What does NFHS-5 tell about school enrollment of kids under 5

Gap in the enrollment percentage in urban and rural areas prevalent in most states

By Kshirabdhi Tanaya Patra
Published: Tuesday 12 January 2021

The National Education Policy (NEP 2020) envisages a five-year foundational stage of education, where the three years of early childhood education (ECE) is emphasised as a step towards dilution of children’s fundamental Rights to Education. It is for the first time that data related to pre-primary school enrollment of children for the school year 2019-20 was collected in the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5).

Pre-primary education traditionally refers to children aged three-six years, before they start formal primary education. Early years shape children’s success at school. Pre-school education in India can help foster creative thinking in the child. The purpose of pre-primary education is supporting children’s growth and providing them with knowledge and skills needed in their lives. Early schooling in India plays a vital role in preparing children emotionally, mentally, physically for higher education and a clear understanding of different objects.

 India follows a systematic process of pre-primary education of inculcating knowledge in the best possible way. In India, pre-primary education is provided by various playschools in urban areas. In rural areas, non-formal pre-school education is provided by Anganwadi centres under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).

ICDS is a unique programme that encompasses human resource development, namely health, nutrition and education. Pre-primary education is a vital activity under the ICDS programme. The Anganwadi centres carry out non-formal pre-school education in each village.

Good pre-school education imparts desirable attitudes, values and behaviour patterns and provides environmental stimulation through joyful play-way daily activity, visibly sustained for three hours a day.

Out of the data collected from 17 states and five Union territories in NFHS-5 Phase-1, Sikkim and Andaman and Nicobar Islands had the highest enrollment percentage in pre-primary school in the five-year age group during school year 2019-20 at 41.2 per cent and 42.6 per cent respectively.

Assam and Ladakh had the lowest enrollment rates at 4.4 per cent and 0.7 per cent.

There was a considerable gap in the enrollment percentage in urban and rural areas in most states. Pre-primary school enrollment in urban areas was the highest in Meghalaya (36.3 per cent), and lowest in Assam (4.1 per cent) among states. Among UTs, Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir occupied the highest and lowest enrollment percentage at 37.4 per cent and 4 per cent respectively.

In rural areas, enrollment percentage in pre-primary school was the highest in Sikkim at 41.6 per cent. Mizoram occupied the bottom-most position at 3.2 per cent. Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Ladakh occupied top and bottom positions among UTs in terms of pre-school enrollment in rural areas.

Meghalaya was the highest performing state in overall enrollment percentage in pre-primary school, rural as well as urban. Assam was the lowest-performing state in this category. In overall enrollment percentage, Andaman and Nicobar Islands topped the charts, and Ladakh occupied the bottom-most position among UTs.

North-eastern states like Meghalaya, Manipur and Sikkim performed well in enrolling kids under five in pre-primary school; Assam, Nagaland and Mizoram lagged behind.

Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh recorded poor enrollment percentage; Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep held a good percentage of pre-primary school enrollment among UTs.

There was a considerable difference in enrollment between rural and urban areas in almost all states and UTs. The disparity in household income in countries can be considered as a difference in these percentage.

Pre-schooling is easily accessible for middle and high-income households, whereas it is unaffordable for the economically weaker households.

 Pre-primary schools are gaining popularity in urban areas. In cities, where joint families give way to nuclear families and where both parents are working, pre-primary schools help manage the child’s education. These schools are witnessing a boom in urban areas as leading international pre-school chains to choose various cities in India to set up their branches.

Anganwadi centres, being an arm of the ICDS scheme, are a part of government-initiated programme to facilitate pre-primary education among children in rural areas. People in rural areas are still not very familiar with the concept and benefits of these Anganwadi centres.

The visible key component of pre-school education still receives a low priority, and hence, it has not been able to achieve the desired level of community participation and acceptance in rural areas. The quality of teaching in Anganwadi centres is unsatisfactory due to lack of adequately trained staff can be considered a determinant of low enrollment in these schools in rural areas.

Free food distributed in Anganwadi centres should continue as it attracts more kids to join school. Programmes such as ICDS need to be monitored and evaluated, which will help policy implementers in better planning to achieve better enrollment rates.

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