Maharashtra education department to use mobile apps to track school dropouts due to Covid-19

Even as survey after survey of researchers and private NGOs point towards a serious problem of children falling out of the education system due to Covid-19, a comprehensive state-wide survey in Maharashtra is yet to be successfully carried out.

After a failed attempt in March when the state government conducted a survey that was criticised as “severely flawed” by many education experts, the education department will now take the help of mobile apps to track school dropouts due to the pandemic.

State education commissioner Vishal Solanki confirmed that Tata Trust and UNICEF have come forward with mobile apps. “A pilot has been conducted with one of the apps in a few education blocks by block education officers and teachers, and the early feedback was encouraging. The pilot is being done to iron out any minor issues before rolling it out across the state,” he said.

Recently a group of economists conducted a study in 15 states including Maharashtra and released a report which said that pandemic-induced school closures have resulted in “catastrophic consequences” for students, especially for those in rural areas. A mere 8 per cent of students are studying regularly online and 37 per cent are not studying at all, the study found. Plus, the financial stress caused by the pandemic has resulted in an exodus from private schools.

While educationists have been pointing out the danger of children falling completely out of the schooling system due to the school closures, there has been no comprehensive study by the state education system to track the actual number of students in and out of school.

In March this year, an attempt was made to conduct a survey but three districts in the state did not submit any data citing lockdown as a reason for the inability to conduct the survey. In the 33 other districts, only about 25,000 students were found to be out of school or have never gone to school owing to their inability to attend online classes due to Covid-19. The figure was criticised by several education experts as extremely unrealistic and they criticised the flawed method for data collection.

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