Lift the Dropouts
Puducherry is a small state with big dreams. The Union Territory (UT) aims to become fully literate by 2016. “Our target is to achieve the best in education by 2016. We have launched schemes to reduce school dropouts,” says Puducherry Chief Minister N. Rangaswamy. The challenges may be tough, but Rangaswamy is optimistic about keeping the promise.
“We have been filling up vacancies of teachers in all schools. Quality in education is possible only through teachers. We ensure there are no unfilled vacancies,” says Rangaswamy. The teacher-student ratio is 1:20 in primary schools, 1:21 in middle schools and 1:24 in high schools. With the filling up of vacancies, the overall pass percentage in Class XII Board examinations in 2011 improved by almost 9 per cent, going from 74.63 in 2010 to 83.54. The practice of promoting all students in Class XI, irrespective of their performance, has been stopped, says School Education Director G. Panneerselvam, contributing to the improved pass percentage.
The literacy rate in the UT is a high 86.55 per cent compared to a national average of 74 per cent. The dropout rate has reduced from 13.69 per cent in 2005-06 to 6.1 per cent in 2010-11. The Chief Minister credits the noon meal scheme, bread and milk scheme and the student special bus scheme for bringing down the dropout rate. The government operates yellow buses under the student special bus scheme for children to commute from their residence to school. “We are charging Re 1 per trip for every student,” says an official in the education department. Of its annual budget of Rs 2,750 crore for 2011-12, Rs 228 crore is for school education and Rs 123 crore for higher education. Next on Puducherry’s agenda: its own board for school education.
Puducherry is also working a miracle in higher and college education. Nowhere in India is medical education provided free as it is in the eight medical colleges in the state.