With eight million children never having stepped inside a school and 80 million dropping out without completing basic schooling, the United Nations Children’s Fund has described the situation as a national emergency and called for equipping the government and civil society to implement the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

“There has been progress in implementation of the Act in the past three years but children are still dropping out, not for labour, but because they are not learning anything in schools,” Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative in India, said at a media roundtable on the “Progress of the RTE Implementation” here on Thursday.

He said capital punishment and discrimination were realities. “The work has to be done with a sense of urgency and business as usual will not do.”

In his presentation, Professor R. Govinda, Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, said 11.18 million more children had been enrolled in the last three years and while gender disparity in enrolment across social groups had gone down, this did not help in controlling the dropout rate significantly. It had come down marginally to 27 per cent at the primary level and 41 per cent at the elementary level.

Worse, 13 per cent of students did not transit from the primary to upper primary level and there was not much on offer for migrant children, and dropouts who wanted to rejoin school, though the Act did provide for bridge courses.

On pupil-teacher ratio, Prof. Govinda said while the average PTR had improved across most States between the academic years 2011-12 and 2012-13, the percentage of schools with adverse PTR was still high, indicating that redeployment of teachers was needed, in addition to recruitment of qualified and better trained teachers, which would also improve learning outcomes.

Poor teaching, poor outcome

Real work had to be done on teacher quality, classroom teaching, effective school functioning and improved school management in the coming two years.

“The focus has to be on improving the quality and way of teaching because poor outcomes are a result of poor schooling and poor teaching.”

As for providing drinking water and sanitation, he said much had been achieved but even basic facilities like a ramp were not available in most schools for differently-abled children.

‘Bring pre-school within RTE ambit’

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson Shanta Sinha said a survey in 300 districts by the panel showed there were no language teachers in 37 per cent schools, 31 per cent had no social studies teachers and 29 per cent had no maths and science teachers.

Dr. Sinha suggested inclusion of pre-school within RTE ambit and extending the Act to Class 12 for better results.