India enjoys demographic advantage. For harnessing the same it is required to improve the transition rate to secondary and senior secondary including in the educationally backward blocks.
Education is critical for sustainable development of any country as it raises people’s productivity and enables socio-economic empowerment necessary for an inclusive and sustainable growth process. The Sustainable Development Goal 4 lays stress on eliminating disparities in education with focus on equitable and quality secondary education and vocational skills to increase employability of the youth for accessing decent employment and entrepreneurship.
The multi-pronged education strategy implemented through the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2009), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid-Day Meal scheme, Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan etc., has enabled India to achieve a gross enrollment ratio of 96 percent for those in the age group of 6-14 years. The transition rate from elementary to secondary in 2013-14 is 91.6 percent, but from secondary to higher secondary it drops to 67.7 percent. Thus the benefits gained by universalizing elementary education get frittered away at higher levels within school education.
Therefore, the next challenge is to ensure effective transition to secondary and senior secondary education level, which is not only the feeding channel for higher education but provides skilled human resource for the labour market and also teachers for the elementary level.
The burgeoning youth bulge with 65% of the population in the working age provides India an opportunity to be skill capital of the world. However, the poor education level with 70% of the labour force having less than secondary level education poses a challenge for availability of skilled manpower to the growing economy. Further, only about 10 percent of the labour force has undergone some vocational training viz. ITIs, Polytechnics, school vocational education etc. As per U_DISE 2014-15, vocational streams are offered at present only in 2.7 percent schools, a decline from 3.03 percent in 2013-14; enrolment in vocational streams has declined by 44
 Adviser, Skill Development and Employment, NITI Aayog
 Deputy Director, National Institute of Labour Economics Research and Development (NILERD), NITI Aayog
Views expressed in this article are personal
thousand in absolute numbers at the higher secondary level during 2013-14 to 2014-15. The low level of education forces youth to take up low paid casual jobs or engage in agriculture as disguised unemployed. These problems are aggravated when we look at the educationally backward blocks in the country.
2. EBBs require attention
India has a total of 6701 blocks of which 3453 are educationally backward blocks as per the Department of School Education and Literacy under the Ministry of Human Resource Development. While the elementary education is taken care of by the RTE Act in all the blocks including EBBs, secondary and higher secondary education needs special focus. The educationally backward blocks constitute 51.5 percent of the total blocks in the country and 74 percent (Table 1) of such blocks are concentrated in the eight states viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
|Total number of blocks||EBB blocks||Share (%)|
|Total Blocks (All India)||6701||3453||51.5|
Source: MHRD, available at http://ssamis.nic.in/dashBoard.do, accessed on 14/06/2016
All these states are experiencing youth (15-29 years) bulge. The share of those in the age group of 5-14 years in most of these eight states is higher than the national average (Table 2), which means a significant share of the population would be in the youth cohort in the coming 5 to 6 years. And a majority of those who are now in the age group of 15-29 years would still be there.
 Educationally backward blocks mean a block where the level of Female Literacy Rate is below the national average of 46.13% and Gender Gap in Literacy is above the national average of 21.59%. Later the criteria was expanded to include very poor rural female literacy rates in blocks, particularly those with high concentration of SC and ST population.
Table 2: Demographic Profile of Major States
|Age 5 -14 years (%)||Age 15-29 years (%)||Total (5-29 years) (%)|
Source: Census 2011
The Gross enrollment ratio at secondary level in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand are below the national level (Table 3), which in itself is much lower than that of USA (89.5), UK (87.6), South Africa (96), Russia (98.3), Sri Lanka (99.6), Germany (104.3) and many other developed and even developing economies. In Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, about 25 percent of the children drop out at secondary level. In Odisha, it is as high as 49.5 percent. The transition to higher secondary is low in these states. Without basic skills in place, it is difficult for children to cope with grade level content, and therefore a significant share of them drops out.Table 3: Overview of Secondary education
|Gross enrollment ratio at secondary level||Transition rate from elementary to secondary (%)||Average annual drop-out rate at sec (%)||Transition rate from secondary to higher sec (%)||Percentage of professionally qualified teachers (%)||Gross enrollment ratio at higher secondary level|
Note: In Odisha, higher secondary is part of higher education which may not have been covered under U-Dise.
Source: Secondary Education in India, Flash Statistics: 2014-15, NUEPA and MHRD
Educational Statistics at a Glance, 2014, MHRD
In all these states, more than 75 percent of the labour force have less than secondary level of education, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Rajasthan faring even worse (Table 4). Without the basic level of education, particularly the knowledge and skill that is valued in the labour market it is difficult to take India to the high trajectory that is envisioned.
Table 4: Share of labour force with education level less than secondary level of education
Source: NSS Employment Unemployment Survey 68th Round, 2011-12
Therefore, a focused effort is required to develop employable skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship in these states. And for that those moving up from elementary education need to experience quality secondary education to build up entrepreneurship, harness the employment opportunities. Over time as the country is moving towards a higher growth trajectory it would not be desirable or even easy to be young in the labour force and poor education level, which would in effect ferment frustration among the youth and affect the economy. The states now need to evolve new and innovative ways, both extensively and intensively to provide effective secondary schooling to improve cognitive development, enhanced employability and transition to higher education. In this context some policy suggestions are offered as under.
3. Policy imperatives
There are concerted focus and efforts by the Government of India to ensure ‘Education for All’ and availability of affordable vocational education. Towards this end the budget for 2015-16 had provided for opening of secondary school within 5 KM and putting in place training infrastructure in all uncovered blocks in the country. In this context the EBBs need special attention as these regions are demographically advantageous.
- There is need to set up infrastructure of schools in educationally backward blocks (EBBs) to provide quality education to the Unreached backed by a strong monitoring mechanism to track growth and enhancement in learning, skill and performance, particularly in states with a higher share of EBBs.
- The conventional classroom approach of imparting education needs to be supplemented and complemented by the technological interventions through ICT so as to make available the knowledge resources to every learner as per his / her convenience irrespective of spatial, social and gender differentiation. This requires leveraging the digital revolution in the country by putting in place operational structure and training to the trainers and prospective students in usage of such material.
- The ‘National Scheme of Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education (NSIGSE) is an initiative to establish an enabling environment to reduce the drop outs and to promote the enrolment of girl children, particularly SC/STs, in secondary schools. However, the funds provision is demand based depending on the proposals received from the State Government and availability of funds under the scheme during the financial year. In case of educationally backward blocks flexibility needs to be provided so that some basic funds are released without demand.
- The Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao”, scheme has been made available for strengthening girls’ education in 100 specified districts on the basis of Child Sex Ratio, under which the School Management Committee would be awarded for 100% transitioning of girls studying in class X to class XI in same/neighbourhood higher secondary schools. This needs to be extended to educationally backward districts also.
- In the states with high EBBs, availability of vocational stream in secondary schools is very marginal (at about 1.5 %) as against states/UTs like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Delhi, Chandigarh where it is more than 10%. Spread of vocational education, bringing in industry representatives, NGOs, along with monitoring of the quality and learning outcomes and continuous update of vocational streams can bring in a change in the educational status in the States. Training should target both salaried and self-employed. However, their problem is that there is clustering of training institutes. A study by NSDC reveals that about 85% of the training capacity is concentrated in 8 districts of the Jharkhand. It is necessary to reach out to the remotest student.
- There is need for improved and coordinated outreach of various skill development programmes in these regions to tap the demographic potential. Specific schemes targeting youth in these districts on the lines of UDAAN and Himayat, programmes for J&K youth; Roshini – a special scheme for tribal areas and critical LWE affected districts and Parvaz – a special scheme for drop outs from Madrasas needs to be initiated.
- Many of the EBBs are in states rich in forest produce, mineral produce etc. It is essential to explore the marketability potential of traditional skill sets of the State so that the youth are motivated to take up training in such skills and make best use of the opportunities available. This would encourage value additions in their areas of residence. Area wise skill profiling would facilitate skill development in local trades.
- It is essential to develop the pool of teachers/ trainers, both in terms of numbers and in terms of knowledge to improve quality of education, particularly vocational education.
- Finally, what is needed is a strong MIS to facilitate tracking of youth from EBBs by empowering the PRIs/ ULBs.
 The Pratham Vocational Skill Programme in Chhattisgarh, their employment and placement programs have reached 10000 youth, wherein 6000 have been placed. The enterprise and self-employment programme have reached 5000 youth, placing about 2500. http://www.pratham.org/templates/pratham/images/Pratham_Summary_numbers_2014-15_FINAL_JUNE_2015.pdf0 bytes http://www.nsdcindia.org/sites/default/files/files/jharkhand-presentation.pdf0 bytes