Enrollment drop to continue, in line with drop in child population growth rate: NCERT study

School enrollment in primary classes (grades IV) started declining in India in 2011, a trend that will continue until 2025, according to a “projection and trends” report by the National Council of Research and Training Educational (NCERT).

The Council has attributed this drop in enrollment to a drop in the growth rate of India’s child population.

Similarly, the upper primary (classes VI-VIII) and secondary (IX-X) stages started experiencing a decline in enrollment in 2016 and 2019, respectively, the report said.

The NCERT report had looked at trends since 1950, when the country had 2,171 schools with 2.38 million students.

While there has been an overall growth of more than 900 percent in enrollment in the school system in classes I to X between 1950 and 2016, the proportion of students increased “precipitously”, recording an increase of more than 1,000 percent, according to the report.


Study of trends to analyze the investment

NCERT, which had commissioned the study to estimate school enrollment of children till 2025, feels that information on future enrollment trends will help in planning and policy making as these projections form the basis for to investment decisions such as the opening of new schools or the improvement of existing ones, as well as the employment and deployment of teachers.

Prepared by NCERT’s education survey division, the report said: “Growth in enrollment at the primary stage continued till 2011. Since 2011, enrollment has been declining and will continue till 2025. During in the period from 2011 to 2025, total enrollment decreased by about 14.37%, of which boys’ enrollment decreased by 13.28% and girls’ by 15.54%.

In the upper primary stage, the enrollment of boys, girls and the total started to decrease from 2016. During the period, the enrollment is expected to decrease by 9.47% (in total), 8.07 % among boys and 10.94% among girls. .

The report made it clear that enrollment is a function of population; therefore, if the population of an age group declines, enrollment will also decline. Citing census data, he noted that between 1991 and 2011, the proportion of children in the 0-6 age group in the total population declined from 18% to 13.12%.

“As a result, the gap between enrollment and population also decreased. The enrollment figure also decreases at each stage. The same reflection is seen in the study”, states the report.

According to the researchers, it will help policy makers to come up with appropriate policies and programs. “For example, the number of new schools to be opened or improved and the number of teachers needed are decided based on the number of children potentially enrolled in the system,” he stated. “Therefore, this study was proposed before the Syllabus Advisory Committee of NCERT…”

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A look at the social categorization of the figures shows that the decline in enrollment in the case of students from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities began in the 1990s. During 2011-2016, the enrollment growth of SC and ST children at the primary stage dropped to negative: -5.27% and -12.20%, respectively. “The pattern of decline in enrollment of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe children is very similar to the pattern of (total) enrollment in India,” the report states.

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