Nearly half of the total number of children enrolled in tribal schools — 48.2 percent — drop out before completing grade 8, and more boys drop out of school halfway through, the 2022 Tribal Development Report found. released by an independent body set up by the Centre.
The body, which was set up to scale up action in these areas, also found that fewer people are reaching grade 10 or secondary education, with a cumulative dropout rate of 62.4 percent. Overall, barely 40 percent of Scheduled Tribes (ST) children who enroll in Grade 1 actually reach Grade 10 as they continue to drop out at various stages.
Dropout rates, especially in base classes in tribal areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Odisha, are much higher than other communities. country – said.
The report was released on November 29 by the Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation (BRLF), an independent body established in 2013 by the Union Cabinet under the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD). It focuses on Schedule V areas (states with significant Scheduled Tribal populations) – Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana), Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha and Rajasthan.
Currently, the school dropout rate in tribal areas is 31.3 percent (31.9 percent male, 30.7 percent female), with more boys dropping out of school than girls. A worrying trend is the dropout rate in primary school (grades 1-8) with 48.2 percent of children (49.8 percent men, 46.4 percent women) dropping out of school, it says.
Of those who do attend secondary education, 63.2 percent male students and 61.4 percent female students dropped out at the end of grade 10. “There is also a noticeable divide between ST, SC and all communities, with the status of ST being the most challenging,” said Vimala Ramachandran, education researcher and retired professor of teacher management, National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), who is the paper on the status of education in this report.
What are the reasons?
According to Ramachandran, numerous committees have been set up since independence to investigate the issues and recommend similar interventions, but a lack of political determination hampered their implementation.
“Most central government programs are for the country as a whole. They are not tailored to the needs of specific groups, which often face conflict and displacement,” she said.
The use of the native language as the medium of instruction in lower grades in tribal areas – where the language of the state may differ from the tribal dialect – has been proposed in several cases, the latest being the New Education Policy (NEP), 2020, which focuses on the use of ‘home language’ in the basic lessons. However, there are no multilingual texts available to teach children in these areas.
“Moreover, the teachers are usually under contract and have no access to training or pedagogical skills to even teach grades 3-4. They are usually outsiders and therefore do not know the home language. There is a huge social distance between student and teacher, as the latter has been observed to hold a preconception that tribal children are incapable of learning. After grade 10, science and commerce are not taught due to a shortage of teachers who can teach math and science. These areas have a large number of small or one-two teacher schools (less than 50 students) and need more staff,” she said.
Ramachandran added: “A high-level committee comprising ministries of tribal affairs and education should review existing arrangements and strategies to encourage school and higher education among STs. It should also establish joint mechanisms at the state level to evaluate implementation. A time-bound and focused plan is needed to expand the pool of trained math, science, business and environmental science teachers.”
‘Children out of school’
The report highlights the findings of a nationwide survey conducted by the Ministry of Education in 2014 on ‘out of school children (OOSC)’. STs, who make up 8.6 percent of the population (according to the 2011 census), accounted for 11 percent of the country’s OOSC.
“OOSC ST children are more prominent in the 11–13 age group, confirming findings from other data sources that a disproportionately higher number of ST children drop out of upper primary and higher levels. States like Rajasthan (24 percent male, 38.8 percent female) and Odisha (23 percent male, 26 percent female) record very high rates of OOSC in this age group,” the report said.
Breakdown by social groups shows that the maximum proportion of out-of-school children in India fall within Scheduled Tribes (4.20 percent), followed by Scheduled Caste (3.24 percent) and others (1.84 percent).
In absolute numbers, 10,07,562 ST children do not attend school (9,25,193 in rural areas and 82,369 in urban areas). In rural areas, the number of ST boys out of school in the 6–13 age group is slightly higher than that of girls (4,90,483 boys, 4,34,710 girls). Similarly, in urban areas, more ST boys are out of school than girls (41,648 boys and 40,721 girls), the report said.
With economically poorer states having a lower percentage of students enrolled in higher education, the most recently created tribal states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand paint a much bleaker picture. The gross enrollment of students of STs in 2015-2016 was 13.7 percent, while that of scheduled caste (SC) students was 19.1 percent. “This means for every ST or SC student who manages to get into a college or an institution of higher education, from scheduled tribes (STs) there are four others who missed the opportunity,” it said.
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