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.


Risto Harma said...

Hi, I'm an education researcher with an interest in India, I don't know if you may have seen the 5 June 2008 Times of India article on the record number of children now in school in Bihar and West Bengal, the article is:

They mention in particular data on Muslim children, any idea where one can get one's hands on this data? I've tried the Census of India website but they do not appear to make it available, other than for SC and ST.

Next question: in the case of Bihar in particular, is it really possible that they have succeeded in getting these children into school or is it just "paper" enrolment - figures on a page? I am aware that in the past, enrolment drives take place, children are recorded on paper as enroled after parents have been talked to, but what happens, as shown in the data, is then a sudden dramatic drop out result after class 1 occurs, because they were never there to begin with or because the parents were unimpressed by what is on offer at school vis-a-vis the cost of sending children to school. What is your opinion? My initial response to the UNESCO EFA Monitoring report is scepticism. In the case of Bihar, about a year ago, I had spoken to small NGO staff from local NGOs there who say the average quality of government staff implementing any type of programme is very low, and that this is a significant cause of programme failure, if not the only cause. Basically, we are to be believe, by these new results for Bihar, that the administrative quality issue has improved significantly. Also this news comes during a time of high food prices, which are critical to low income families in India in being able to send chidlren to school, especially girls (any change in costs can have a significant effect on children's school participation). What the Times of India article does not say is how these good results were achieved. Is it really the case (is it really possible) that this has been overcome? Basically, the benchmark is that from the 2001 Census there were 42.2 million children not attending school (attendance data not enrolment data this refers to) for the age group 6-10, out of a total 6-10 population cohort of 135.2 million children. So that's an attendance rate of about 68.8%. So in about seven years they claim the rate is now down to 13.5 million for the age group 6-13, as per the UN report cited above, down from the 2001 Census figure of 58 million not attending for 6-13 years of age.

Any information you have on this will be of great use to an external observer.

-- thanks, Risto Harma, researcher, South Asia Forum, London

Risto Harma said...

That article link has not copied properly, it was:

Risto Harma said...

It should be said that 6-10 years of age cohort represents the classes 1-5, ie primary school, while age cohort 6-13 presents the full eight year cycle of primary and upper primary school, the latter officially designated as the compulsory years of schooling in India.

Nila-kantha-chandra said...

Hullo, thanks for your visit and questions. As I'm in the midst of a hectic work engagement and do not have in hand the kind of data you are looking for, I'm unable to answer your questions with any susbtantive elaboration. However, I can say that, yes, the "on paper" data is just that, i.e. on paper. Facts on the ground are something else, with a whole range of factors responsible for that. West Bengal, about which I know something, is among the worst performers in India in primary education and in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All Campaign). The schools that exist - need to be seen to get an idea of the appalling state of affairs. For instance, a major reason for adolescent girls not attending school is that there is no toilet for the children. Menstruating girls suffer acute trauma. The ngo Water for People (India) has done a lot of work on this subject. UNICEF in Calcutta had undertaken evaluation studies some years ago on the Ananda Path (Joyful Learning) programme. That threw up something of the pathetic state of affairs. The state of the Urdu medium education system in cities like Calcutta and Howrah - is also something that needs to be seen to get an idea of where things are at. See for instance:

Hope this is somewhat helpful.