One of the things we studied in India was their schools, paying close attention to their efforts to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals as they relate to education. We were told by government officials how India’s Right To Education law had brought India to a point where they had achieved almost universal primary school attendance. On the other hand, private groups and scholars described how the reality didn’t quite match the claims due to lack of attendance, dropouts and other problems. Our own observations just noted there were always lots of school-age children on the streets, every day, all the time. It was pretty hard not to be skeptical of the claims that India was meeting this goal. Here’s an article confirming what we saw and what we were told by all groups except governmental groups – actual attendance is more like 56% not the 98% that is claimed. There are 81.5 lakh children (that’s 8,150,000 in our numbering system!) out of school. There’s still a long way to go in India, and again the magnitude of the numbers is overwhelming. Here’s the full details:

The euphoria over the spurt in India’s literacy figures has all but overshadowed the poor progress of the Right to Education (RTE) Act in its first year.
The landmark law, mandating free and compulsory education for all children, was enforced from April 1 last year. But a reality check shows that even as the gross enrolment ratio is an astounding 98 per cent at the primary school level, actual attendance of students in schools is far lower.
Another area of concern is the large number of “out of school” children. Government data shows that at present, over 81.5 lakh children don’t go to school and are a difficult segment to reach out to.
Educationist Vinod Raina, who was involved in the drafting of the RTE Act, said: “While the gross enrolment ratio stands at 98 per cent, attendance in schools is only about 57 per cent. A lot needs to be done if children are to be actually put into school.”
The 81.5 lakh children who are out of school constitute 4.22 per cent of kids in the six to 14-year-old age bracket. The majority of children in this group have never been to school – not even to the alternative education centres and education guarantee scheme centres, which the government runs for children who are out of regular schools.
Human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal , while releasing a report on the RTE Act in the Capital recently, said: “It is unfortunate that 81.5 lakh children are still out of school. We have to bring all those children to school.”
The states which stand out for the bulk of children who are out of school are Bihar – which has 13.4 lakh such kids – and Rajasthan (10 lakh). In Delhi, the number stands at 1.24 lakh.
Reaching out to child labourers as well as kids who have been trafficked is one of the greatest challenges for the effective implementation of the RTE Act.
Raina said: “Greater convergence is needed between different ministries if these children are to be brought into school. The prohibition of the child labour Act must be brought in conformity with the RTE Act.”
While child labour prevention is under the purview of the Union labour ministry, implementation of the RTE Act is the responsibility of the HRD ministry.
It is only through inter-ministerial co-ordination that these children can be ensured their fundamental right of free schooling.
The RTE Act has set a deadline of March 31, 2013, for every child to be enrolled in a school.
If this objective is to be fulfilled, then greater effort would be needed on part of the government and every ministry within it, Raina said.
Moreover, all states will have to notify the state rules at the earliest so that the RTE Act becomes a reality within the next two years.
The Census 2011 has revealed that India’s total literacy has shot up to 74.04 per cent, up from 64.84 per cent till about a decade ago.
While the national literacy rate for males is 82.14 per cent, 65.46 per cent of the country’s women are educated, the Census revealed.

Bear in mind too that India’s definition of “literacy” is not the same as ours. I’m not positive, but I recall someone saying that India’s literacy definition is that they can read and write their name.

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