Only 54% children complete schooling in India

Published: February 29, 2016 12:04 AM

The net enrolment in secondary education is 48%, only 15% schools offer secondary education, 22 million children (15-18 year old) are child labourers … Union Budget FY17 has to address a lot of challenges

Union Budget FY17 is going to be a crucial test for the government. In the pursuit of the economic growth paradigm, it will require to balance its twin objectives for vision 2022. These are (1) providing basic amenities to all citizens in an equitable and just manner for ensuring a life with self-respect and dignity, and (2) providing appropriate opportunities to every citizen to realise his/her potential. Children, accounting for more than 40% of the population, will be crucially affected with the enactment of these objectives, especially where a large proportion of India’s children survive in an unequal world, with huge disparities in education, health, participation.

Net enrolment in secondary education is 48%

The Indian education system at the primary-school level is the biggest system in the world and also has the largest number of out-of-school children—42.7 million—which is almost 10 times than the total number of children in primary schools in Nepal. The good news is India has made significant progress in the last five years in enrolment of children in schools, especially since the advent of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

However, while the state of enrolment has been encouraging in the initial year’s primary schooling, the trend has not been very heartening on the trajectory towards higher classes. Of every 100 children who are enrolled in schools, only 72 are able to complete class VIII. There is more reason to worry, as just 48 of these children complete class X and barely 33 finish class XII at the right age. This is certainly a reflection of poor state of secondary education in India. The 12th Five Year Plan envisaged near-universal enrolment in secondary education, with enrolment exceeding 90%. But India is currently at 78.5% gross enrolment ratio and only 48% net enrolment ratio, which means that out of every 100 children, only 48 children (age appropriately) get enrolled in secondary education.

Only 15% schools offer secondary education

With less than half of our children not been able to finish secondary education (age appropriately), India has a lot of challenges to address and take appropriate measures to bridge this gap. Looking at the provisioning of schooling, the access and availability of secondary schools is quite skewed, with 83% schools offering primary education, 15% schools offering secondary education and only 7.5% schools offering higher secondary education. In fact, just 2.5% schools offer complete schooling from class I to class XII. Along with working on making adequate infrastructure and personnel provisions, we would also need to invest in making secondary education more inclusive, as the drop-out rate is higher in the most marginalised population, with 27% Scheduled Tribes children and 24% Muslim children dropping out after class VIII.

22 million children (15-18 year old) are child labourers

According to Census 2011, there are 37 million out-of-school children between the age group of 15-18 years. Of these, 22 million are engaged in work—taking up adult ‘economic roles’—and 9 million get married before their legal age. It is, therefore, evident that if children are not in the fold of education, they tend to be exposed to vulnerabilities of child labour and child marriage.

We have to integrate secondary education and the component of vocational education and skill building, which are imperative for the nation’s progress. On one hand, we have an ambitious target of getting 500 million skilled workers, on the other it is an equally worrying state when over 50% of our children don’t get to finish secondary and higher education. Children need access to knowledge, all-round development, practical skills and decision-making capacity. We need accelerated investment in education in order to make sure that all children develop and flourish to be equipped individually, and subsequently shape as economically-contributing adults building a nation which is inclusive, equitable and a developed society.

Inadequacy of funds for secondary education

The Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) was launched in 2009 with key objectives of achieving the enrolment rate of 75% at secondary level by 2015, achieving universal access by 2017 and universal retention by 2020. While the targets are progressive, the scheme has not been able to gain deep penetration at state and district levels with respect to proper planning and execution, and the progress has been sluggish due to under-allocations as well as poor utilisation of allocated budgets.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD in April 2015 stated that, against a total projection of Rs 27,466 crore for RMSA in the 12th Plan period, less than 50% was allocated in the first three years. In 2015-16, the Union government reduced its investment on secondary education by 29%, putting an obligation on states to invest more.

Given CRY’s experience of working in over 23 states in education, we strongly feel that RMSA is still in its formative stage and it is too early for the Union government to reduce its resources. In fact, the role of the Union government is crucial at this stage in pro-actively supporting states in putting up the building blocks for secondary education, and carrying out adequate investment in training and provisioning of physical facilities and ensuring quality interventions.

In 2015-16, the social sector—health, education and nutrition—was de-prioritised by both the Centre and states. With the Centre calling for greater spending from states, and states requesting the Union finance ministry to revert to the earlier pattern of funding, will Budget FY17 resolve the impasse and ensure that 333.2 million children get their due? We truly hope that the Budget will bring in accelerated investment in education, ensuring a strong foundation for the nation’s progress.

By Komal Ganotra

The author is director, Policy, Research and Advocacy at CRY (Child Rights and You)

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