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State has highest student enrolment rate

UPBEAT: Children on the campus of a newly constructed Corporation school in Chennai.

UPBEAT: Children on the campus of a newly constructed Corporation school in Chennai.   | Photo Credit: — File Photo: R. Ragu

Ananth Krishnan

The only State where everything is given to children free of cost: Minister

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu has the country’s highest student enrolment rate in primary (up to V Standard) and upper primary level (up to VIII Standard) education, a recently released study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) has found.

The drop-out rate in primary and upper primary schools in Tamil Nadu was also among the lowest in the country. The rate in primary schools decreased from 4 per cent in 2006-7 to 1.2 per cent, School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu told The Hindu. According to the study, Tamil Nadu recorded close to 100 per cent Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) at primary and upper primary levels. The study was based on 2007 estimates.

Mr. Thennarasu said Tamil Nadu’s high enrolment statistics were mainly a result of the number of welfare schemes that the State government had introduced. “We are the only State where everything is provided free of cost for the children, from textbooks and uniforms to meals,” he said. “These schemes have made a huge impact on enrolment.” Mr. Thennarasu said accessibility to primary schools had also significantly improved in the last few years. “We have given greater accessibility to all students by starting new schools within a one-km radius,” he said. Initiatives like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) had helped to raise awareness about education programmes. Activity-Based Learning (ABL) had also helped to change the classroom environment. “Earlier, we used to have a teacher-centric atmosphere, but the ABL has tremendously changed that,” Mr. Thennarasu said.

The enrolment of girls in primary schools had also substantially increased as a result of schemes such as the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) initiative that provides a residential school with boarding facilities for girls. “The KGBV scheme has been a boon to girl students who discontinued their studies for various reasons,” Mr. Thennarasu said.

Venugopal Dhoot, president, ASSOCHAM, attributed Tamil Nadu’s high enrolment to an “aggressive expansion” of technical education institutions, the success of initiatives like the KGBV scheme, Information and Communication Technology schemes in the State as well as scholarships provided for students through private sector participation.

While enrolment rates and student retention were creditably very high in the State, the quality of public schools still needed improvement, according to educational activist and consultant S.S. Rajagopalan.

“Schemes like ABL have been started to improve quality, but a systemic reform is needed,” he said.

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