Friday, November 10, 2006
Muslim children most deprived of education
About 13.5 million children in India in the age group of 6-13 years are out of school, with Muslims being the most affected section of the society, a study by UNESCO has found. The just-released Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2007 found that the 13.5 million out-of-school students account for 6.9 per cent of the 6-13 age group children in the country. Significantly, the rate of out-of-school children among Muslims was higher, at 10 per cent.
West Bengal has the highest number of out-of-school children after the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam. It also has the highest number of Scheduled Tribe children out of school. Eleven per cent of Muslim children in the Left Front-ruled state do not go to school.
The state has been sluggish in its commitment to widen the access to education.
High dropout rates and gender disparities continue despite a 93 per cent enrolment rate claimed by the government of India.
“Nigeria, Pakistan, India and Ethiopia (in descending order) are home to the largest number of school dropouts. Twenty-three million for the four countries,” says the Unesco report. “A recent survey of primary schools and pupils across India, for example, showed the average absentee rate to be 30 per cent on the days schools were visited.”
The southern states in India present a different picture. “In the south, some states appear to have virtually achieved universal schooling for 6 to 13 year olds,” says the report. The dropout rate varies not only across states but also within them.
The focus of Unesco’s report is on early childhood care and education for those below 6 years — they do not come under the fundamental right to education guaranteed for children in the 6-14 age group.
The report says India is not using its creative talent in the Education for All (EFA) programme. “One of the main conclusions was that India’s approach to EFA was lacking in vision and policy for non-formal education,”
It raises questions about the way the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, a key EFA programme, is being implemented. On paper, the enrolment is high but the quality of education is under a cloud. A study conducted by a group of NGOs has shown that a large percentage of students across the country is not equipped with minimum levels of learning.