The number of children who are actually out of school could be a lot less or more than 23m.
If we are going to make policies for enrolling millions of children in schools, we need better numbers.
The estimates for the total number of children in the relevant cohort are based on growth projections from the 1998 census.
The out-of-school children estimate is then based on subtracting the number of children who are in school, based on data we have for private and public school enrolments, from the total.
Getting every five- to 16-year-old into school is not an easy task.
We have not been able to universalise education even at the primary level to date; to think about universalisation up to matriculation (10 years of education) is indeed quite an ask.As the committee deliberates on plans for educational expansion and universalisation, there are certain things that should be kept in mind.First, we do not, as of now, actually know the exact number of five- to16-year-olds who are out of school.This has very important implications for how we think about policies for their schooling.If a child has never been to school and is now in the 10-16 age group, do we want this child to start schooling, in the regular stream, from grade one and spend 10 years getting to grade 10?Clearly, the cost of keeping children uneducated and out of school, for the country and in the medium to long run, is much higher than the cost of educating them.The importance of universalising educational access is not being questioned at all.These policies will have to take into account the nuances mentioned in this article and more, and will have to provide relevant solutions at the local level.Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Of all our institutions, public education is the most important.The government currently spends roughly about Rs2,000 per child per month in government schools. The fiscal situation of the country is being portrayed as quite dire.We are looking for funds to run the government, manage debt payments, fiscal deficits and our urgent expenses.