By Rashme Sehgal

More Muslim kids go to school, but not in J&K

 Feb. 3: The school report card developed by the National University for Education, Planning and Administration (NUEPA), which covers 1.25 million primary and upper primary schools across the country, has shown that Kerala tops the combined rankings (for primary and upper primary education) for Muslim school-going children.

Last year, NUEPA for the first time started with enrolment figures of Muslim children. A year later, its index shows an overall improvement in enrolment. Bihar has shown the way again with increase in primary enrolment to 11.27 per cent from 8.9 per cent and 8.22 per cent in upper primary from 6.6 per cent in 2006-07.

Muslim girls form 46.8 per cent of primary school enrolment and 44.76 per cent of upper primary enrolment.

Jharkhand has also increased its Muslim enrolment, but Muslim-dominated Jammu and Kashmir has shown a decline in primary school enrolment from 62.52 per cent in 2006-07 to 59.29 per cent. At the upper primary levels also, the state has been showing a reverse trend from last year.

UP, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal are showing small improvement, but the situation in Orissa is despairing with Muslim enrolment levels having come down from 7.26 per cent in 2006-07 to 1.26 per cent at the primary level, and from 6.48 per cent last year to 1.6 per cent this year at the upper primary level.

The last survey had shown that states like Bihar and UP rank right at the bottom in terms of enrolment. Karnataka had slid to eighth slot from sixth position while Andhra Pradesh was in 12th place. Surprisingly, West Bengal, with its sizeable Muslim population, was 30th out of 35 states and Union Territories.

Delhi had also come down from second position, pushed by Puducherry, while Tamil Nadu was down to fourth.

Kerala was facing some problems, the NUEPA report reveals. While the southern state is near the top in infrastructure, teaching and student performance, access to schools is poor at both the primary and upper primary levels.

Government data on the Muslim community’s enrolment in schools, collected for the first time, had also confirmed that Muslims were the most educationally backward community in the country. While 70 per cent of Muslim children do enrol in primary schools; the number falls to 56 per cent at the upper primary level.

West Bengal, Chandigarh,Assam, Maharashtra and Goa confirmed this high dropout trend, and this, experts felt, needed to be looked into. This could mean either that fewer numbers of Muslims are entering the school system than before or that Muslims’ share in the population is decreasing in these states and that this is being reflected in the enrolment figures.

However, since this was the first time that data on the Muslim community’s access to elementary education had been recorded separately, sources pointed out, there was the probability of some errors in data.

NUEPA’s statistics also show there has been hardly any change in the elementary school enrolment percentage of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) over previous years. The enrolment of SCs up to Class 8 was 19.87 per cent; for STs it was 10.69 per cent. Among OBCs, the figures were 42 per cent in the primary classes and 41.23 per cent at the upper primary level.

The national comprehensive enrolment figure for the primary/upper primary levels, at 19.83 per cent this year, is almost the same as last year’s 19.87 per cent. States with SC-dominance like Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have shown marginal change from last year’s enrolment. The story is the same for the ST enrolment with figures showing a slight increase from 10.69 per cent to 10.95 per cent this year. However, like in the case of Muslims, SC/ST girls form the core of enrolment above 45 per cent.

The NUEPA report confirms that large numbers of children are going to private schools. The figure quoted is 27.61 per cent. In Kerala, as many as 64.77 per cent of children are going to private schools while in Goa the figure is 65 per cent. Bihar has a low enrolment figure — less than two per cent for private schools.

NUEPA collects data based on actual tabulation of the status of 1.25 million recognised schools, teachers, social classes, retention and other things. NUEPA’s second report on India’s elementary education is aimed to boost the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme in the country’s most needy districts.

3 February 2009