What’s Keeping India’s Children Out Of School? Experts Answer

Posted by Youth Ki Awaaz in #GoalPeBol, Education, Goal 4, SDGs
September 12, 2017
NFI logoEditor’s Note: With #GoalPeBol, Youth Ki Awaaz has joined hands with the National Foundation for India to start a conversation around the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals that the Indian government has undertaken to accomplish by 2030. Let’s collectively advocate for successful and timely fulfilment of the SDGs to ensure a brighter future for our nation.

By Saptak Choudhury and Sourya Majumder:

India has certainly made significant strides in literacy in its 70 years of independence: from 18% literacy in 1947, we stand at 72% now. Yet, merely achieving literacy is not enough – when 47 million young people drop out of school by class 10, something is still clearly lacking in the state of education. As a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), India has committed to ensuring inclusive and quality primary and secondary education to all children, by 2030. With a startling 4.34% drop out rate at the primary level, we need to talk about what’s keeping India’s children out of schools.

On International Literacy Day (September 8), Youth Ki Awaaz took the discussion to Twitter, and asked some key questions to a panel of education experts including Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, The YP Foundation, Magic Bus India Foundation and Stones2Milestones, which threw up several crucial insights into the problem of education in India:

The Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation

Q: What are the challenges in ensuring education for children from underprivileged or minority communities?

KSCF: The Right To Education does not necessarily ensure rights within education (for instance, safe transportation to and safety in schools). Universal access to a protected environment at home, schools and within communities are imperative to ensure holistic education for a child.

Q: What factors and facilities constitute a ‘quality school’ for all children?

KSCF: Besides infrastructure, [qualified] teachers and ensuring rights in and through education (for example, awareness about child sexual abuse) are necessary components.

Q: What steps can the govt take to address the challenges to universal primary and secondary education?

KSCF: Underprivileged children are most vulnerable to abuse. Bringing together child protection mechanisms and education is the next step. Crimes against children (child labour, child marriage, child trafficking) are the main reason that causes school dropouts. Awareness of child rights in school, training of teachers are effective first responses to address violence against children.

Magic Bus India Foundation

Q: What kind of activities have been most effective in drawing children to education, in your experience?

MB: Having a mentor, a positive role-model within the community is a huge asset. This is why we focus on building a network of such mentors. Training teachers across all schools to listen to children and getting them to participate in classroom discussions is a universal need of the hour.

Q: Is incentive-based education the way forward to promote equitable education in India?

MB: We have to define incentives effectively and identify system-driven, evidence-based approaches for them to succeed. Incentives (for instance, mid-day meals) fill in the gaps within the existing system and encourage community participation. In our experience, incentives have worked as behavioral nudge for participation. We see access to a mentor as an incentive as well.

Q: In your experience, what are the challenges young people face while transitioning from schools to jobs?


  • Engagement – providing a safe and engaging space for adolescents to voice their opinions or ask questions and seek out role-models.
  • Accessibility to higher education simply because of financial constraints or distance.
  • The traditional school system doesn’t prepare children for employability and real-life work issues. Availability of opportunities in a community often deter them from pursuing jobs because migration requires resources and support systems.
  • More than 30% of Indians aged between 15 and 29 years are neither employed nor are they educated and trained. In our experience, life skills like resilience and self-efficacy are as important as any other skill to make a successful transition.

In our experience, focussing on building employability and life-skills is the need of the hour. The choice to aspire should be open to all.


YP Foundation

Q: What steps can schools, parents and teachers take to bridge the gender gap in Indian education?

YPF: Female-friendly and better infrastructure (hygienic toilets, running water, menstrual products, transport, security, etc.), sensitised teachers and staff are a must. Interactions between parents and schools on the importance of education, especially for girls, also need to be strengthened. Comprehensive sexuality education in all schools and institutions is also a priority.

Q: What are the 2 or 3 key things young people can do to promote equitable and equal education in India?

YPF: For those of us who have graduated from school, now is the time to start giving our time and other resources to organisations working on education and for raising awareness on equitable access to education.


Q: What steps can be taken to introduce reading in a second language like English to young children?

S2M: Systematic intervention, that develops the will and the reading skills of the child, is much required. Training teachers and providing engaging materials is also necessary. This is the main strategy behind our Wings of Words program.

Once children start enjoying classes, the skills will be learnt automatically. Equip children to learn by themselves.This is exactly what we do. Systematic ‘bite-sized’ lessons that simplify the process of learning English are also helpful.

Q: What are the creative ways you use to emphasise the importance of reading in education?

S2M: In education, the importance of reading is obvious – the kids need to read to learn concepts. In school, reading should be taught as a skill, in a manner that’s fun for kids. They will be drawn to libraries and teachers will take more interest.

Developing reading skills needs systematic interventions, and can’t be left to chance. A child who reads is a learner for life. Stories in their syllabus itself can be made more interesting if they are handled in the right way. This is where teacher training comes in. Schools have several constraints. Attempting to enforce the law is more difficult. The trick is to be empathetic and collaborate for change.

The chat, which was organised as a part of #GoalPeBol, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz and National Foundation for India (NFI), drew participation from several Twitter users. Organisations such as Nanhi Kali Foundation and Care India also chimed in, adding valuable perspective. The conversation achieved over 4 million Twitter impressions, and most importantly, opened up new avenues of discussion around the issue of universal, equitable education in the Indian context.

What do you think can be done to improve the state of education in India? Write on Youth Ki Awaaz and together, let’s take this conversation ahead. Publish your post today.


Featured image used for representative purposes only.

Featured image source: Pixabay