Even as the debate over reservation for the weaker sections continue in the wake of the recent Supreme Court orders, high dropout rate among Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe children still remains a challenge for the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry.
Figures released by the ministry on Friday said that as many as 37 per cent Scheduled Caste students and 49 per cent Scheduled Tribe students stop studying after initial years of schooling. While the dropout rate of other category of students has witnessed a phenomenal fall, the rate still remains high for SC/ST students as compared to the figures in 2001-02. “Reducing the figure still remains a challenge,” the ministry said in a statement.
HRD minister Arjun Singh has proposed a pre-matriculation scholarship for the SC/ST and other backward classes (OBCs) and girl students in his comments on the 11th Five-Year Plan approach paper of the Planning Commission. The ministry only gives scholarships to post-matriculation students.
What is still a worrying factor for HRD ministry officials is the fact that 73 lakh children are still out of school. SC/ST and minority children make a sizeable chunk of that figure.
The government has achieved some success in this area though. The figure was 2.3 crore in 2003. “The focus is now to bring those children into schools who cannot be reached easily by improving the quality of learning under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA),” the statement read.
Despite the challenges, the overall enrolment under SSA has gone up significantly, especially at the primary level. The government is expecting universalisation of enrolment in the next few years. The gross enrolment figure is now pegged at 98 per cent as compared to 90 per cent in 2004-05.
Even if the dropout rate (31 per cent) is taken into account, the net enrolment ratio has risen to 82 per cent from 72 per cent during the corresponding figure.
“A large number of education guarantee schemes and alternative and innovative schools have been mainstreamed, giving an opportunity to many children to study in regular schools,” the statement said.
The gender gap has also closed with improvement in enrolment of girl students. The gender parity rate at primary level in many states has risen to over 90 per cent. It is 83 per cent at the upper primary level.
SSA addresses the need of over 209 crore children in 11 lakh habitations. As many as 9.72 lakh primary schools and 36.95 lakh teachers are covered under this flagship programme of the government.