COVID-19 did not force girls to exit schools early, says study

NGO Pratham’s report lays to rest fears that economic stress on families during the pandemic would force them to withdraw girls from schools and push them into early marriages

January 19, 2023 10:24 pm | Updated January 20, 2023 12:51 pm IST - NEW DELHI

In 2022, the all-India figure for 11-14-year-old girls not enrolled in school stood at 2% as compared to 4.1% in 2018. File

In 2022, the all-India figure for 11-14-year-old girls not enrolled in school stood at 2% as compared to 4.1% in 2018. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The number of girls who were out of school continued to decline across age groups in 2022 as compared to 2018, according to NGO Pratham’s Annual School Education Report (ASER) 2022, which lays to rest fears that economic stress on families during COVID-19 would force them to withdraw girls from schools and push them into early marriages.

In 2022, the all-India figure for 11-14-year-old girls not enrolled in school stood at 2% as compared to 4.1% in 2018. In other words the proportion of girls in this age band who were out of school dropped by half. This figure is around 4% only in Uttar Pradesh and is lower in all other States.

The decrease in the proportion of girls not enrolled in school is even sharper among older girls in the 15-16 age group which stood at 7.8% in 2022 as compared to 13.5% in 2018, which is almost a 40% drop in the proportion of girls in this age group who were not in schools.

Only three States have more than 10% of girls in this age group out of school — Madhya Pradesh (17%), Uttar Pradesh (15%), and Chhattisgarh (11.2%).

Steady rise

States that are relatively poor in school enrolments have also seen a steady rise in girls in schools. Uttar Pradesh, which had 7.9% girls aged 11-14 out of school in 2018 saw the figure drop to 4.1%; whereas older girls saw a sharper decline from 22.2% to 15% during the same time period. In Haryana, out of school girls between 11-14 years of age dropped from 2.3% to 1% and those between the age of 15 to 16 years declined from 6.8% to 4.7% over the past four years.

“This shows that there was a clear demand for schooling, which cut across age groups, gender and States. It also shows that the push for secondary education through Samagra Shiksha Abhiyaan is bearing fruits. Though it is difficult to retain students in secondary school, but our study shows schools have been successful in doing so,” says Director, ASER Centre at Pratham, Wilima Wadhwa.

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