The current year has witnessed a huge return of students from the minority and Scheduled Caste communities to the formal education system, resulting in the figures of out-of-school children dropping to 45 lakhs from last year’s 75 lakhs.
The rate of out-of-school minority students joining schools had been the fastest among the educationally backward classes. New HRD Ministry data indicates that the inclusive education policies of the UPA Government have borne results. The data shows that of the 30 lakh out-of-school children who have enrolled, the highest among educationally weaker sections were from the minorities, mostly Muslims.
The good news for those advocating Muslims to opt for the formal education system is that about 4 lakh out-of-school minority children joined schools under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) this year. This is the largest number in the last five years.
It has resulted in a fall of 2.2 per cent in out-of-school children from minority communities. From 5.6 per cent in 2007-08, the percentage has fallen to 3.4 in 2007-08.
In the last few years, the Central government had given assistance to state governments to open new schools under SSA in 150 minority-dominated districts. Special coaching classes have also been organised in some states. The effort is now showing results.
Bihar, UP and West Bengal led the show by bringing over 4 lakh out-of-school children from minority communities to schools. But in BJP-ruled states such as Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand, the number of out-of-school minority students has increased.
Similarly, the rate of out-of-school Scheduled Caste students has fallen by about 1.63 per cent, with states such as Bihar, Haryana, West Bengal, Orissa and Jammu and Kashmir doing well. More than 6 lakh SC students joined schools this year, even though 9.7 lakh SC children are still out of schools.
The disappointment is for the Scheduled Tribes, for whom out-of-school percentage has fallen by only 0.77 per cent to 3.72 per cent. Only 50,000 out-of-school tribal children joined schools this year.