India's aspiration of universal school enrolment might be deep waters because of a gradual decline in enrolment, which has resulted in 3.3 million fewer children in school. Since 2012-12, when the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) was created, the population of school-going children witnessed a downward trend from 254.8 million to 250 million in 2019-20. The decline in enrolment of children is much worse than the decline in the child population.
Arun Mehta, former professor of NIEPA and author of the research paper, said, "Overall enrolments have been falling at all levels for almost a decade", The Times of India reported. Mehta further added that the problem point was that instead of explaining the steady slide, the government cited improvement by quoting 2018-19 data when the country saw the lowest enrolment rate.
Highest Enrollment In 2015-16
In the last decade, the highest enrolment rate was witnessed in 2015-16, when the number went as high as 260.6 million and dropped the lowest in 2018-19 to 248.3 million. Surprisingly, the government has just revealed how the enrolment rate rose in 2019-20 while comparing it to 2018-19 data and not considering the previous years. The enrolment rate saw an upward spiral despite a steep decline in the number of schools associated with UDISE in that year. In 2018-19, the schools covered by UDISE fell by a sharp 48,292.
Potential Reason Of The Decline
The steep decline of schools under UDISE's coverage could be attributed to the merger and shutting down of thousands of schools under NITI Aayog's 'consolidation and rationalization of schools' under Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital project. However, Mehta further added that no criteria had been revealed as a basis for merging or shutting down schools. Mehta's research paper seriously questioned the quality and reliability of the enrolment statistics and highlighted the critical need for improvement.