India has made progress in raising enrolment rates for primary education. But schools have not been very successful at preventing dropouts. This is an equally, if not more, important measure of education standards.
We can measure educational standards through the 2016 Annual States of Education Report (ASER) survey. This is a household survey of schooling and learning levels in rural India.
The survey was conducted across India and included over 5,60,000 children between three and 16 years, in 589 districts of India. Hence the results of the survey can be taken as a reasonable estimate of the ground reality.
According to the report, 3.5% of 11-14 years old and 13.5% of 15-16 years old children were dropouts. While over 25% of children in grades I to VIII were absent from school on the day a team visited the school.
Such figures could very well have been true for the tribal village of Jhada Aduwa in Udaipur district, Rajasthan. But everything changed thanks to an initiative by two youth from the village.
They used a dilapidated building as a makeshift school and started urging the dropped out students to return to school.
“We make them learn alphabets and counting and tell them stories. Once they are old enough to walk to the government middle school by themselves, they get direct admission in a suitable class depending on their age,” Sonu Meena, 20, told the Hindustan Times.
Meena and her friend run the school and do not charge the students. They say they are doing this only to ensure that they empower children.
This is a stellar example of how an individual or group has the power to bring about positive change. Seeing the enthusiasm of the students in this makeshift school, government officials have come forward and pledged their support to the school.
Udaipur (rural) MLA Phool Singh Meena and Sarpanch Ramesh Damor are leading the effort.
Here are four ways to curb student dropouts from school:
1. Cultivate a meaningful relationship with the student
It is important for the educator not just to teach but also show empathy and care enough for any problem that the student might be facing. This can happen only if the educator builds a rapport with the student.
2. Make learning relevant and up-to-date
While it is essential to get the basics concepts right, educators must ensure that they make learning not just interesting but also relevant and fun.
A student will want to come back to a class in which they get more than just what the textbook states.
3. Work around their schedules
You must remember that the school functions to educate children. Therefore it becomes even more important to schedule classes at times when the students can make it. In some cases, students might be performing daily chores at home and might not be able to make it to class early in the morning. Be open to trying out various schedules.
4. Offer them incentives they can relate to
For a child in the village, a good meal might be a great incentive to get them to come to school. For some other child, a drawing book with colour may be interesting. Ensure that you engage and keep them all motivated.
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