While giving India a pat on the back for its efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goals, UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report 2007 says the country may still fall short because of the large number of out-of-school children.
Just four countries, including India, account for about half (28 million) of the world’s out-of-school children. India has the third largest number of such children after Nigeria and Pakistan. And 30 per cent of those enrolled in Indian schools don’t attend school regularly. However, the report — released on Monday by Kesav Desiraju and Subhash Kuntia, joint secretaries in the HRD Ministry — also says the drop in the number of school dropouts in West Asia from 31 million to 16 million between 1999 and 2004 is largely because of India.
In India, the report says, most such children live in small settlements with no school facilities. They come from the poorest families that cannot afford education costs. To deal with this, Kuntia said the Centre has asked the states to bring about a law to implement Right to Education, and is also thinking of incorporating education in pre-schooling (Integrated Child Development Scheme).
The report highlights the huge difference between government and NGO figures on out-of-school children brought under the primary education fold. A 2004 study conducted by the United Information Service says 4.6 million children in the 6-13 age group have been enrolled whereas the HRD ministry’s 2005 study puts the figure as high as 7.3 million. The disparity, the report says, is due to high absenteeism. The government study says the number of out-of-school children has dropped from 25 million in 2002 to 13.5 million in 2005.
The UNESCO report also touches on teaching crises. It says India has a student-teacher ratio of 1:41, the poorest among developing countries and about 20 per cent of Indian teachers remain unauthorisedly absent from schools.