After several years of rising trends, the Centre has reduced the percentage allocation of funds for education of schoolchildren from SC and ST communities as well as for the north-eastern region in the coming year. A parliamentary panel expressed concern that any shortage of funds for these marginalised communities could be critical, especially given that more than one in five SC and ST students drops out of school at the secondary level.
For at least three years, the amounts allocated to improve education for Dalits, Adivasis and those from the north-east have been on the rise in comparison to total allocations for the department. However, the percentage allotted to these communities dipped in 2020-21, although actual amounts still increased slightly.
Out of a total ₹59,845 crore allotted to the Department of School Education and Literacy, 17.16% went to the Scheduled Castes Sub Plan (SCSP) in comparison to 18.14% the previous year. For the tribal sub-plan, the allocation was 9.8% in comparison to 10.3% the previous year, while the North Eastern Region (NER) received 8.7% in comparison to 9.2% the previous year.
In its report on the demand for grants submitted to the Rajya Sabha last week, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development expressed its concern at these declines and urged higher allocations. “This is of critical importance because shortage of funds for these sectors has an adverse impact on the school education of students for whom education happens to be the only means to come out of their adverse conditions,” said the report.
It was also concerned about the high rates of dropout among SC and ST communities. While enrolment levels are satisfactory, the annual average dropout rate of SC students at the secondary school level is at 21.8%, according to the latest survey data from the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) 2017-18. For ST students, it was 22.3%.
“The Committee urges the Department to undertake a study of the social-cultural-financial reasons for the dropout of SC, ST and girls at all levels and with particular emphasis on dropout at secondary level and evolve strategies to remove the cause for the high dropout rates,” said the report.
“The Department may also look into the feasibility of bringing back the students who drop out at secondary level and simultaneously providing them vocational training so that these students can look for job opportunities at the earliest possible and also continue their studies.”