Online edition of India's National Newspaper

Saturday, Jun 16, 2007

Student retention in schools a challenge

Meera Srinivasan


Tamil Nadu is comfortable in enrolment of children

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu is comfortable in terms of the number of children enrolling in schools. Will the system be able to retain these students till they complete High School? With only three years left to achieve Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’s (SSA) objective of ‘Universal retention by the year 2010,’ this question has become more relevant than ever before.

Arun.C.Mehta of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), New Delhi, in his report ‘Student flow at primary level,’ analyses the internal efficiency of primary and upper primary schools in the country. The report is based on the District Information System for Education (DISE) data for 2004-05 and 2005-06.

The Apparent Survival Rate, deemed by Professor Mehta as the simplest way to judge efficiency of an education system, is 97 per cent (Grade V) for Tamil Nadu. The share of enrolment in Grade II and subsequent primary grades in relation to enrolment in Grade I in a year is worked out to find the Apparent Survival Rate.

Comparison of this data for a few years could, to an extent, show the retaining capacity of the system. States such as Kerala, however, have a 113 per cent Apparent Survival Rate for Grade V.

This technical impossibility has been attributed to factors such as migration.

The same child would have been taken into account at one school and again at another, after migration.

Dropout rate

Professor Mehta’s report also takes into consideration Retention and Dropout rates, to assess the ability of the system to retain children.

The average Retention Rate (for 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06) in Tamil Nadu is about 98 per cent. Enrolment in Grade V in a year (say 2005-06), is linked to the enrolment in Grade I four years earlier (2001-02) to arrive at this indicator. Not all districts were covered in the study, the report states.

However, the Retention Rate indicates that the State has a relatively less dropout ratio.

Using yet another indicator, the Repetition Rate, it was found that 1.6 percentage of students in Grades I to V in Tamil Nadu repeated grades during 2004-05 and 2005-06 was 1.6. This was due to reasons such as failure, long absenteeism and re-admissions.

Though Tamil Nadu may seem to be fairing better than other States with respect to these indicators, department officials in the State say that retention continues to remain a challenge, particularly in rural areas and among girl students.


SSA’s State Project Director M.P.Vijayakumar says: “The necessary infrastructure is in place. We are now addressing the issue of quality. Only if learning is made fun, will children continue going to school.”

Activity-based learning

The department is hopeful of achieving higher retention over a period of time. The introduction of Activity-Based Learning in about 40,000 schools across the State on Tuesday is a step in that direction, they note.


 THE HINDU, 16 June, 2007