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Going nowhere

New educational data, released by the HRD Ministry, yet again points out that school education is in dire need of reform.

india Updated: May 24, 2006 00:31 IST
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New educational data, released by the HRD Ministry, yet again points out that school education is in dire need of reform. A total of 79.25 per cent of scheduled tribe students drop out at Class 10. The situation of the scheduled castes is a little better, with 73 per cent dropping out at the same level. That points both to the economic exigencies of the poorest, who are overwhelmingly SC/ST, as well as their feeling that there are no benefits to furthering the education that they receive. How the minister will relate these figures to the 29.5 per cent increase in seats at the college level that he wants should be worthy of study.

It is at the Class 10 level that students graduate from general studies to a base training for careers depending on aptitude and interest. While academic instruction forms the base, this is the point at which meaningful skills-- whether it is tool room training, electronics, draughtmanship or industrial drawing-- can be imparted. Yet, successive governments’ ambitious plans to institute vocational courses after Class 10 have been abandoned time and again for the sheer inability to design curriculum that would make a student find reasonable employment after pursuing such courses. Why institutes are unable to utilise the expenditures allocated to develop such programmes has not been addressed adequately. This needs to be tackled aggressively and imaginatively. A push on enrolment at the primary level is one thing. But if that initial push is not sustained through the next 10-12 years of study with nurturing talent, a leg-up to those who need it and access to activity that suits their proven abilities, then Class 10 acts as a dead-end for the less-privileged.

HRD Minister Arjun Singh can foist reservations in all higher education institutes across the country. But if he does not tackle the growing issue of dropouts, especially of SC/ST students at the Class 10 level, his reservation melody will become an empty cacophony.

First Published: May 24, 2006 00:31 IST