Keep them in

How can we reduce the dropout rate and provide students with access to quality learning?

Published - September 11, 2021 01:03 pm IST

Currently the integration of technology and pedagogy is just 2-3% and efforts must be made to increase it in the next couple of years.

Currently the integration of technology and pedagogy is just 2-3% and efforts must be made to increase it in the next couple of years.

It is one thing to enrol boys and girls in education institutions and another to keep them there. With the pandemic affecting the education system in a big way, the country is expected to see a rise in the dropout rate. Until 2018-19, the average dropout rate of students was 4.45% at the primary level and nearly 18% at the secondary level. This is in spite of a healthy growth of 11.4% in student enrolment from 2015-16 to 2019-20. One of the major goals of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is to bring out-of-school students back into the educational fold and as far as possible achieve 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER).

The pandemic-led lockdowns marked a shift from traditional learning to remote learning. For over a year now, students have been engaged in what appears to be an unusual concept of home-learning. But there is more to hybrid learning than video-based lectures at home. It must also be supported by user-friendly tools such as more interactive lessons and study materials, quizzes and games, and online reference platforms that will keep the students interested in what they are learning, enhance their understanding of the various subjects, and ensure they return to classrooms when universities reopen. ‘

Even before the pandemic, the emphasis on tech-driven education seemed to be putting non-urban students off studying further. To add to the problem, not all teachers are trained or equipped for online and digital teaching, underscoring the need for proper resources and infrastructure in institutions. The absence of mentors or teachers, loss of interest, the lack of job opportunities and household incomes, and little or no access to computers and the Internet are discouraging students from continuing their education, thus resulting in dropouts. But that can be reversed if the government and public and private institutions provide students, particularly from smaller cities and towns and villages, with tech-based educational resources such as laptops and Internet connectivity. At present, the integration of technology and pedagogy is just 2-3% and efforts must be made to increase it to at least 20-25% in the next 18-24 months.

Possible steps

A government-backed nationwide outreach programme to find the dropouts and bring them back into the education system must be launched. This will require the participation of all stakeholders, including teachers and parents. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 already has a mechanism to track out-of-school students and their learning levels and make it both possible and easier for them to re-enter school.

Second, educators and teachers need to give special attention to students who fall behind in their studies with group and one-on-one counselling, if necessary. Emotional support that will help reduce the dropout count should also be provided.

Both the government and private sector must come together in creating appropriate infrastructure in non-urban educational institutions, including integration of technology and digital tools in both teaching and learning. Apart from infrastructure and participation, NEP 2020 also proposes to ensure quality education so that students, especially girls, from socio-economically disadvantaged groups do not lose interest in learning.

A universal requirement is the introduction of specialised and vocational subjects from Class 11, so that the students are exposed to and trained in skills such as computers and digital literacy, Artificial Intelligence and its various disciplines, and Coding. This will not only keep the students engaged in learning but will also prepare them for the constantly evolving tech-based job market.

Finally, explore the option of classroom-on-wheels and conducting classes in small batches at the town and village levels. This will provide the students with access to online and digital resources, which will help them both learn and train.

The writer is Founder, Goseeko.

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