Shreya Roy Chowdhury, TNN | Sep 4, 2014  

No Reliable Data on Out-of-School Children: Activists  




NEW DELHI: The number of out-of-school children in the country could be just about anything. In reply to a question, the ministry of HRD told Lok Sabha in July there are about 17.25 lakh out-of-school kids in India. Over August, education activists of the National Coalition for Education compared census data for the number of children aged between six and 14 (23.36 crore as per Census 2011) with number of kids enrolled as per the District Information System for Education (DISE) (19.9 crore in 2011-12) and arrived at a wildly different figure of 3.45 crore. The Delhi government has issued yet another order on the admission of out-of-school children but their number could be 9,809 (Lok Sabha reply) or over 40,000 that the activists claim is the real one.

"One reason for the different in the two numbers could be that there are many children in schools that aren't recognized," says Rama Kant Rai, convenor, NCE, "The DISE data covers some of the unrecognized schools that were supposed to be done away with by March 31, 2013 but weren't." The DISE Flash Statistics 2013-14 show that for that set, DISE hasn't covered unrecognized schools in several states/union territories including Delhi, Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.  

The primary reason for there not being any authoritative data on the number of drop-outs is that the main exercise, mandated by the Right to Education Act 2009, to fix this has not been undertaken with any seriousness in any state - child-mapping. It is essentially a headcount of all the kids in an area which, had it been done, would've helped decide on the distribution of schools.

The RTE envisions one in every kid's "neighbourhood." "The local authorities were supposed to do it but no state has done it with any seriousness. The school management committees were supposed to help but these aren't functional in most places," explains Ambarish Rai, national convenor of RTE Forum. Delhi government, for instance, issued the order for the constitution of SMCs just days before the deadline for RTE implementation was up. It can be argued, of course, that between DISE 2011 and the MHRD's response, states somehow managed to absorb most of the out-of-school but that Rai dismisses as "impossible."