Rajiv Shah: The new Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2017: Beyond Basics), an annual survey carried by high-profile non-governmental organization (NGO) Pratham, has found that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home district Mehsana has a whopping 20.3 percent children in the age group of 14-18 years are not enrolled in either school or college.
While this is against the average of 14.4 percent children in this age group who have not been enrolled in a survey carried out in 28 Indian districts, as many as 21 of these districts were found to have a lower percentage of children in the “not enrolled” category.
Significantly, the survey also shows that a major consequence of not getting into formal education is the prevalence of child labour in this age group. In Mehsana, as much as 54.5 percent of children in this age group were found to have “worked for 15 or more days in the last month” of the survey. This is against the all-India figure of 41.6 percent.
Only two districts out of 28 were found to have a higher percentage of those going to work—Rajasthan’s Udaipur (64.3 percent) and Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar (55.2 percent).
The report says that across India, “a substantial proportion of youth in the 14-18 age group are working (42 percent), regardless of whether they are enrolled in formal education or not. Of those who work, 79 percent work in agriculture—almost all on their own family’s farm. Also, more than three-quarters of all youth do household chores daily—77 percent of males and 89 percent of females.”
While till now all ASER surveys, carried out every year since 2005, confined their analysis to age group 6 to 16, in 2017, for the first time, it focused on an older age group
those who have moved beyond the elementary school age.
The survey finds that, of the 28 districts surveyed, in 24 states, Kerala’s Ernakulam is the best performer, with just about 1.4 percent children in the “not enrolled” category, followed by Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar (4.3 percent) and Satara (6 percent), Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakulam and Assam’s Kamrup (7.2 percent), Manipur’s Bishnupur and Nagaland’s Kohima (7.5 percent), Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra (7.8 percent), Uttarakhand’s Dehradun (8.8 percent), Tamil Nadu’s Madurai and Haryana’s Sonepat (8.9 percent).
The six districts performing worse than Gujarat’s Mehsana are Jharkhand’s Purbi Singhbhum (21 percent), Madhya Pradesh’s Rewa (28.1 percent) and Bhopal (31.5 percent), Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills (22 percent), Rajasthan’s Udaipur (22.7 percent) and Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor (28.7 percent).
A further breakup by ASER shows that in Mehsana, 17.9 percent boys in the age group 14-18 are not enrolled against 22.4 percent girls. Interesting, in the higher age group, 17-18 years, 36.7 percent children of Mehsana are found to be “not enrolled”—34.6 percent boys and 38.7 percent girls.
ASER notes that the issue of enrolment in the age group 14-18 years is particularly important because there is already “near-universal enrolment and automatic promotion through the elementary stage” resulting in “more and more children successfully completing elementary schooling,” with official figures suggesting that enrolment in Class VIII almost doubled in the decade between 2004-05 and 2014-15.”
“Overall, 86 percent of youth in the 14-18 years age group are within the formal education system, either in school or in college,” the report says, adding, “More than half of all youth in this age group are enrolled in Std X or below (54 percent). Another 25 percent are either in Std XI or XII, and 6 percent are enrolled in undergraduate and other degree courses.”
Across all the districts, it was found that “the enrolment gap between males and females in the formal education system increases with age,” ASER says, adding, “There is hardly any difference between boys’ and girls’ enrolment at age 14; but at age 18, 32 percent females are not enrolled as compared to 28 percent males.”
“The proportion of youth not enrolled in school or college increases with age. At age 14, the percentage of youth not enrolled is 5 percent. By age 18, this figure increases to 30 percent,” the report says.