Karnataka has decided to streamline its system to track attendance of schoolchildren in the wake of the Prakash Javadekar-led Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) disputing the state government’s data on dropouts.
The government has identified 8,212 dropouts or out-of-school children this academic year. According to the MHRD, however, the number of dropouts in the state could be much higher – 16.12 lakh children aged 6-13 as per an IMRB survey and 9.94 lakh children who have “never attended educational institution” aged 6-14 as per the Census.
This came up at a recent Project Approval Board meeting under the Samagra Shiksha scheme.
Also, the MHRD has asked the state to ensure at least 80% of the 15,601 dropouts identified earlier are enrolled into schools this academic year. Any child aged 7-14 that does not attend school for seven or more consecutive days, or has never enrolled in any school, is considered out-of-school. A considerable number of children drop out due to migration and child labour.
Authorities are now working on a tech-enabled real-time attendance tracking system for government schools. “This will address the issue of children, who come into the schooling system, not being tracked,” Commissioner for Public Instruction P C Jaffer said.
The government is testing an app-based system that involves handheld device to record attendance. Data captured is updated on the School Achievement Tracking System (SATS), which the government has developed with the help of the Infosys Foundation.
“We are testing this in a government school at Cleveland Town in Bengaluru and it’s working,” Jaffer said. The government’s plan of biometric attendance system may take time. “This will require equipment and connectivity. The biometric can be locally stored or Aadhaar-based. We’re also looking at a computer-internet set up with a fingerprint device attached. But thisdoes not seem feasible for now until connectivity issues in many places are resolved,” Jaffer pointed out.
At present, teachers have been asked to upload attendance on the SATS platform once a month. The SATS has information on 1.20 crore schoolchildren, of whom Aadhaar for 89 lakh children has been collected. For long now, activists have been critical of government data on dropouts, with some of them having moved court. “There are dropouts and there is a data gap. The reasons behind this need to be studied in detail, Jaffer said.