one of the significant causes for children to drop out. Among the key reasons for high dropout in northern states is the cultural factor.”
Dr Gaysu R Arvind, professor at Department of Education, University of Delhi, said it was not difficult to explain the high primary school dropout rate in states like Rajasthan and Bihar. She opined, “Poverty is the major reason behind low literacy rate. Moreover, seasonal migration and also unavailability of proper infrastructure facilities are the major reasons behind high school dropout rate.” She emphasized on proper conceptualization of government initiatives and policies to minimize the school dropout rate.
Chugh elaborated further, “Quality of schooling which includes infrastructure facility, physical facilities like the availability of toilets, separate toilet for girls, drinking water facility, seating facility, teacher-pupil ratio etc is not appropriate and satisfactory, thus the enabling environment is not available which creates disinterest among the children and finally they dropout.”
An HRD Ministry study, which tabulated the state-wise performance until March 31, 2011, also found that Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar had adverse pupil-teacher ratio impacting continuity in education. Uttar Pradesh had 77,680 schools with adverse pupil-teacher ratio followed by Madhya Pradesh at 53,333 and Bihar at 51,104 schools, respectively.
HN Sahay, Director, Operations, Smile Foundation India, an education focussed non-governmental organisation, said, “Lack of awareness at family level is the prime reason behind primary school dropouts. Efforts should be on to promote non-formal education. There has to be an effective mechanism of monitoring evaluation of government initiatives to tackle such issues.”