Are India’s class rooms really delivering? School drop outs, a growing challenge.
Historically schooling in India has seen many struggles both before and after independence. Divided political views, ineffective policies and unaccountability have only added to the dilemma. But the growing awareness amongst all income groups, who once considered being educated as something pious and that added to your character are now clearly relating it to their children’s future in terms of income and opportunities. This brings new hope for a effective education system that will be accountable to create our future citizens.
We can see broad divide among the poor, one where sending their children to school meant trade offs like income to the family or making a choice between food for the family versus school expenses. The other who send their children to school, but are helpless or purely not involved in understanding whether the school is effective and bringing any real value for the child. How are we going to face the challenges of failing schools and failing children? The stakes are high.
Children’s access to basic education has been the major focus of national and international education development efforts for the past two decades. However school dropout has become recognized as a major educational challenge both in developed and developing countries as more children enroll in school, but fail to complete it, . Although the pattern of dropout varies by country, the result is the same: increasing numbers of under-educated and unemployable youth. Reducing dropout is key to improving access to basic education.
As per a report, nearly one third of the states and union territories have seen an increase in the dropout rate in primary education despite an overall increase in enrolment two years after the Right to Education (RTE) was implemented in India. This comes at a time when fund allocation has been doubled. More children have dropped out in 2010-2011 as compared to 2009-2010 in 10 of the 30 states where RTE has been notified.
Grassroots innovation – can we nurture new ideas to support school drop outs or never been to school children? Are we ready to scale these ideas for larger impact?
Project Crayons – School on Wheels
Creating new learning environments to put children back in school
For over 15 years Project Crayons has been working as a grassroots NGO in Mumbai and Mangalore towards its mission to educate marginalised children. The Empowerment of Dreams Program (EDP) has supported children from marginalized families to continue their primary and secondary education.
While working with children through EDP, Project Crayons observed that while a large number of children and their families want to study and make best possible use of EDP, they do not have basic skills to perform in school; some students drop out and discontinue. These learnings and insights inspired the design of School On Wheels as a tool to support children to stay in school and go back to school.
School On Wheels is a creatively designed bus turned into a class-room that aims to deliver holistic education to drop outs and never been to school kids. The mobile school and the community centre will nurture every child’s cognitive, emotional and social competencies and mainstream these kids into formal schools.
Since its pilot in 2008 working within a community in Mankhurd, Mumbai, School On Wheels is today supporting 100 children in Malwani, Mumbai with one bus.
School On Wheels will continue to mentor and envisions them as role models for others in the community. Along with a rigorous curriculum, it incorporates different contemporary and alternative teaching tools like arts, comics, dance, theatre, games and technology.
Bringing class rooms closer to children
• The bus will be a mobile classroom that will enable us to reach out to kids who work in places like construction sites where at times we don’t get permission to run our program.
• The creatively designed mobile learning environment will be used to create awareness and invest the entire community in the first few months. The bus will then move out to another community where there is a need and its place will be taken up by a permanent community centre or by collaborating with a local school (supporting EDP)
• The bus will also be used during holiday period for various activities like art therapy and mobile library.
• Potential of a mobile learning centre beyond a classroom- The bus can be used for awareness campaigns to inspire people to volunteer, contribute their skills and support the program in whatever way they can.
India produces the second largest number of engineers in the world every year as well as the largest number of school dropouts.
While the rest of the world frets about the economic effects of an ageing population, India will grow increasingly younger. According to India’s census bureau, 40% of the populace is below the age of 18, and by 2015, 55% will be under 20. That sounds like plenty of worker bees to fulfill the promise of making India a services and manufacturing power over the next two decades. The actual situation prevailing in the Indian context is that while 96% of India’s children enroll in primary school, by the age of 10, about 40% drops out.
The nation’s economy and competitive standing also suffers when there are high dropout rates. Dropouts represent a tremendous waste of human potential and productivity, and reduce the nation’s ability to compete in an increasingly global economy. The study of McKinsey and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on India’s manufacturing exports in 2004, projected that India will need 1.5 million trained technicians every year for the next decade – twice the number it currently produces – to be able to boost its manufactured exports from $40 billion a year to $300 billion, the amount exported by China. Concerns about the effectiveness of education in Indian government schools is paramount as it directly effects India’s rise as a knowledge economy.
Who drops out of school and why?
The reasons are both economic and academic
Economic reasons are the top three reasons cited
• About 55% of parents/guardians and about 60% of child respondents cited need to supplement income through household chores or domestic work. About 30% of the respondents cited need to work to earn money.
• 30-40% of respondents cited school-related expenses (direct cost appear to be a greater problem for dropouts).
Students also drop out of school for academic reasons
• A cluster of school based reasons indicate that school does not provide a supportive environment for academic success or self-esteem.
• Poor academic performance (9-10%)
• Fell behind with lessons (5-8%)
• Discouraged by teachers (14% particularly for dropouts); 46% criticized by teacher
• Did not like school (5-13% particularly for dropouts); 15% participated in school events, projects or clubs
• Chronic absenteeism is a major contributor to dropout. The majority (55%) of dropouts and nearly half (40%) of at-risk students have missed more than 15 consecutive days of school over the academic year. 36% of at risk students and 61% of dropouts have missed 3 or more days per month. 40% of parents/guardians were not or seldom aware of their child’s absences.
Other factors cited for dropout were: illness and marriage. Factors not frequently cited: conflict, distance to school, too old, pregnancy, school safety, and lack of latrines.
Early Warning System (to reduce student absenteeism and support at-risk students in school)
• Use existing school level data on attendance, performance, behavior etc. to identify students at-risk of dropping out of school
• Enhance the capacity of schools to address the needs of at-risk students
• Strengthen the partnership between school personnel and the parents/guardians of at-risk students
Recreation/Enrichment Activities (to increase attractiveness of education to students and motivate attendance)
• Program activities for unstructured SUPW (lifeskills) class to encourage students to participate in creative, entertaining activities (arts and craft, sports and games, reading and storytelling) that develop learning skills
• Engage teachers and community volunteers to lead and facilitate the recreation and enrichment activities
Neither normal expansion, nor existing pace and nature of improvement can address the need of the situation. ‘There is a lot of change, but i wonder of there is enough of it. India has a lot of ground to cover on education and very little time.’ Dr. Jeffrey Sachs
As Mr. Nandan Nilekani emphatically points in his book Imagining India, “few things are as wide ranging in their impact on the economy as education. The collapse of our schools is a deep crack in India’s foundation, and it impacts everything from our health achievements and fertility rates to our economic mobility and political choices. The evidence of our education failures is brought home to us every day in the children selling magazines on the city intersections, students dropping out of our failing schools and accompanying their fathers to work…”
Neishaa Gharat is the Voluntary director of Project Crayons UK. The UK charity supports the work in India through knowledge sharing, enabling partnerships, collaborations, fundraising and volunteering opportunities. Write to email@example.com and share your views and interest in School on Wheels
Neishaa Gharat contributes to www.indiaincorporated.com through her column – Ideas on Inclusive growth and CSR
Imagining India – Ideas for the new century, Nandan Nilekani. School Dropout Prevention USAID, Times of India, Increase in dropout rate in primary education. Purna Prabhakar Nandamuri et al, Int.J.Buss.Mgt.Eco.Res., Vol 2(5),2011,322-333