Education for All in India: Enrolment Projections

By Arun C. MEHTA, Vikas for NIEPA, New Delhi (INDIA), 1998, pp.249, Rs.335 (hardbound).

The book under review attempts to project and predict future enrolments at the primary and upper primary levels for All India and fourteen major State using mathematical and analytical techniques. Linear and non-linear models are fitted to time series data to obtain aggregate enrolments and grade ratio and grade transition methods have been used to predict grade-wise enrolment. The book examines whether the goals of Education for All’ in general and universalisation of Primary Education’ in particular are achievable targets in the Indian context. Given the governments various commitments about the provision of free and compulsory education for all up to the age of 14 years before the commencement of the 21st century (MHRD, 1992) and also the recent judgement (Supreme Court 1993) about free and compulsory education being made a fundamental right for all up to the age of fourteen, it becomes interesting to study how close India is to achieving these goals.

The study uses the 1991 Census, revisits the modified estimates of age-specific and single-age population of the Standing Committee and makes enrolment projections separately for the primary and upper primary levels on the basis of past trends and also takes into account improvements in entry, drop-out and repetition rates by considering age-specific and single age population figures. Then it computes the growth rates in enrolments necessary for the achievement of universal schooling. To achieve this end, the chapters are organised to start with an introduction, followed by a review of Educational Development in India, setting out the projection techniques, followed by trend analysis, then the Student Cohort Method (analytical techniques) for All India and the States. The book rounds up with a summary and then future prospects in the field of elementary education in India.

At the outset, under Educational Development in India, it is clearly stated that the goal of achieving UEE is a daunting task for the country. Although significant progress has been made in enrolments at the primary level over the period 1950-1990, yet, a large number of children in the 6-13 age-group are still out of school. More particularly, at all levels of education, more girls are out of school than boys: 42 per cent of children in the 11-13 age-group are out of school compared to 20 per cent out of school children in the 6-10 age-group; and the projected additional population that needs to be enrolled at the elementary level up to year 2001 from the year 1993-94 is a daunting figure of 64.68 million.

Using trend analysis and assuming that past trends would hold good in the future, it presents a worrying conclusion that it is unlikely that India will achieve the goal of UPE for boys before the year 2005 as against the official target of year 2001 and for girls, it is even farther away at year 2007. This is an important signal for policy makers as it tells them that they need to revisit their plans of action for universalising primary education by the year 2001 as that target seems to be elusive. By way of a suggestion, it would help if in rural areas the women are involved in the education process as they play a significant role in ensuring regularity in the functioning of schools, availability of teachers and also regular attendance of enrolled children. It is further stated that the transition rates from primary to upper primary levels for girls need immediate attention. These can be enhanced via measures such as incentives in the form of school, improved utilization of existing school infrastructural facilities, etc.

The state level picture is reported to be quite dismal for Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal particularly in the case of girl child for whom UPE by 2001 is more than a distant dream. These findings are important as they bring to centre stage the dismal performance of the State in providing the basic right of elementary education and its failure in enforcing and universalising it. Only Karnataka would be amongst the few States to achieve the goal of UPE in the near future, if the past trends were to continue. Tamil Nadu seems to have already achieved the goal of UPE in 1993-94. Based on past trends, this is the first State to do so.

Using the student cohort method, detailed grade-wise predictions for All India and the States have been made. Entry rates for boys and girls in 1990-91 for Grade I show that a large number of girls are still out of school as compared to boys. High entry rates in the educationally backward States could be interpreted as good for achieving UPE if these children remain in the schools, but high rates of drop-out come in the way of realizing UPE in these States. Retention rates reveal that out of children who take admission in Grade I, a large number do not reach Grade V and Grade VIII. With the exception of Grade I, repetition rates show an increasing trend with each successive grade showing thus a decline in the percentage of promotees. All these are the worrying trends as they directly reflect the efficiency of the education system. Unless the entry and progress of children at various grades is continuously monitored and the children move progressively into higher grades, UPE as a goal may remain elusive.

Finally, by way of a summary it states that given both the enrolment projection and prediction exercises, it is clear that the goal of UPE in the country, except for a few States, is not in sight and will remain to be elusive for a majority of States unless the past trend in enrolments turns for the better. At the All India level, the results indicate that the goal of UPE is likely to be achieved in the year 2004-2005 for boys and 2007-2008 for girls for the primary level. However, for the Upper Primary level, the goal of UPE would continue to remain elusive even after 2008-2009.

All these results are eye-openers as they make it very clear that there is an urgent need to firstly, have disaggregated targets for boys and girls, rural and urban areas, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and other backward classes and secondly, identify the educationally backward areas in each State disaggregated as suggested and then fix the target dates for the realization of UPE which may be realistic and within reach.

Along with this, as it is rightly pointed out that the existing infrastructural facilities should be effectively utilized as provision of more facilities is not likely to make any significant change towards retaining more children in the system and achieving the goal of UPE for the country. This also has important implications for financing and costing exercises for the universalisation of primary education.

The enrolment projections presented in this book make an important contribution towards the detailed grade-wise understanding of primary education in India. Along with enrolment ratios, which tend to be unreliable in the Indian context, because of various discrepancies that arise in their recording, it may also be a good idea to study attendance rates recorded by the Census, as these are more reliable and give a better idea of the performance of the education system. Projections of future attendance rates may be better indicators of the objective of universalising primary education being quite effective as well, that is, those enrolled are also actually attending school.

Usha Jayachandran,Delhi School of Economics, Delhi-110007 (E-mail: usha.jayachandran@usa.net) in Journal of Educational Planning and Administration, Volume XIV, Number 2, April 2000, NIEPA, New Delhi

Copy Right: EDITOR, JEPA, NIEPA, New Delhi