School dropouts in India: the causes and prevention
Every year, a large number of students drop out of school worldwide. This hinders their economic and social well-being as well as reduces the literacy rate of the country and creates a non-innovative environment. The issue of dropout in India is of particular importance and interest.
A recent survey by National Statistical Office (NSO) has revealed that around 12.6% of students drop out of school in India, 19.8% discontinued education at the secondary level, while 17.5% dropped out at the upper primary level. As per the survey, a dropout is an “ever-enrolled person” who does not complete the last level of education for which he/she has enrolled and is currently not attending any educational institution. The Government's Right to Education Act and National Policy on Education may have been motivating to provide education to all but it is equally important to analyze the sustainability and efficiency of the education system. Dropout rates are considered to be a great wastage in the education system, not only do many students leave school without acquiring basic skills, but their premature departure represents a significant waste of scarce education resources.
What are the reasons forcing Indian children to drop out of school?
Help in domestic work, economic condition, and lack of interest were found to be the topmost cause of discontinuing education. About 30.2% of the girls gave domestic work as the reason for discontinuing education and about 36.90% of boys left studies because they had to support their families. It becomes especially difficult for girls to continue studying because of concerns about their safety. They face sanitary problems due to poor school facilities ultimately forcing them to stay back at home. Considered to be a liability, many girls are imposed to stay back at home, or are forced to get married at an early age (13.2%).
Many children believe that there is no point in studying if they have to do the same job as their parents, thus they leave school at primary level itself. More than 30% of children involved in the survey showed a lack of interest in studies, they preferred to drop out because whatever was being taught in schools barely intrigued them. India is also dealing with the problems of inclusion and equality, children from the marginalized sections of the population, or with physical disability/ health issues have to leave schools when they face hostile behavior from their peers.
How to control student dropout and not allow it to rise?
It is recommended that the government conducts awareness camps in cities, towns, and villages to expose the hazards of illiteracy and unemployment. National Education Policy 2020 has mentioned two initiatives that will be undertaken to curb the problem. The first is to provide efficient and sufficient infrastructure to all students and the second is to set up alternative and innovative education centers for the children of migrant laborers. These are vital steps to ensure that children have access to safe and engaging school education as well as bring back the ones out of school. A dropout early warning system enables schools to identify students who are at risk of dropping out of school, and to focus on individuals who struggle to perform well. Schools should practice innovative teaching methods to draw students towards education and spark interest in them. Digital learning strategies can be used to provide education in the confines of their homes, students can access free educational content through smart-phone applications or YouTube provided by different institutions.
Education enables a person to achieve a better job or means of self-employment, and climb out of intergenerational poverty. It cultivates cultural values and beliefs in the child. Once the awareness to send students regularly to the school continues, slow but sure results will follow.
 Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (2018), Household social consumption on Education in India, (http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/publication_reports/Report_585_75th_round_Education_final_1507_0.pdf)