Policy Engagements and Blogs

Understanding Out of School Children (OOSC) in India: the Numbers and Causes

Kiran Bhatty

April 25, 2017



The number for out-of-school children [OOSC] put out by various official sources in India, show wide variations. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) survey (IMRB-SRI, 2014) estimate of this figure is 6 million, while for the same year, the National Sample Survey (NSS) figure is 20 million.

Each figure is based on an estimate of ‘never enrolled’ and ‘dropped out’ children. A closer look reveals that problems exist not just in the definitions, especially of drop out used by each source, but also in the methods of estimating ‘never enrolled’ as well as ‘dropped out’ children. In addition, discrepancies and inefficiencies in the overall system of collecting and collating data compound the problems.

This study by Senior Fellow Kiran Bhatty attempts to address these issues through developing a more direct approach to calculating ‘never enrolled’ children based on a child census, as well as identifying OOSC using a broader understanding of absenteeism or ‘dropped out’ children based on irregular attendance.

It also analyses the links between attendance and socioeconomic and school factors. In doing so, it fills an important gap in the literature by questioning the definition/understanding of an ‘out-of-school’ child, as well as by using methodologies not employed before to estimate children not enrolled in school and to track attendance of those enrolled over an academic year.

The findings of the paper are divided into two sections – the first section describes the survey findings and estimates of OOSC and attendance patterns of students and teachers; while the second section provides an analysis of the links between child attendance and various household and school level factors.

The full working paper can be accessed here.