Lift the Dropouts

India Today - - THE STATE OF THE STATES - By Lak­shmi Subra­ma­nian

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.

YASBANT Negi/www.in­di­a­to­day­im­ages.com

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