Despite UNESCO's Global Monitoring Report 2007 which lauded India's effort to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it said that the country may fall short because of enormity of the out of schoolchildren.
About half (28 million) of the world's out of schoolchildren are in four countries including India and Pakistan. And, 30 per cent of those enrolled in Indian schools don't attend the school regularly.
The sixth report in the series released on Monday by Joint Secretaries in HRD ministry Kesav Desiraju and Subhash Kuntia, however, said reduction of out of schoolchildren in west Asia from 31 million to 16 million between 1999 and 2004 was largely because of India. India has the third most number of out of schoolchildren, after Nigeria and Pakistan.
For India, the report says, most out of schoolchildren live in small settlements or areas with no school facilities or cannot afford the cost of education and are from the poorest of the society. To deal with the problem, Kuntia said the Centre has asked state governments to bring a law to implement Right to Education enshrined in the Constitution. He also added that the government was thinking of incorporating education in pre-schooling (Integrated Child Development Scheme).
The report has, however, highlighted a huge difference in government and NGO figures on out of schoolchildren brought under primary education fold. The 2004 study conducted by UIS said that 4.6 million children in the age-group of 6-13 have been enrolled whereas HRD ministry's 2005 study quoted the figure as high as 7.3 million. The explanation for the disparity, according to the report, was high absenteeism of students in Indian schools. The government survey had said that the number of out of schoolchildren had reduced from 25 million in 2002 to 13.5 million in 2005.
Though more children have joined schools, the report points out at the crisis of teaching. India has a student teacher ratio of 1:41, poorest among developing countries and about 20 per cent of Indian teachers remain unauthorisedly absent from schools. In a comparative survey conducted in six countries including India and Bangladesh, it was found that absenteeism was higher in better-qualified teachers, headmasters, male teachers and those posted away from home in India.
Highlighting the concerns for India, Minja Young, Director in UNESCO, said retaining students in school is the biggest concern. Of the students enrolling in class I about 50 per cent drop out before class VIII. "We have observed that the dropout rate is higher among children of uneducated women. Therefore, the policy should link mother's literacy with school education," she said. India has 2.65 million illiterates.
An India specific conclusion of the report was that the country's policy for non-formal education lacks vision and needs to be more realistic. The report also states that demand for early education is expanding spurred by high demand of women in labour market and increasing single-parent households.