Delhi has seen a massive increase in the dropout rate of school-going children in 2010-11, according to data provided by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. For 2009-10, the dropout rate for children studying in Classes I to X was 2.0, the best among states, not counting those with a negative or non-existent dropout rate. However, for 2010-2011, this has increased to 22.9, a jump of more than 20 percentage points. The national trend shows a decline in the overall dropout rates for Classes I to X. Delhi’s Education Minister Kiran Walia was unavailable for comments.

City-based activists working exclusively in the field of education are not surprised. Ritu Mehra, who runs the NGO Pardarshita, said, “The increase in dropout rate takes place mostly after Class VIII and X post the exams.” Children cannot be failed before Class VIII according to the Right to Education Act. According to Mehra, children find it difficult to cope afterwards and leave school.

The statistics agree. The dropout rate for children studying between Classes I to V in the national capital decreased, keeping with the overall trend in the country, from 13.3 in 2009-10 to 5.9 in the 2010-11.

Nationwide, the dropout rate for Classes I to V came down from 28.9 to 27.0, although quite a few states like Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand have reported an increase. For classes I to X, the rate decreased from 52.8 to 49.3.

Ashok Agarwal, an activist who has joined the Aam Admi Party, said that the practice of meting out corporal punishment in schools, could be responsible for children dropping out from schools . “MCD schools do not teach children, they beat children,” he said.

According to activists, poor child-teacher ratio and child labour could be the other reasons for the high dropout rate.

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