Getting a Second Chance

Transition from   upper primary to secondary schooling is an important topic of discussion and incentives and infrastructure/ inputs are planned and being worked on.  Statistics suggest that although most children in India go to primary school, a large number of students drop out before completing Class X. This means that a considerable proportion of India’s youth are ineligible to apply for jobs in sectors that require completion of secondary school education as a minimum.  These young people had to leave schooling for various reasons – reasons which could be system based, social or financial constraints.

What are the options for those girls and boys who had to leave school- the school drop outs?  What are the effective solutions for such children/youth if they wish to complete their secondary schooling (subsequent to the crisis period)? Generally, the feeling is that they have missed the bus and few have an unspoken regret for life.

When Pratham started the program (Second Chance) for such girls and women to complete their secondary schooling, initially there was disbelief and mistrust among the potential beneficiaries and their families. Often, the same issues that forced them to drop out of school, came to the fore once more – low learning levels, distance from home, household chores and low levels of confidence. Second Chance offered these dropouts flexibility of time, education at the door step and differential instruction based on their learning levels. This generated hope.

Pratham’s Second Chance program is being carried out in nine states and has been supporting drop outs for six years now. The program has impacted over 20,000 girls and women and more than 4000 dropouts enroll each year, taking the plunge and putting much effort to cover the gap in schooling and preparing themselves for the board exams.

The overall issue of education for girls is also highlighted by Dr Wilima Wadhwa in the ASER 2017, ”This year’s ASER 2017 and its focus on an older age group, youth age 14-18, reports a gender gap of just 1% in the proportion of 14 year boys and girls enrolled – 95.3% among boys and 94.3% among girls. However, this situation changes – Beyond age 14, for every year that our young people grow older, the enrollment gap grows steadily larger. By age 18 there are 4.3% more girls than boys who are not enrolled in the formal education system.”

What can a Second Chance give?

Pallavi is from a slum community in Pune – she is now preparing for the UPSC exam for civil services. She is completing her graduation in Accounts and Economics as major subjects and will appear for her entrance exam after graduation.

Pallavi completed her Secondary Schooling at Pratham’s Second Chance centres in 2012.  She had left school as she had to support her mother, a domestic help and facing difficult life situations. After two years of dropping out Pallavi took the second chance against the wishes of her family and community. She put in best efforts to fare well in her board exams.

Scoring 70% in Class X, brought a change in attitude at home and for people who mattered.   She regained confidence and managed supporting her mother for chores and her study. She interns with an accounting firm and is getting a stipend – her life has changed forever. Pallavi’s courage of taking the second chance has had a multiplier effect within her community and we have seen more drop-outs join the program to complete Secondary Schooling.  There is a change in the views of people in her community, towards education – Pallavi acts as role model, a role model who can be seen every day in her community – as she works towards achieving her goal.

While It is commendable that, a lot is being done  to promote enrollment for the 14 to 18 age  group like  infrastructure and increased inputs for access to secondary schooling for both boys and girls, there is still a need to give more attention to students who have had to leave mainstream schooling due various reasons  they are ‘the unreached’,  ‘the disadvantaged’ -who know they have missed the bus, and they do not know that there may be alternate ways to get back to the path of learning. The alternate ways which are to appear externally   through state board/s, through State Open Schools and the National Institute of Open Schooling. There is a lack of awareness and apprehension regarding the validity of certification.

Our learnings through continued interaction with the Board, Open School bodies and Secondary Schools over the years, underscores issues like lack of awareness at all levels, insufficient services and apprehension regarding validation by schools and ITIs.  As the system of Open school is a valid option and has necessary documentation and provisions regarding eligibility to continue education, Pratham teams could solve most issues at the local level.

What does Pratham’s Second Chance offer?

The Second Chance program is broadly divided into two modules: The Foundation Course (FC)- bridging the gaps and bring the learner to a level of transacting Class X curriculum and the Main Course (MC) – preparation for Class X exams

Other ideas and innovations –  Imparting life skills, thus building confidence and communications skills and introduction of digital content, based on the premise of encouraging self-learning and supplementing the available teaching materials. Digital content is a useful resource in remote areas where access to teaching resources is limited.

In the first year, 2011-12, very few cleared the exams, and in 2017, 84% of the students who appeared passed their final board exams.

What can help Open and Distance Learning reach the unreached?

A strong need to offer foundation course /bridging material – as drop-outs can’t prepare directly by the teaching learning material provided to them.

Often study centres of open schools are distant or difficult to reach for the student, especially those who need these options the most. Thus, it would be useful have Re-Engagement Centres in the existing High Schools using Foundation Course Content and also higher-level modules. This will help those who have failed or have dropped out or those who are older in age to come for classes.

Time flexibility, easy accessibility, engagement and support are the key inputs for drop-outs to rejoin mainstream education.

Renu Seth
Pratham Education Foundation

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