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Gujarat’s progress? Poor enrollment, high dropout of girls in upper primary schools

By Rajiv Shah 
Much against the huge claims of cent per cent enrollment, made year after year following Shala Praveshotsav and Kenya Kelavani programmes, usually carried out in early June, a new report, prepared under the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), Government of India, has suggested Gujarat’s poor showing in enrolling children in both primary and upper primary schools. Titled “Primary Education in India: Towards Universal Elementary Education (UEE)”, the report presents a plethora of “flash statistics” showing how different states have performed in ensuring implementation of the right to education (RTE) in the recent past. The report does not just suggest Gujarat’s poor showing in enrolling children it schools; it shows neglect of the girl child — school dropout among girls at the upper primary level is one of the highest in the country, it has found.
The report shows that in 2013-14, the net enrollment rate at the primary level was 83 per cent, which means that 17 per cent children could not enroll themselves at the primary level and remained out of school. An analysis of major 20 Indian major states culled out of 35 states and union territories, whose data have been made public, suggests that only four states experienced a lower net enrollment rate than Gujarat – Jammu & Kashmir (69 per cent), Haryana (78 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (78 per cent), and Rajasthan (80 per cent). At the upper primary level, things were found to be equally bad: Gujarat’s 68 per cent children could enroll themselves, suggesting that 32 per cent were “out of school.” The states which performed worse than Gujarat were Uttar Pradesh (57 per cent), Jammu & Kashmir (55 per cent), Rajasthan (62 per cent), Uttarkhand (63 per cent), and Odisha (64 per cent).

The report specifically highlights poor status of the girl child in the school education system. Thus, while the report finds at the lower primary level the girls’ dropout of was 1.35 per cent , as against the national average of 4.66 per cent, things suddenly deteriorated at the higher primary level (classes VI to VIII), where the girls’ dropout rate shot up and reached a little above eight per cent. The only state which experienced a higher dropout than Gujarat among 20 major states was Madhya Pradesh (10 per cent). All other states — including the poorer states, not to talk of the “rich” ones – show a much lower dropout rate among girls. Thus, Assam’s dropout among girls at the upper primary level is seven per cent, Rajasthan’s is six per cent, Jharkhand’s is also six per cent, Odisha’s is four per cent, and Uttar Pradesh’s is three per cent.
As the report just presents “flash statistics” in a draft form, no explanations have been given as to why Gujarat has failed to perform well. In fact, the report suggests that the situation is bad with regard to enrollment and girls’ dropout despite the fact that, as far as school infrastructure is concerned, Gujarat ranks among one of the best. In school infrastructure, on a scale of 1, and armed with a handsome score of 0.878, Gujarat ranked No 4 among 20 major states after Karnataka, which ranked No 1 (score 0. 910), Himachal Pradesh (0.903), and Maharashtra (0.880). Thanks mainly due to school infrastructure, in which considerable funds have been spent over the last few years, Gujarat scored higher than most states in overall ranking (0.696 on a scale of 1). This was next to just three states – Himachal Pradesh (0.714), Karnataka (0.710), and Tamil Nadu (0.701) – among 20 major states.

The report came in the backdrop of Human Resource and Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani’s visit to Gujarat in June 2014 second week. Accompanied by her team, Irani visited various educational institutes in Gandhinagar. Irani herself began her “sojourn” in search of Gujarat model in education a government primary school at Kudasan, a small village near Gandhinagar, where she shared midday meal with children. Participating in the enrolment drive, Shala Praveshotsav and Kanya Kelavani, organised at the school, she said, “Gujarat would become a source of motivation for the entire nation on how to increase and achieve 100 per cent enrolment rate. The team with me is here to study and understand schemes like Shala Praveshotsav, Gunotsav and the teachers’ training programmes in the state so that these can be replicated elsewhere too.”
The report is part of the effort by an institute founded by MHRD, National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), to provide data on the basis of what it calls “a robust information system”, which is “critical for successful planning, monitoring and implementation of any programme, particularly in the social sector”. Part of the Educational Management Information System (EMIS) of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme, and the District Information System for Education (DISE) developed by the NUEPA, New Delhi, the report says, the system “has been extended to all states and union territories of the country”, with the “depth of DISE coverage has increased over the years.”
Significantly, states cannot claim that data has been manipulated. The report says, that the “flash statistics” it has put out “is based on the data received from all the states & union teirroties of the country for the year 2013-14.” It adds, “The publication presents not only state-specific indicators but also brings in many new dimensions of elementary education into focus.” Thus, it incorporates key indicators on all aspects of universalization of elementary education in case of all the states and union territories of the country. In all, data were received from as many as 1.45 million schools spread over 662 districts across 35 states and union territories.

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