Education system in india contribute to drop outs


Indian education is not effective enough to give basic literacy skills to the population. As per 2001 Census, the overall literacy rate of India is 65.38%. In the 2001 Census, the total population of children in the 5-14 year group had risen to 253 million, of whom 166 million attended schools and 87 million (34.4%) did not. While initial access to education is increasing in India, dropout rates continue to be high i.e. the number of children who start but do not complete the cycle of education." Although free compulsory education, is provided it does not mean that education is totally free. Associated fees for schooling, such as costs for uniforms, text books, transportation and sometimes teachers' own insistences, are a huge burden for poor people. Many children have looked for work or were forced to drop out from school due to economic reasons, including the cost of schooling" (Matsuno and Blagbrough, 2005 cited in Jay Chaubey, 2007). The paper attempts to highlight the lack of complete support of the educational system to prevent students from the risk of dropping out." Fyfe (1999) points out that child labour and education need not be mutually exclusive but a "host of defects in education play an important part in contributing to the drop out problem, and must therefore be part of any solution" (Jay Chaubey, 2007). The review aims at providing reasons for dropping out of school and gives insight into the process of why this takes place and considers a variety of social, economic, and cultural factors, as well as pedagogical practices, routines and administrative procedures responsible for this. It focuses on few general findings such as: Poor schooling quality, the irrelevant curriculum which focuses on rote learning.

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Inaccessibility of Schools, gender based cultural practices, the Menace of the examination System and the hurdles created by education administrators. There is often a mismatch between the expectations of illiterate parent's views about schooling and the existing schooling quality, resulting in the children losing the battle to gain a formal education. These children then return to a routine of drudgery, exploitation and suffering, leaving their parents' desire for freedom for their children unfulfilled.

Poor Schooling Quality.

Schools with poor quality form a significant part in the rural educational landscape of India. To illustrate: (1) Only one fourth of the schools have at least two teachers, two all-weather classrooms, and some teaching aids; (2) If all children aged 6-10 in the villages were enrolled in a government primary school, there would be about 113 pupils per classroom on average, and 68 pupils for each teacher; (3) At the time of the investigators' visit, one third of the headmasters were absent, one third of the schools had a single teacher present, and about half of the schools had no teaching activity (Jean Drèze and Geeta Kingdon,1999). Apart from this the teachers often spend a significant part of their time on task other than teaching. In addition to the inherent difficulties of working in economically deprived areas and with scarce resources, they may also be responsible for completing all of a school's administrative tasks, arranging for the provision of mid-day meals (a nationally-mandated government policy), maintaining records for attendance etc. The teachers often involved in multitasking and give no time for actual teaching as a consequence student discipline becomes a very serious concern and teachers resort to corporal punishments as a measure of discipline. According to Anugula N. Reddy Shantha Sinha, (2010) "Corporal punishment has become so much a part of Schooling, that it is generally seen as acceptable. Children are often subjected to violence, humiliation and insults, and many grow to fear going to school. Children are not dropping out of school; they are being literally pushed or beaten out of school. In this context it is not surprising that they manifest a lack of interest in studies" (Nicole Blum and Rashmi Diwan, 2007).The difficulties of multigrade classroom management, scarcity of teaching and learning support, sub-standard school classroom infrastructure and corporal punishments all tend to result in unmotivated students, a low standard of education, and high drop-out rates, which eventually feeds Child labour. According to Create (2009a): "The quality of provision in some schools in India is weak………. Many children learn little and are at risk of being silently excluded from the schooling process".

The irrelevant curriculum which focuses on rote learning.

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One of the key factors that can increase access to education in rural areas is to create a curriculum which is relevant and generates practical skill related work. The current education system in Indian context is based on memorization of facts and figures and provides very less room for creativity. A complete teacher oriented curriculum with monotonous lecturing is of less significance to a rural child worker. According to the PROBE report (1999, cited in Raina, 2006). The major cause for school dropouts is a feeling of lack of interest or a feeling of worthlessness from the child about what he or she is learning. "Moreover the curriculum is designed for children from urban contexts; rural children may experience difficulties in relating to the materials, which might result in low participation, high drop-out rates and under-education "(Taylor and Mulhall, 1997 cited in Anugula N. Reddy Shantha Sinha, 2010). For example: In the rural context this could mean emphasizing agriculture in the curriculum where 'children can have repeated experiences which help them to master cognitive, physical and social skills'. Agriculture is one activity, with which the majority of children in rural areas are familiar, and so it has an important role to play in those areas; it can contribute to teaching and learning of languages, science, mathematics, food, nutrition, health and social studies. When curriculum does not add any meaning to the achievement of life skills to a child and if it does not accommodate the local environment, then the demand for education declines, parents and students will not be motivated in spending time and resources on schooling. (ILO, 2004 p 123,124,125)

Inaccessibility of Schools

In accessibility is a major contributing factor to girls dropping out of schools rather than the boys. India, Department of Secondary & Higher Education, Selected Educational Statistics, 2003-04.cited in Dayanand Dongaonkar (online) the rate of school drop outs among the girls was 62.19% between grades 1 to 5 and 75.49% between grades 1- 10. Schooling has become inaccessible for girls due to many reasons such as the cost of education, the distant location, and inflexible school timings. The parents have many incentives in not educating a girl child: As the attendance rate of boys is 6.6% higher than girls (International Educational Statistics, 2005). The girls are often required to replace them in the farm work while carrying on their usual responsibility of domestic chores. Further, parents are reluctant to send their daughters to school due to the direct cost involved in education, though education is free in most rural areas it is not totally free, parents need to contribute towards the purchase of text books, uniforms, travelling expenses etc which they consider to be an additional burden on their limited resources. Another major disincentive to female schooling is the distant location of the schools. Parents are not willing to take the risk of sending their daughters to far off distances and most often grown up girls are withdrawn from schools(Create, 2009b) Another important aspect which plays a very vital role is the inflexible school timings. The working girls find it very difficult to attend school after their days work as the classes are mostly scheduled during the course of the day when they are busy with the house hold and agricultural work. (Sonalde Desai, 1994). As a matter of fact inaccessibility of schools plays a vital role even in boys dropping out of school. Parents often asses the cost - benefits, literacy and numeracy skills attained by a child on attending a distant school. The vulnerable education system does not guarantee any remuneration so the parents are not willing to forgo the benefits of child labour for education.

Gender based discrimination

Gender discrimination is dominant in Indian Society even with cosmopolitan developments women are still viewed as second class citizens in the country. Early marriages have been another major reason for gender gaps in education. Early marriages deprive girls of their education. Many parents still believe that educating girls is a waste of investment and are withdrawn from schools hindering their right to education. "The costs of the investment in education reinforce the impetus towards the girl's withdrawal from school" (UNICEF, 2001). According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia (online) the percentage of literate population in India is "76.9% for men and 54.5% for women" in the year 2009. The wide gender disparity in literacy rates is suggestive of high rates of school dropouts/withdrawals from school. In a patriarchal society like India where the role of the women is to carry out domestic and agricultural chores parents consider educating girls as a financial liability. This a very age old custom in India , small children are made to work in the agricultural fields of the landlords as a ransom for the loan or the basic amenities like food, clothing and shelter provided by the landlord. Female child workers are preferred as bonded laborer in the hybrid cotton seed production because "they are much cheaper to hire, will work longer hours with less complaint, will work more diligently and more intensively per hour, are easier to induce to work harder and are generally easier to control'(Davuluri Venkateswarlu, 2003). The major cause of such female labour is poverty and financial liabilities of the parent. The girls working in the cottonseed fields fall in the age group of 7-14 years, a crucial stage in the education of children. In this age they should be studying at school instead the child works as a bonded labourer in the agricultural sector (the major sector of the country's economy) to support the meager income of the parents, as a ransom for the loan borrowed or to support her sibling brother going to school. There is truly an imbalance existing in the number of girls who attend school in comparison to the boys. Almost 43.06%of the girls within the age group 6-16 years fall within the category of only work/neither work or study as compared to the boys who account for only 28.47 % (Alessandro Cigno and Furio C. Rosati, 2001).

The Menace of the Examination system

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The entire evaluation system and the so called final examinations are designed to push children out of school rather than retaining them back. This assessment proves to be quite intimidating to the children from rural areas that are totally from an illiterate background. This pattern of assessment does not give any scope for students to adjust their induction into the education system. The children are penalized or in other words traumatized by this system, to illustrate: if they miss out an exam they are not promoted to the next class, failure in the exam means they are made to repeat the class. The system does not provide space for child's progress. Frustrated students with the shame of repetition and insult often drop out of school thus adding to child labour. As Nagarjuna (2002a) cited in Anugula N. Reddy Shantha Sinha, (2010) state: "There is evidence to show that a child who is detained is more likely to drop out than one who is not. In the context of UEE [Universal Elementary Education] this is very significant and detention, therefore, has to be discouraged to the extent possible". The assessment patterns need to be child oriented and sensitive to the learning capabilities, social background and economic status of the child.

Hurdles created by Education administrators.

There are a large number of hurdles that the education administration itself has created and embedded within the rules governing the functioning of schools. For instance, the incompatibility of schools academic calendar with the seasonality of the agricultural labour. The UNICEF in its report of developing countries comments on the need for flexibility in the academic calendar "The school schedule is flexible; though it runs for two hours a day, six days a week, the times are set by local parents, and the school calendar is adapted to fit local considerations such as the harvest". (UNICEF, 2004 p. 85) Schools have deadlines for admission and strictly follow an order to confine to a calendar and avoid untimely admissions but the consequences prove to be disastrous in a situation where a working child and his parents have been motivated to enroll the child in school and when they go to school sometime in September to be told to go home and come back in June next year because the last date for admission has passed. Another instance of lack of support is: Where children drop out of school but then seek re-admission, the local education department asks for a transfer certificate. There are other situations where caste certificates, income certificates and so on are required. While the production of such certificates is not beyond the means of parents who are familiar with this process, parents who have never been to school or who have never sent anyone to school might find the process difficult. This is in contrast with processes of finding children employment, which requires no certificates and many parents find it easier. In some cases accessing work is easier than accessing school. It is important that local education departments look at schooling access from the point of view of the first generation learners (Anugula N. Reddy Shantha Sinha, 2010). Thus learning has become a "A causality process"(Nambissan 2000) in the rural education system of India, with its coping strategies such as grouping children of two or more grades into one classroom, using punishment to maintain discipline and ignoring the issues like gender bias, caste discrimination, remoteness of schools, negligence of teachers etc.

"A quality education has the power to transform societies in a single generation, provide children with the protection they need from the hazards of poverty, labour exploitation and disease, given them the knowledge, skills, and confidence to reach their full potential." Andrey Hepburn

Education provides the base for socio-economic development. In India, the quality of education is on the decline in spite of the fact that the present Government has initiated drastic measures in uplifting the quality and quantity of education. Persistently high dropout rates are one of the biggest challenges to fulfilling the right to Education in India. Here we are trying to assess the magnitude of the problem of dropout which eventual becomes a part of child labour. "Official figures indicate that around 30% of children leave school or drop out before completing even five years of schooling and over all around 50% children leave schools without completing the 8 year compulsory schooling period "Anugula N. Reddy Shantha Sinha,2010) .The contention of this paper is that it unpicks the general explanations of poverty, social norms and other economic conditions and picks on the factors like lack of good infrastructural facilities, irrelevance of the curriculum, examination system, school management etc as the main issues that increases dropout rates. Teaching-learning circumstances either enhance or detract learning that takes place in a school or classroom environment. It may be largely physical in nature or they may be more closely linked to the social relationships which occur in classroom and school settings. In terms of physical factors, it includes many of the issues outlined in the literature review like - limited or poor physical condition of many school buildings (and even the lack of a building at all in some places), and the lack of both appropriate teaching and learning materials and facilities, large size of class rooms and negligence of the teachers. According to the Public Report on Basic Education (Probe Team, 1999) the first serious evidence-based study of the state of schooling quality in India, found very poor school infrastructure, e.g. 26 per cent of schools did not have a blackboard in every classroom, 52 percent had no playground, 59 per cent no drinking water, 89 per cent no toilet (Probe Team, 1999, p. 42 cited in Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, 2007). Though considerable improvements have been made over the years the current state of the schools is nevertheless far from satisfactory. The other perceived reasons for students dropping out of schools are the fact that the teacher activity has been reduced to minimum terms in time and effort The Probe survey had similar findings of low levels of teaching activity in schools. To quote the report of Geetha Kingdon (2007):

The Probe Team (1999) states that the extreme cases of teacher negligence were less devastating than the quiet inertia of the majority of teachers. . . . In half of the sample schools, there was no teaching activity at the time of the investigators' visit. . . Inactive teachers were found engaged in a variety of pastimes such as sipping tea, reading comics, or eating peanuts, when they were not just sitting idle. Generally speaking, teaching activity has been reduced to a minimum in terms of both time and effort. And this pattern is not confined to a minority of irresponsible teachers-it has become a way of life in the profession. (Probe Team, 1999, p. 63)

When the education system becomes weak and does not contribute to the development of a child the implications are: non attendance and lack of interest which eventually lead to drop out. The teacher negligence acts as a major contributor in pushing children out of school resulting in child labour. The parents feel child labour to be more remunerative to the family than education. The education system needs to address the issue of teacher negligence and causes for teacher inertia. As the teacher plays a vital part in the education system the education policy makers need to rectify the lack of effectiveness. The ineffectiveness of the teachers in rural India is often attributed to poor pay and low incentives. According to Geetha Kingdon and Francis Teal (2003) : "Teachers are a central actor in the learning process that takes place in schools, and teachers' attitudes and effectiveness can vary depending on the incentives they face. Pay structure is potentially an important incentive-tool in the hands of the education policy maker."

Drawing largely from my personal experiences as a student from India and having done my primary schooling in a suburb in Tamilnadu, I would argue that, the national curriculum in India is still modelled on an idea of schools with large enrolment and a teacher for each class. The highly-structured and content-driven nature of the national curriculum, as well as the pressure placed on teachers to adequately prepare students for content-based national exams, means that the teaching method most commonly employed in government schools is recitation and memorization of textbook material. Learning over the school year thus follows the structured chapters of the required texts, with little room for experimentation or creative development. "Such reliance on rote learning methods, and the top-down nature of teaching-learning interactions, tends to result in boredom and discomfort in the classroom, uneven achievement among students, and professional dissatisfaction for teachers. Moreover, students who miss school due to illness or family obligations, or who fail to comprehend the material in a particular lesson - due to language difficulties, for example, or because the lesson content is foreign to local contexts - are unlikely to be able to make long-term progress and therefore more likely to drop out of school "(Nicole Blum and Rashmi Diwan, 2007). A report given by the Annual Status of Education, 2006, cited in Save the Children International (Online) on children dropping out states that: "Teaching is still done by traditional rote learning methods, corporal punishment is rife, and children are often taught in a language they do not understand". Studies show that corporal punishment is one of the direct and significant reason for children dropping out of school. While interacting with the teachers from the rural areas I also found that, corporal punishments most often is considered the best method of class control (class sizes are very large). In fact, corporal punishment is the least effective method of discipline. Punishment causes uncertainty and an identity of failure. It reinforces rebellion, resistance, revenge and resentment.

Another interesting fact regarding drop outs is that, gender cuts across a wide range of constraints that lead to drop out. Gendered cultural practices affect the opportunities of girls to access and complete education. The dropout rates are persistently very high among the economically backward tribal population. Evidences of the survey done by India, Department of Secondary & Higher Education, Selected Educational Statistics, 2003-04, cited in Dayanand Dongaonkar (online) places the female dropout rates to be 3.2% higher than the boys. The primary school enrollment of the boys is 8.5% higher than the girls. Gender bias and the lopsided nature of the educational differences between the male and female arise from the skeptical attitude of the parents about the benefits and outcomes of educating a girl child.

There are also cultural notions especially amongst the tribal people around adulthood and age which may in some circumstances affect access to schooling. Rites of passage ceremonies, marking the move from childhood to adulthood can increase absenteeism and potential dropout. There is a link between age and drop out for girls, e.g. when girls start to menstruate or reach puberty, they might be withdrawn from school. In some cases girls are withdrawn from school at this time to get married. Gender bias is so very evident through its declining sex ratio. Owing to the non acceptance of a female child in the society the number of women is declining. "The deficit of women, in absolute terms, has been rising steadily from slightly more than 2,00,000 in 1901 to nearly four million in 2001, Jumping by more than a million in the last decade". A deficit of such magnitude signifies the prevalence of female infanticide which has silenced many female children to death before and after birth. The gender discrimination is so penalizing to women as to wipe out their biological advantage. (Human Development Report, Maharashtra 2002 cited in Nikhila Bhagwat and Hemant Rajguru , online). Though gender bias has its roots in cultural consideration it is coupled with the lack of ability to strengthen the capacity of the teachers and the gap in the development of curricula that demonstrates and encourages the respect for girls and their equal rights.

"When women were included they were depicted as weak and helpless, often as the victims of abuse and beatings (Kalia, 1988). These depictions are strong barriers for improving women's position in society" (Victoria A. Velkoff 1998).

Most rules governing educational institutions in India often cater to the needs of the parents who are already literates, especially the evaluation systems which are based on the policy of final examination is intimidating to the children who are first time school seekers or learners. The examination system instead of assessing the strengths and weakness of the children de motivates a student with the detention policy. The education department most often fails to understand the difficulties faced by the young rural learners. When rural children mange to enroll in schools or attend schools they do not escape the daily agricultural or household chores, their nutritional levels are also very low which impairs their capacity to concentrate on their studies this results in poor performance and lower learning outcomes. Caldwell et al 1995 cited in Azim premji foundation (2004) rightly remarks that poor performance is considered to be an 'Investment made sour experience' for the parents and the children are withdrawn from schools. The education administrators most often forget the fact that an illiterate parent has to break with social and financial conventions before sending a child to the school. The rules and administrative procedures like: admission deadlines, age criteria's, rigidity of the school calendar, pose difficulties for the parents who feel that work is more accessible and flexible to schooling. As Anugula N. Reddy Shantha Sinha (2010) rightly points out that the education departments need to create a system which ensures a smooth transition of the children from home or work situation to school.

When distance, flexibility of schooling timing, poverty etc are cited as the most important reason for inaccessibility of schooling, arguably the hidden element of social inaccessibility also plays a major role in the education system in India. Just as gender bias exists caste system is also very much predominant in the rural environs of India. Schooling has been made inaccessible as teachers have been found to maintain a discriminatory attitudes and practices that underlie caste relations in society. "The treatment of the caste system in textbook and curriculums suggest that the official curriculum barely acknowledges the existence of tribal communities, despite the fact that they form nearly a quarter of India's population especially at the district and local levels in many states in the country (kumar 1989 cited in Abdul Rahiman P.Vijapur, online).


Dropping out of school thus implies to a situation where a child is unable to continue in school. When perceived from the evidences placed in this review it is apparent that the children do not drop out of school voluntarily instead 'pushed out' of schools and the onus responsibility is on the education system Raina (2006) considers this process of being pushed out or dropped of school as 'Educational Infanticide'. "Millions of children in India are either not allowed to be born through foeticide, particularly the girl child. Of those who are allowed to live, numbering 20 million in the 6-14 age group, one can say that around three million suffer educational foeticide (as never enrolled) and nearly 8.5 million are victims of educational infanticide (as drop-outs/push outs). This constitutes a demographic and educational catastrophe whose magnitude exceeds that of sub-Saharan Africa" (Raina 2006) Therefore there is a need to re conceptualize the issue of drop outs and high light the factors that contribute to push outs.