Covid-19: It’s time to look at school dropouts

Right To Education

Education is the backbone of any developing nation. 100% literacy is one of the first landmarks used for judging the level of development of any nation. India is a developing nation vying to become a superpower but it’s far from achieving 100% literacy. According to official statistics, India’s literacy rate hovers around 75% which leaves a quarter of the citizens contributing very little to the economy hindering the country’s progress. There are several contributors to the status quo, one of the most significant contributors is the dropout of school students.

The primary momentum which pushes young ones towards education is a passion for learning and a curiosity towards the world. The student loses interest in studies when the passion gets destroyed. Children in impressionable age require proper support from their family and schools to help the passion flourish.  All the kids who have adequate support system complete their primary education and higher studies and are able to pursue the career of their choice. There are also students with very few options, students whose passion gets killed in a process of survival. In developed countries majority of the dropouts occur due to a lack of interest. In India students drop out due to their financial conditions. Most of the students dropping out come from economically weaker strata of the society.

Schools also contribute towards the drop out of students. The government run public schools lack adequate infrastructure, causing a significant portion of the population to turn towards private schools. The education quality available to a child gets decided by the family’s ability to spend, creating a vast difference between the education received by the rich and poor. Most of the economically weaker children have to use the poor government provided facilities. Education in government schools is significantly worse than an average private school. The situation gets exacerbated by the lack of check on the education quality, aided by the automatic promotion of all students in the early classes. Testing by organisations like Education Initiatives have highlighted the abysmal condition of the government schools, with most of the students far below their actual grade levels in core subjects. Due to the poor education of government schools many students drop out as they don’t find them as valuable.

Schools should ideally prepare students for their future lives. The basic need for a human being is livelihood, for which human being needs money for their survival. In reality school education gives more stress on grades instead of what a child assimilates in the process of being educated. The letters A, B, C, which a child learns in kindergarten sticks with them throughout the journey and creates an illusion that these grades are necessary for good jobs. Students with faltering grades feel that they are unsuitable for further studies and drop out.

The government has taken certain actions to safeguard everyone right to be educated. Article 30 gives all minorities a right to establish and administer institutions of their own choice. Amendment in Article 21 (made  was made to change free and compulsory education as a fundamental right to all children aged between 6-14 years. Article 15, 17, and 46 are to safeguard the educational interests of weaker sections of the society These comprise socially, economically, and educationally backward families. But only policies are not enough to properly tackle the issue of dropouts. Additional laws

The two pillars of a future-proof education: #1 Teach kids how to lead. #2 help them learn how to solve interesting problems. – Seth Godin.

Nowadays students are stuck in a never-ending loop, a paradox in their mind, controlled by fear, which doesn’t allow them to innovate But do we really remember anything after completing our schooling? The sad and simple answer is no. Our current education system has forgotten the key concept of education i.e. ‘educating’ an individual. Instead of providing proper education, people are simply made literate. And there is a huge difference between being an educated person and a literate person.

After putting so many direct and indirect laws still, we are far away from attaining complete literacy And Covid has added fuel to the fire. More than 1.6 billion learners across the world are affected by disruption in the education system.

Most of the school, colleges and universities in India were closed by the end of March 2020, due to the pandemic everywhere. “In India, the closure of 1.5 million schools due to the pandemic and lockdowns in 2020 has impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools. In addition, there are over six million girls and boys who were already out of school even before the COVID-19 crisis began,” as stated by UN. It has been more than a year since the pandemic disrupted the normal routine of children throughout India and it’s known that the longer children stay out of school, the more vulnerable they become, with fewer chances of returning to school.

Various businesses and daily wage jobs came to a standstill during the lockdown. But post-unlock phases, children from higher primary and high schools, and from families working in informal sectors are chipping in to help their parents earn some extra income.

Now it’s time for the government to come into action, make a strategy and frame out immediate as well as a long-term plan so that children can be brought into the main streamline. Instead of focussing on the implementation of NEP in pandemic time  Government should create an environment to check dropouts and allow the children to join the learning process. The government may create community teaching centres or small teaching huts to keep the flame of literacy lighted. Only a few per cent of students are able to avail themselves of line education so it’s the moral duty of the government to generate a learning emergency to fill the non-learning gap. It’s time to fill the dropout trench in order to avoid the illiteracy wave otherwise Covid along with the number of record deaths will create a record number of illiterates too. Additionally government should put in plans to quickly revive the economy so that the children don’t face the pressure of earning livelihood and continue their education.

Bharatee Pandey is a Post Graduate Teacher of Maths with 20+ years of experience of teaching school students




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