Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Just how many students are there in our education system?

The budget related papers (including the Economic Survey) that are available at this site are a virtual gold mine for all kinds of information. Let me present some snippets from the 'Education' section of Chapter 10 on 'Social Sectors' of the Economic Survey; I will follow it up with an estimate of the number of students in our education system as they progress from primary school all the way upto college.

Here's some info about the Mid-day meal scheme

"The Centrally-sponsored Mid-Day Meal Scheme was revised and universalized at primary level with effect from September, 2004 to make a provision for providing cooked meals to children studying in Government, Government-aided, and local body schools and EGS&AIE centres. Besides providing foodgrains free of cost to the States/UTs, and foodgrains transportation subsidy, the Central Government provides assistance for converting foodgrains into cooked meal at a rate of Re. 1 per child per day."

"The programme now covers nearly 12 crore children studying in over 9 lakh primary schools and EGS&AIE Centres. Budget provision for this scheme, which is the world’s largest school feeding programme involving preparation of a hot meal everyday, for 2005-06 is Rs. 3345.26 crore".

Gross enrolment ratio (GER) indicates the proportion of children in the 6-14 years age group actually enrolled in elementary schools. It has increased progressively from 32.1 in 1950-51 to 84.91 in 2003-04. With the rate of increase in GER of girls higher than that of boys, the gender gap in enrolment is declining. Drop-out rate at the primary level (Classes I-V) declined from 39.0 per cent in 2001-02 to 31.4 per cent in 2003-04. As on October 2005, number of out-of-school children, as reported by States/UTs, was down to 95 lakh from 320 lakh in 2001.

Secondary education prepares students in the age group of 14-18 years for entry into higher education and employment. The number of secondary and senior secondary schools increased from 1,07,140 in 1997-98 to 1,45,899 in 2003-04 with a total student enrolment of 35.01 million (Classes IX to XII). There has been an impressive growth in the area of higher education with an increase in annual student enrolment from 7.26 million in 1997-98 to 9.95 million in 2003-04. Enrolment of women students rose from 2.45 million in 1997-98 to 4.03 million in 2004-05, constituting 40.22 per cent of the total enrolment.

From the budget speech, we gather that "Two independent surveys show that 93 per cent of the children in the age group 6-14 years are in school, and the number of children not in school has come down to about one crore." This would imply that roughly 14 crore (140 million) kids are in primary schools. [However, if 31 percent of them drop out by Class V, it's not clear to me how out-of-school kids form only 7 percent! There seems to be something out of whack here ...]

So, the broad picture that emerges about kids in Indian education system goes like this:

Let's say there are about 20 million kids in each age group. By the time they make it past eight years of schooling, more than half of them drop out; only about 9 million make it to secondary schools (Classes IX to XII). A second drop -- this is also quite big in terms of percentages -- happens when kids enter college. Out of about 9 million who get out of class XII (assuming that there are no drop-outs in secondary school -- not quite a valid assumption), only about 3 million make it to college [this number is obtained by dividing 9.95 million by a number between 3 and 4 -- since we have both three year and four year programs].

This also sort of gels doesn't gel at all with the oft-repeated assertion that only 6 % of the relevant age group is in college; since we have, out of 20 million kids (in each age group in the 18-22 range), 3 million of them in college, we get a figure of 15 percent. As a fraction of those graduating from secondary schools, this figure is even higher at nearly 30 percent!

I hope I have done the math right. If there is any error either in my calculation, or in my interpretation of data, do please point it out in the comments. Also, if you know of any better source for information, please let me know.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Dear Abi:

    As you have correctly said, the authentic statistics for high school education is hard to come by. I have compiled the following information from a variety of sources (Education Plus section of The Hindu, State exam boards, news items, govt. sources, etc.) for the Higher Secondary (12th Std.) students for the year 2005:

    Each year about 20 million students appear for 12th Std. (HSC Board)exam conducted by about 40 HSC boards. Out of that about 10 million (50%) pass the exam. About 4-5 million (40-50%) of those who pass, join colleges or some sort of post school education.

    In 2005, among college goers, more than a million selected science related colleges. It included 600,000 (may be more) for science stream, 400,000 for engineering degree courses and 50,000 for medical and dental colleges. A sizable number also entered into engineering diploma courses.

    With greater employment opportunity available for educated mass, more and more children are opting for higher education, making 3-yr old irrelevant.

    I appreciate your education exclusive website where mid-day meal for primary class children is discussed along with higher education.


    Yogesh K. Upadhyaya
    New Jersey, USA