Friday, June 21, 2024
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The rot of school drop-outs

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Some very revealing statistics about enrolment in the primary and Middle English (M.E) Schools in Meghalaya were quoted by the State Education Minister, Dr. R.C. Laloo at a recent public meeting at Jowai. Against about 200,00 students in the rolls of school registers at the primary classes, the follow-up number admitted to M.E. Schools is about 45,000. This means that for every 100 students, only about 23 pursue their studies upto the next stage, that is the Middle School level. The drop out figure thus works out to be about 77 per cent, which in all conscience and by every standard must be considered as a very high measure of wastage of prospective talent and resources.

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It may be argued that enrolment in these hills at the level of primary education has been very high, compared to corresponding figures for the rest of the country, rather than that the enrolment at the next stage of middle-school level is too low, compared to the national average. This only makes the high drop-out figures all the more unfortunate, since adequate attention on this aspect of our educational management would have put these hills in more lurid light at the M.E. stage as well. Thanks to pioneering initiative taken by the early Christian missionaries in these hills, primary education got a tremendous boost, supplemented suitably by the government and now in recent years by the District Councils. Primary education thus spread enormously, whatever be its quality.

In fact, the quality of education imported at the primary stage may partially, not wholly in any case, explain the huge dropout at the next stage. A confirmation of such a supposition would certainly need closer scrutiny, but that the expanse at the primary stage need to be accompanied by a matching measure of depth need not be seriously challenged. A more obvious reason for the high drop-out may be that there are not adequate number of M.E. Schools to cater to the products of all or most of the primary schools spread all over the hills. Lack of adequate road communication linking a distant interior village or a number of them nestling a cluster of primary schools may render it impossible for most of the outgoing students to take advantage of the nearest M.E. school quite a distance away.

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Not that these aspects may not have been looked into by the authorities, but it may not be quite off the mark to assume that steps flowing from such thinking have not proved compensating or corrective enough. In recent years there has been a lot of interest, even of controversy, generated over the state of affairs in the field of primary education in these hills. Attention of progress of education at subsequent stages, more particularly the immediate next stage, which is the M.E. stage, has not unfortunately been riveted to the extent called for. The State government, not being embarrassed by the District Council’s jurisdiction at the later stages of educational management, should be willing and able to give a better account of themselves. To start with, the streamlining of education at the Middle English School level may help considerably in stopping the rot revealed by the figures quoted by the Education Minister.

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