This is a research paper commissioned by UNESCO Institute for Statistics and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It is a follow-up of the “India Report on Out-of-School Children (United Nations Children’s Fund and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, August 2014)”.

In this paper the enrolment data for 2005 from several data sources was examined, and the proportion of the children in the 6-13 years age group who were out-of-school was compared. The estimate for the out-of-school children varied widely: The 2011 census data showed a figure of nearly 20 per cent out-of-school children for this age group, while the Social and Rural Research Institute-India Market Research Bureau (SRI-IMRB) 2014 data puts it at around 3 per cent. Other data sources, including National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) 2014 survey and the Unified District Information System for Education (U-DISE) 2014 database, showed the rates for out-of-school children between 8 and 10 per cent.

The variation in the estimates arise due to the differences in these data sources, which in turn are due to: the different definitions of out of school children used by different data sources, non-uniform schooling system in India and disparity in data collection and estimation process. This study examines these differences in data in detail. It debates on what is the most appropriate data source that can be used for estimating out-of-school children and ways in which quality of data and estimates can be improved.

Further the study recommends that for a large country like India with inter-state variations in schooling system, it is best to revise and standardize the definition of out-of-school children to match state schooling rules and make estimates at state and national level. It also emphasizes that the definition for out-of-school children should be based on the regularity of attendance.

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