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School enrolment declined for children aged 6-14 years: Economic Survey

New Delhi, Jan 31 (UNI): The Covid-19 pandemic affected lakhs of schools and colleges across India and has had a significant impact on the education system, according to the Economic Survey 2021-22.

The survey tabled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament on Monday showed a decline in school enrolment for children aged 6-14 years that increased to 4.6% during the Covid-19 pandemic from 2.5% calculated in 2018. The decline was observed relatively large among children aged 7-10 years and noted higher among younger boys, the survey added.

Meanwhile, despite the pandemic, enrolment in the age cohort of 15-16 years continued to improve as the number of ‘not enrolled children’ in this age group declined from 12.1% in 2018 to 6.6% in 2021, it showed further.

The survey used data from the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2021, which has assessed the impact during the pandemic for the education sector in rural areas since the data from the Ministry of Education is only available up to 2019-20.

“To identify out-of-school children, their mainstreaming, and research sharing, the Government has shared the Covid-19 action plan with States and UTs,” the government’s report card for the FY 2021-22 said.

The ASER report also found that during the pandemic, children in rural areas moved out of private to government schools in all age groups. “The possible reasons suggested for the shift are shut down of low-cost private schools, financial distress of parents, free facilities in government schools and families migrating back to villages,” according to the survey.

The survey also stated that despite increasing penetration of the internet and households possessing smartphones, children studying in lower grades faced difficulty in doing online educational activities compared to higher grade students.

The ASER report showed that the availability of smartphones increased from 36.5% in 2018 to 67.6% in 2021. “Non-availability of smartphones for children to use and network of connectivity issues were the challenges faced by children,” according to the survey said.

However, the government at the Centre and in the states ensured that almost all enrolled children were provided textbooks for their current grade, which stood at 91.9%. “This proportion has increased over the last year, for children enrolled in both government and private schools,” according to the survey.

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