While 39% of boys dropped out of school before reaching upper secondary school, according to the report by the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE +), it was 25% of girls in 2019-20. Of these, 13% of boys and 6% of girls dropped out of grades IX and X.
Citing the gap between primary and secondary education as well as geographic and economic factors as possible reasons for the high number of early school leavers, experts asked participants to identify problems in order to improve retention.
Teachers fear dropout rates could rise if schools reopen after the pandemic, as many students in grades IX through XII work in shops, businesses and factories to support their families.
Before the Covid-19 outbreak, around 10 Lakh students had enrolled in Class I in TN. “If we have a large youth population who are not completing secondary education, it will not be good for society as a whole. Given the declining population growth, the number of early school leavers among teenagers will be a worrying factor in the future. The government should focus on keeping students, “said Aruna Rathnam, a former education specialist at Unicef. The government needs to look at the micro-level for the reasons for dropping out.” Usually, most girls entering Grade IX graduate from Grade X. and XII. Government programs for girls are one of the reasons, “she said.
Tamil Nadu Graduate Teachers Federation’s general secretary, Fr. Patric Raymond, said that many students found the revised curriculum difficult when entering Grade IX due to the different curriculum, content and assessment compared to previous years.
“You have to take the exam to go to the next grade, so it is easier for students, especially boys, to go to work,” he said.
Many work in shops, industries, mills and on construction sites. “Instead of giving 600 a day for an adult, they employ the children for 250-300,” he said, adding that the Department of Labor did not monitor shops, industries and other workplaces for child labor.
School principals warn of a multifaceted spike in early school leavers following the pandemic.
“When we reopen schools, we don’t know how many will return,” said A Peter Raja, president of the Tamil Nadu High School and Higher Secondary Schools Association, adding that more secondary and secondary schools in rural areas is key are the reason for the increase in girls staying.
A Devaneyan, child rights activist and director of Thozhamai, said that introducing a new law to eliminate child labor could be the solution.
“The current law applies to children up to 14 years of age, so those in grades IX and X are employed. The government should offer free and compulsory education up to 18 years in community schools in the neighborhood.”
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