Confronting school dropoutAddressing skill aspirations among adolescent youth

 Dr Jeebanlata Salam, Jagdish Londhe, Vishal Kumar and Shiva Mukhi
To study the phenomenon of widespread dropout tendency among secondary students in Odisha and Assam,  a team of researchers from National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISC campus, Bengaluru recently carried out survey-interviews on school community—teachers, secondary level students and parents  in Koraput, Rayagada and Gajapati districts, Odisha and Goalpara and Barpeta districts, Assam.
The study was conducted in 120 secondary schools in Odisha and 80 schools in Assam during  2020-2022. The key findings of the study are:
1) Local teachers concur  that if students are provided with  employable vocational skill opportunities in schools, dropout tendencies among students would be reduced while parents feel encouraged to send children to school as they anticipate economic returns within a short span of schooling.
2) 86% students in Assam and 68% students in Odisha aspire skill education in various vocational subfields before leaving secondary education.
3) However, below 25%schools provide vocational/skill programmes.
4) To share the outcome and create a coordinating team on School-Vocational Education Programme, vocational skill workshop was conducted on 14th October, Gumma High School, Rayagada district, Odisha and 19th November at Mandia Girls High School, Mandia block, Barpeta district, Assam.
5) 120 participants from Odisha and 250 participants in Assam including teachers, students, and parents attended the workshop.
6) In Odisha, key skill/industry stakeholders representing Nettur Technical Training Foundation, Bangalore, and Odisha, Industrial Training Institute, Rayagada, District Employment Exchange Officers, Odisha, District Education Officer, Govt of Odisha, School Principal, Gumma High School and research team, NIAS contributed to the workshop. In Assam, representatives from Assam Skill Development Mission, Govt. of Assam, District Employment Exchange, Govt. of Assam, Block Resource Officials, Mandia block, Barpeta, District ICT coordinator, Goalpara, Govt. of Assam, Vocational education teachers of secondary schools and NIAS research team contributed to the workshop.
7) As an outcome, school-industry interface has been initiated to implement school-to-work- transition skill programmes in sample schools. 
Literacy and dropout status: The Case of Manipur
Literacy wise, the State is marginally better at 79.85% than all India average of 74.4% (Census of India, 2011). However, better literacy performance of the State has turned out to be an outlier, unable to generate into human potential for growth and development of the State.
With very few specialized colleges, technical institutions, and limited opportunities of skill provisions in schools, large proportion of young students leave education before acquiring necessary qualifications and life skills. According to the Unified District Information System (UDISE), 2020-21, NIEPA, by educational stage (1-X), the retention rate in the State was staggeringly low at 46.3% when compared with all India average of 61.5%. Low retention rate is a result of several handicaps in the provisioning of public education system. According to the report of Educational Statistics at a Glance, Government of India 2018, in Manipur, the total number of secondary schools is 1054, of which only 12 schools provide vocational and counselling courses. However, as per the analysis of budgeted expenditure on education in 2017-19, Department of Higher Education, Govt. of India, there is no budgeted expenditure allocated on vocational education at secondary level in the State. When student retention and dropout strategies are designed, school-to-work transition program interventions in schools emerge as an effective tool in not only dropout prevention, but also preparation of skilled workforce; and sustainable livelihood initiatives that can potentially transform the prospects of youth.
NIAS has begun similar study such as skill aspirations among school going adolescent youth  and dropout prevention in four districts of Manipur-Imphal West, Imphal East, Bishnupur and Kamjong. The study aligns with  National Education Policy 2020 that brings into focus back vocationalisation/skilling of 50% secondary schools in India by 2025.
We are grateful  to Tata Trusts  for financial support to conduct the above study.
The writers are from  National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISc Campus, Bengaluru