Dropouts in schools – A national concern

Sanjana Nair
Apr 03

The story

It was around December of 2019, when I came across a highly inspiring investee profile on our platform. A young and ambitious woman, she was already seen as an expert in the field of animal husbandry at a young age of 20! The community looked up to her as a role model.
I learnt that she had dropped out of school so that her younger brothers could continue their education. Hers was a low-income family with three children. Therefore, as a child she, instead of going to school, supported her family on the farm. She was born at a time when girls’ education was being encouraged more than ever in India and this shocked me. 

I reviewed a zillion profiles after that, but every single detail about this girl remains etched in my mind. Hence, I wrote this piece to echo this issue and help burst the bubble of ignorance around taking something like education for granted. 

The statistics

The past few decades have kept a key focus on education through government schemes and innovative programs or the very controversial topic of positive discrimination. Dropout rates still remain high, not just in India but across the world. Education inequality has always remained a challenge. Inequalities such as gender and income disparities seep in to affect the literacy rates, even today. One out of every three children in India does not complete their education (NSSO Survey). This trend is higher in children belonging to rural communities.
According to a study conducted by Arun NR Kishore and KS Shaji, in 1993, 27 Million children enrolled to join class 1 in India. However, in 2003, only 10 Million (37%) of them reached class 10. A decade later, these numbers show no significant improvement.

Here are a few reasons:

  1. Gender disparities: As education levels increase, the dropouts are higher among girls. This is prominent as children move from primary to secondary education. Many factors, including the lack of infrastructure at schools and the need to help out with household chores, result in these dropouts. More than 17.1% of female students drop out to care for their parents or younger siblings in the household between the ages of 10-14. The retention rate of girls in schools is just 48%. While girls drop out to help the family, boys do so for additional earning. 
  1. Lack of ability to meet the children’s educational needs: Studies show that 

low-income households with more than three children have higher rates of dropouts. Among the poorest of families, more than 29.4% of children have never attended schools. The cost of schooling, distance from the school and the need for children to contribute to the family, are significant factors that affect the dropout rates. 

The COVID19 impact

While dropouts have always been high in India, literacy has increased from 65% in 2001 to more than 74% in 2011. However, with the shutdown of schools due to the pandemic and the dependence on digital infrastructure for education, students belonging to the rural communities face this issue’s brunt. The Annual Status of Education Report states that there has been an increase in dropouts from 1.8% in 2018 to 5.3% in 2020. Low-income families form more than 40% of the country’s population, who were unable to access online modes of education in the last year. With rural teachers being ill-equipped to provide digital education, it further affects children’s already poor learning standards in India. 

Education to most of these families has not just been about qualification but also a means to build a better life. The new academic year is just around the corner. With a lot of schools opening up, these children dream of going back to schools. More than 20% of our country avails credit to educate their children in this country. This is just going to increase now, especially in low-income families. 

Rang De is looking to address this issue by providing interest-free loans for education to ensure that fewer there are fewer dropouts among children due to lack of funds. 

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