Columns: The Right Lessons

Written by The Financial Express | Updated: Oct 18 2014, 08:02am hrs
The number of out-of-school children in India today has shrunk by 26% since 200960.6 lakh children (nearly 3% of all the children in the country in the age group of 6-14 years of age) are not enrolled in any school at the moment as compared to nearly 82 lakh in 2009, a s per a study conducted for the HRD ministry. Also, there are fewer girls out of school than boys. While poor states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, in addition to Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Delhi and Rajasthan saw a decline in such numbers, 13 states and UTs registered a rise. Amongst the vulnerable groups, STs saw only a marginal decline in out of school children while in others, like SCs and the disabled, the fall matched or even went past the overall trend.

Many would likely link the progress to the Right to Education (RTE) Act, enacted in 2010. There is no doubt that the RTE, despite the many challenges it presents, could have contributed to climbing enrollment numbers. But, at the same time, the surge in private enrollment, led by the proliferation of private schools even in rural areas, has also helped the children press ahead. Given how there are still some states, like the better-performing West Bengal, where private school enrollment is below 10%, facilitating greater reach for the schools themselves and access for the students and their guardians could, no doubt, return even better results. However, the challenge now is also improving the quality of educationwhile country faces a huge shortage of trained teachers, only 37,000 of 7 lakh aspirants passed the Central Teacher Eligibility Test held in September.