Dropouts rate increased, Missing school, Missing midday meals

Written By: / Career Guidance and Education / Monday, 23 August 2021 17:54

Some 24 crore children have missed school for over a year.
77% of children have no access to online instruction.
In any case, ‘Online education is not real education.’
Dropouts have increased at secondary level.
In fact, the dropout figures relate to the pre-pandemic year 2019-20. As with the economy, our education system was already in decline before Covid-19. The two sectors are linked: Reversing all precedent, there are more dropouts among boys than girls. Boys are abandoning school to earn a living – sometimes, after Covid, as their family’s chief breadwinner.
The report admits the yawning digital divide that has deprived most children of instruction during lockdown, negating the government’s claim of 85% online access. India’s school system has subdivisions beyond the public-private divide. 62% children attend government or government-aided schools. The other 38% are divided between well-endowed elite private institutions and a motley range of modest or questionable ones.
The benefits of online instruction accrue chiefly to an undefined section of the former ‘creamy layer’, largely through the massive spread of online coaching during the pandemic. The corporate lobby providing this service has acquired such visibility as to seriously skew our educational outlook. Their gung-ho rhetoric is echoed by the government’s absorption with its own online portals, regardless of how many students they reach or what teaching functions they can cover. This comfort zone has as much relevance for the reality of post-pandemic Indian education as the upbeat Sensex for the 97% of Indians hit by a loss of income.
Each year, some 2.4 crore Indian children enrol in Class 1. Barring a small fraction of the privileged, the batches of 2020 and 2021 have effectively not taken the first step towards literacy and numeracy. A large proportion of those enrolled earlier will not have acquired the skills, or forgotten what they acquired. By a ballpark estimate, 8 to 10 crore children in primary school currently cannot read or count. Unless extraordinary measures are taken, they will remain in that state. In the coming decades, they will constitute 9-10% of India’s workforce.
The other factor, inseparable from education in the general Indian context, is health and nutrition. To the nation’s shame, physical growth and nourishment have been declining among India’s children for several years. The post-pandemic plight of the poor will multiply the damage. The Centre for Science and Environment estimates that 37.5 crore children might suffer weight and growth loss. Even 25% of that figure seems disturbing enough – and tallies with my estimate of core educational loss.
A human and economic disaster can only be averted by major nationwide action, of which there is no sign. At most there is talk, still largely unfocussed, of preventing dropouts. But that can only be the beginning of a long-term intensive programme of restoring the learning and nutritional deficit.
Such hopes seem misplaced when the Union Budget for school education has been slashed by Rs 5,000 crore, and for anganwadi and related programmes by Rs 4,500 crore, from the original allocations for 2020-21. These were revised downward when schools shut down, so that this year’s budget shows a spurious increase.
But though schools were shut, the children were there: Last year’s budget reduction failed both their nutritional and their educational needs. The midday meals budget this year is 13% below that of 2013-14. The education ministry had devised a scheme called Nipun Bharat to address the learning deficit in primary schools. Paradoxically, the prolonged closure of schools has been cited to extend, hence effectively suspend, the scheme. The Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan that would fund it faces a 38% budget cut.
Such a scheme, imaginatively adapted to the post-Covid situation, might address the magnitude of the problem; nothing less will serve. We missed the chance for detailed planning and infrastructure creation during the pandemic, before schools reopened. It is almost too late but not quite. Failure on this front will deplete our economy for at least a generation of its already stretched human resources.

About the Author

Vijay Garg

Vijay Garg

Vijay Garg is a regular contributor of Imphal Times, mostly related with Education. Vijay is a resident of Street Kour Chand MHR Malout-152107 Distt Sri Muktsar sahib Punjab. Vijay Garg, Ex.PES-1 is a retired Principal from Government Girls Sen Sec school Mandi Harji Ram Malout -152106 Punjab. He is also the author of Quantitative Aptitude, NTSE , NMMS, Mathematics of XII, ICSE numerical physics and chemistry many more books.

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