“Padho aur Badho” – An initiative by AROH foundation to curb School dropouts through RISE Centers – Remedial Innovation in School Education.
Not a Child Dropping Out but the Future Dropping Out!
While Aroh Foundations have made significant progress in raising enrolment rates for primary education, schools have been less successful at preventing dropouts during this critical learning phase. A recent report in The Hindu says, “Of an initial enrolment of 100 students, on an average, only 70 finish schools in India. While the number of students in the elementary education level is high (94), many drop out during the secondary level (with 75 left).” According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018, “No more than 2.8 percent of children are out of school in India and according to data put out by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), the dropout rate in Assam at primary level was 10.1% in 2017-18, followed by Arunachal Pradesh (8.1), Mizoram (8), Uttar Pradesh (8) and Tamil Nadu (5.9).” But the question is how far these reports are true on grounds?
There is no such thing as a national picture when it comes to school dropouts. If we create a national picture by mathematical aggregation, that picture is meaningless since regional variations are far too big. These numbers may be the result of schemes like Right to Education, Mid-Day Meal, but the hard fact is that these numbers are only on papers.
On any usual day, if we visit a government school located in the urban slums or in the villages, the first blow shall be to accept a shabby structure as the school! And then hardly will we find a student in the premise, forgetting any actual teaching learning process happening within. So the question is why are these children not attending the schools?
There could be several reasons why a child might drop out from school, which range from migration of families and child marriage, to lack of school infrastructure such as drinking water and toilets. Poverty, availability, accessibility and overall ambiance of the school remain the biggest reasons why children drop out of school. When a family is not financially secure, prioritising a child’s education takes a backseat. Post-Class V, distance to school also tends to increase, and parents deem it unsafe for a child, especially girls, to travel far. This validated in dropout rates as well, which rise sharply after Class V. Another reason why drop-rates rise after Class V is that this is the stage when a child reaches the age – 10-11 years – when it is considered suitable for induction into child labour. The role of the teacher, too, is critical, as if untrained, under trained or dull methodology adopted by the teacher makes a class dis interesting for the child.
To address the problem of drop outs and to improve attendance and retention of children in school, at AROH Foundation, we conceptualised a programme called “Padho aur Badho” (PAB) which catered to urban slum communities. PAB also focused on improving learning outcomes and promoting holistic development in marginalised children to augment their competency for facing the world. A large percentage of slum children covered under the programme were those facing educational exclusion, being engaged in paid or unpaid labour as sibling care, domestic servants, rag pickers, mostly engaged in petty income jobs or remain educationally deprived because of poverty or parent’s ignorance.
Aroh Foundations “Padho aur Badho” centers were strategically located in the hearts of these slums so that access to children shall be easy and reach is deep. An innovative Project Based Learning (PBL) pedagogy and curriculum was designed and developed by educational experts in simple to understand style correlating with day-to-day lives. PBL was disseminated through well-trained, compassionate educators belonging to the slum itself. The programme successfully addressed the issue of dropouts and all schools reported a considerable improvement in attendance of covered children. The programme has received wide recognition and acclaim from all concerned and has since been replicated at various other locations in association with country’s leading corporate partners and PSEs. Such programmes can be scaled up to help in reducing dropout rates in disadvantaged populations.
“Padho aur Badho” – An initiative by AROH foundation to curb School dropouts.
With the thrust of policy and practice in India slowly shifting from “schooling” to “learning”, one of the most important steps for sustainable improvement in learning outcomes is to focus at the primary level. Almost all the ASER reports were marking a red flag for low or negligible learning outcomes within children. The factors responsible for low learning outcomes in all children, such as small and inadequate infrastructure, financial constraints, untrained teachers, irrelevant and disengaging courses, and monotonous teaching-learning methodology adopted in a typical school day. As per the changing policies, demands and researches in education system in India, changes were also made in the framework of PAB and with time PAB was additionally reframed as RISE – Remedial Innovation in School Education. RISE focuses on improving learning outcomes of a child through providing remedial education at RISE centers through innovative PBLs.
As COVID pandemic disrupted the lives, digital divide in the education has further widened the gaps in education and learning outcomes. It is likely to hamper girls’ education more as the girls are getting engaged with household chores and sibling care. Girls, in this situation, may be forced to drop out of school. During COVID pandemic and lockdown, “Padho aur Badho” Centers and RISE centres have been doubling up as community service centres to reach out help to needy communities to help them cope up with demands of changing situation.
RISE and PAB are being hailed as good practices to improve retention in schools and learning outcomes of deprived children in the unreached pockets, even in challenging times. Since the inception in 2009-10, PAB and RISE in 2013-14, the programmes have covered more than 50,000 children in about 100 slums of Delhi/NCR and 80 villages of UP and MP, covering a wide spectrum of socio, economic and systemic deprivation and marginalisation, into the fold of education.
One of the critical factors that results in low attendance and poor performance of children is the overall infrastructure and ambience of the school. Lack of basic facilities like toilets, water, classrooms, playgrounds and recreation materials result in unattractive and uncaring environment in schools leads to higher rate of absenteeism, finally resulting into drop outs. The girl child, in such areas, suffers the most and is forced to drop out eventually.
AROH Foundation created better learning environments through a holistic school development programme that has enabled more than 500 schools with gender-distinguished toilet facilities with running water supply, hand washing stations, safe drinking water, SMART classes, computer and science Labs, libraries, playgrounds with swings, along with capacity building and training of teachers, students, SMCs, parents and communities to embed a long-lasting behaviour change and to create a conducing education system.
The Foundation has taken the holistic approach to counter all possible factors and barriers that can impact the attendance and performance of the child within and beyond the school. Best brains and resources have been applied to develop the initiatives to create a framework that deals with drop outs and learning outcomes holistically. The driving thought and belief is that it is not our children that are dropping off, but our future that is.
National Education Policy (NEP2020) is a forward-looking document an in particular focuses on drop outs and out-of-school children. 75th household survey by NSSO in 2017-18 reports that there are 3.22 crore children, in the age group of 6 to 17 years, are out of school. It should be our top priority to bring these children back into the fold of education as early as possible, and to prevent any further drop outs. NEP2020 sets out a goal to achieve 100 per cent gross enrolment ratio from preschool to secondary level by 2030.
To ensure universal access to education and that no student drops out of school, the NEP 2020 also proposes to improve the infrastructure so that each student, from pre-primary to Class 12, receives safe and engaging school education. The Policy proposes to re-establish and enhance credibility of Government schools by upgrading and enlarging the existing schools that already exist, and by building additional quality schools in areas where they do not exist, and providing safe and practical conveyances and hostels, especially for the girl children. Apart from infrastructure and participation, NEP 2020 also proposes to ensure quality education so that students, especially girls, from socio-economically disadvantaged groups do not lose interest in attending school.
With the NEP 2020, the government aims to ensure that all students are enrolled in, and are attending schools, in order to achieve universal participation in school. This, according to the NEP document, will be achieved by “carefully tracing” students and their learning levels, while ensuring that they get the opportunity to “catch up and re-enter school”.
It is encouraging to have a remarkable and forward-looking policy in the form of NEP2020, after 34 years. This signals the possibility of driving the much-needed change in our education system, provided all actors and stakeholders take up their tasks with utmost urgency and seriousness. Sustainable Development Goal 4 is also pushing all nations to achieve quality education for all an at all levels. For a new India, to mark its superior presence in the global arena, education is the key. It is the key which can open the door for our ‘young nation’ to forge ahead as an economic super power and global leader.