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Beti padhao? India's 30% girls from poorest families "haven't set foot" inside classroom

By Our Representative
When the whole world is going to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, the current scenario of girls’ education in India is very precarious. Nearly 40% of adolescent girls aged 15-18 are not attending any educational institution, aid Ambarish Rai, National Convener, Right of Education (RTE) Forum, has said.
He added, About 30% of girls from the poorest families have never set foot inside a classroom. Girls are twice as likely as boys to have less than 4 years of schooling.
In a statement issued on the eve of International Women’s Day, Rai said, “More than 60 million children are out of school in India. This is the highest number of out of school children of any country in the world. About 25% of boys and girls are unable to read Std 2 level text. Around 36% girls and 38% boys are unable to read words in English. Moreover, about 42% girls and 39% boys are unable to do basic subtraction arithmetic.”
He further said, “India’s Right to Education Act 2009 guarantees every child between the ages of 6 and 14 the right to free and compulsory schooling. However, the act is not widely implemented. The rate of compliance is as low as 9% across India. What’s more pathetic that it excludes secondary school children between 15 and 18 years of age, leaving many children, and girls in particular, without the education they need to build a better future for their families, communities and country.”
Rai stated, many of those who are able to access schools leave without the knowledge and skills they need to enter the labour markets.
“Though Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) data shows secondary school children’s foundational reading and math abilities are poor and average achievement scores of Class V students have declined in all subjects between 2011 and 2014, but why the government is not ready to invest required resources to the government schools, as being done in Kendriya Vidyalyas and Navoday Vidyalyas? Without this how we can expect better results?", he wondered.
According to him, this is partly down to a shortage of trained teachers. He said, “Data shows 17.5% of elementary and 14.8% of secondary teaching posts are vacant. Moreover, only 70% of teachers at primary level are adequately trained and qualified.”
Pointing fingers on government’s negligence towards education system, Rai opined that this Indian system is critically under-resourced. “The Government is only spending 2.7% of GDP on education. This represents a drop from 3.1% on 2012-13. In fact, the spending remains significantly below the 2015 Incheon Declaration and Kothari Commission recommendations of allocating at least 6% of GDP to education,” he observed.
“We have heard the drumbeating of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ by the government. But it is the government which has failed this programme. The total budget of this programme was Rs. 100 crores. And we know through various news-reports that approximately 60 per cent of this fund has been wasted on publicity only. Remaining 40 crores is just farce and inadequate to provide education to girls of this country,” Rai added.
Insisting on the need of educating all girls up to class XII, Rai said, “Increasing the share of girls completing secondary education by 1% increases economic growth by 0.3%.”
“Education serves as an important tool to empower women and girls, and is one of the most powerful investments to prevent child marriage and early pregnancy. With each year of secondary education reduces the likelihood of marrying as a child before the age of 18 by five percentage points,” he added.
“Quality education can counteract the social factors that hinder women’s labour market participation. Earnings increase by approximately 10% for each additional year of schooling. It clearly means that education not only helps to grow the economy but also fights poverty,” he argued.
Rai further said that education, particularly formal secondary education, is the most effective way to develop the skills needed for work and life. As such, it is widely considered one of the best investments to expand prospects of skilled and adequately paid employment.
“Those with access to quality senior secondary education are significantly less likely than workers with only a secondary education to be in vulnerable employment or to work informally without a contract or social benefits,” he observed.

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