One of the major sustainable goal in education sector is to work toward reducing the number of children who are not going to school. As per UNICEF- ‘’Gender discrimination, disasters and armed conflict, language challenges, household poverty, child labour, child marriage and factors related to disability are some of the main barriers that keep children out of school in South Asia. India and Pakistan combined account for more than 80% of South Asia’s total OOSC, followed by Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal. ‘’
Talking of India, children who are not enrolled in pre-primary, primary, or secondary schools are referred to as out of school children (OOSC). Only less than half of India’s children between the age 6 and 14 go to school. A little over one-third of all children who enrol in grade one reach grade eight. At least 35 million children aged 6 – 14 years do not attend school. 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate as per prevalent statistics. Despite the government schemes and programs related to primary education of children, there are approximately 8.5 crore children between the age of 5-6 who don’t go to a school due to financial constraints, child labour and other social reasons.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (or RTE Act) guarantees eight years of free and compulsory education for all children of the age group between 6-14 years in neighborhood schools. The onus of mapping out-of-school-children lies with local authority and teachers. The education department undertakes child tracking at the beginning of the session in the name of enrollment drive. Earlier, the state government used to undertake household mapping of children. But there is a major chunk of children who are either homeless or not living at home- these include migrant children, street children, children living at railway stations, child labor etc. Such children who are like nomads, need to be tracked carefully, provided a shelter if possible and enrolled into schools.
It is quite evident that among out-of-school-children, a large number are from remote village and underprivileged sections of the society. One of the interesting and pro-children policies of the RTE Act was to enroll children in age-appropriate classes- providing them supportive classes so that they can improve their learning level at par with their age and inculcate an environment though which teacher acts as a facilitator by continuously assessing their learning levels and providing required pedagogic support to children without failing them through a fearful pass-fail system of education. This was supported through a process of ‘Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE)’.
However, the government has now proposed amendments in ‘No Detention Policy’ of the RTE Act and is all set to bring back pass-fail system without setting up a mechanism of continuous assessment and pedagogic support to children through CCE. It is important to note that the RTE Act has special provisions of CCE which was also a process of continuous evaluation of child learning level, has not been implemented in the full sense. Along with this, the government has not provided supportive classes to children with low learning levels who were enrolled in their age-appropriate classes because of which OOSC still remains a glaring challenge.
The hope are the non-profit organization and some individuals, corporates under CSR who are supporting these children by providing primary education. But the number remains small. You know about Navratan Gyanpeeth. We need hundreds such programmes in slums. And a campaign to collect data and give to state district magistrates who should arrange education for all OOSC in their region.