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Mystery of Out-of-School-Children in the Indian Education System
Oxfam India / Nand Kishor Singh and Binod Kumar Sinha
Ambiguity on “out-of-school-children (OoSC)’ has been the reason for varied numbers quoted in Uttar Pradesh. In the year 2016-17, government had identified only 23,934 children as out of school. On the contrary for the year, 2014-15, central government had shown data of 8,65,441 children as out of school. It was baffling to understand why different agencies and organizations were quoting such varied figures.
Why the definition of Out-Of-School-Children is limiting
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 responsibility 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. For tracking out-of-school-children, earlier, the state government used to undertake household mapping of children. But there is a major chunk of kids who are either homeless or not living at home- these include migrant children, street children, children living at railway stations, child labor etc. Oxfam India has been continuously highlighting the issue and has suggested the government to clearly define ‘out-of-school-children’, change the process of household mapping, track out-of-school-children and mainstream them into formal schooling by providing supportive classes.
Mainstreaming marginalised students and removing the fear of failing
It is quite evident that among out-of-school-children, a large number are from scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, Muslim, girls and vulnerable children. One of the interesting and pro-children policy 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 fearful pass-fail system of education. This was supported through a process of ‘Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE)’.
Why repealing the No-Detention Policy with impede learning and instill fear of failure amongst children
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 robust 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. For example, as per government data (2016-17), in Uttar Pradesh 16,789 children were to be provided special training but merely 12,330 children have been covered under this. Prior to the amendment, government had eight years of timeframe during which teachers could make all possible effort to improve learning level of a child and mainstream them in formal schooling but with this amendment again a child will be failed before completion of eight years of free and compulsory education and government will fail completely in shaping up future of the child.
Holding the government accountable
Oxfam India in collaboration with State Collective for Right to Education (SCoRE- UP chapter of RTE Forum which is collective of more than 500 civil society organizations, networks, individuals and educationists advocating for effective implementation of RTE Act in Uttar Pradesh) is continuously highlighting the issue of out-of-school-children, child tracking mechanism and ensuring their retention in age appropriate classes. Last year, Oxfam India and SCoRE had continuous advocated with the UP state government on the issue of out-of-school-children and even highlighted the issue with Basic Education Department and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA). A demand letter was also sent to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh for the same.
A battle half won
Through a government order, on 30th July, government came up with a clear definition of Out-of-School-Child as ‘A child who is either never enrolled or not been to school for more than 45 days without prior information’. Later, on 2nd August, the SSA came up with a detailed circular for identification of out-of-school-children where government has listed identification of OoSC by different departments and local authorities, providing special training to needy children, identification of children who are not residing at home, child labor, maintaining online database of children etc. The identification process will be conducted between 11th August to 25th August, 2018. The circular has direction to involve members of ‘State Collective for Right to Education (SCoRE)- UP RTE Forum’ as well in this process. This is a progressive achievement in the field of education in the state.
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