Dropout rates in primary schools doubled due to COVID-19: Assam Education Minister

In the year 2021-22, school dropout rates in Assam’s primary schools have doubled, state Education Minister Ranoj Pegu said on Wednesday. He said this is mainly due to the impact of COVID-19 and the identification of fake student IDs.

The secondary school dropout rate has improved and decreased from 31% in 2020-21 to 20.3% in 2021-22. The dropout rate in elementary schools is 6.02 in 2021-22, an increase of 3.3 percent from the previous year, he said, citing data from the Unified District Information System for the ‘Education (UDISE).

For primary schools, the dropout rate was 4.6% in 2020-21 and 8.8% in 2021-22.

The minister said that a survey identified the total number of dropout students to be 1,29,543. Of these, 1,01,602 school dropouts were not in school, while 27,941 never enrolled.

“The increase in the dropout rate is a national phenomenon. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire education system, mainly primary education, suffered greatly and caused school dropouts,” he to say.

Pegu said many schools were uploading fake student enrollment figures on the UDISE portal in order to get various benefits such as inflated mid-day meal allocation, more money for school uniforms and free textbooks.

“To avoid the merger or closure of a particular school due to low student enrollment, many schools uploaded an inflated enrollment directly to the UDISE portal. Keeping this in view, we initiated a massive drive for data purification from UDISE,” he said.

Schools have stopped uploading fake registrations on UDISE now due to strict vigilance by the state government. The schools have shown the fake enrollment data as dropout data during the update process, Pegu said.

“This data purification will continue and I expect the dropout rate to be at the same level next year. The situation will stabilize after that,” he said.

On the abolition of 8,000 vacant posts of permanent government school teachers, the education minister said it was done for financial neutrality and discipline as a larger number of contractual teachers are already working through the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA).

“In 2017, the government had appointed 11,206 contractual teachers through the state group of SSA. In 2020, the 8,000 posts were frozen because people were already working on contract,” Pegu said.

The government offered almost similar benefits as permanent teachers to those on contract, such as equal pay, regular DA hikes and service up to 60 years, provided the annual performance evaluation is satisfactory, Pegu said .

Of the total number of places abolished, 4,285 are in primary schools and the rest in primary schools.

There are 2,21,247 teachers, including contract teachers, educating 49,10,427 students in government schools in Assam, he said and asserted that the student-teacher ratio in the state is at a satisfactory level of 22 :1.

“Around 4,000 advertised posts, mostly ST (Plains) are vacant due to absence of applications and we are trying to fill them. So now we don’t need any additional teachers.

Opposition parties and student groups had criticized the government when Pegu announced the decision to cut 8,000 permanent teaching posts on Tuesday. They said the move is against the interest of vernacular medium schools.

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