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Education minister of Assam Ranoj Pegu

GuwahatiAssam has witnessed a steady rise in student enrolment in government schools during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly due to financial stress on the families, Education Minister Ranoj Pegu said.

Though there has been an overall impact of the pandemic on school education, the gradual improvement in teaching quality in government institutions has attracted many parents for enrolling their kids in such schools, the minister told PTI in an interview.

Pegu said, “We have seen a rise in enrolment in government schools during and after the pandemic. This is good news for us. This development can be attributed to many factors.”

He explained that the financial impact of the pandemic has forced many parents to shift their children to free government schools from the private ones with high monthly fees.

“Another factor is an overall improvement in quality of education in government schools. We have been taking various steps over the last few years to improve the quality and the result is showing now,” Pegu said.

The minister said that the Education Department has collated the enrolment figures of all students from Classes 1 to 12 and found that the total number has increased despite apprehensions of dropout due to the impact of the pandemic.

According to official data, the total number of students in all government, aided and non-private schools across Assam has increased by over 63,000 during the 15-month period of the COVID-19 pandemic since September 2020.

The grand total of students in government, aided, tea garden managed and venture (established by the people of a locality) schools have increased to 56,84,487 in November 2021 from 56,21,203 in September 2020.

Such enumeration is usually done in September every year and the next survey will be carried out after two months this year, Pegu said.

Asked about the fall in pass percentage at the Class 10 state board examination, the minister accepted that the result indicates that many students were deprived of formal education during the pandemic.

“It is a matter of worry for us. The pass percentage has not improved this year compared to pre-pandemic years. We conducted special remedial classes. However, we could not touch all the schools and all the students,” he said.

Pegu stated that the performance of the rural schools went down compared to the urban ones as the online mode could not reach everyone.

“We were not prepared with this online teaching system. Many study materials and teaching mechanisms were developed during the course of the last two years. Now we are prepared for any situation,” he said.

The pass percentage for 2022 stood at 56.49 per cent in the Class 10 matriculation examination, conducted by the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA).

Following cancellation of the exams in 2021 due to the pandemic, the results of Class 10 state board examinations were declared on the basis of a marking formula devised by an expert committee.

The pass percentage last year had zoomed to 93.1 per cent from 64.8 per cent in 2020. It was 60.23 per cent in 2019 and 56.04 per cent in 2018, as per the results declared by the SEBA.

The highest rise in enrolment has been witnessed in the elementary section, comprising Classes 1 to 8, with 72,097 students getting admitted in the 15-month period.

There were 44,92,085 students in the elementary section of all the non-private schools of Assam in September 2020 which increased to 45,64,182 in November 2021.

The students in higher secondary schools having Class 11 and 12 also saw a growth of 27,211 enrolments to 3,44,657 from 3,17,446 during the period under consideration.

The only segment that witnessed a decline in the number of students was the secondary classes, which consists of Classes 9 and 10.

The total number of students in the secondary sections decreased by 36,024 to 7,75,648 in November last year from 8,11,672 students 15 months ago.

Considering different standards, Classes 5, 6, 9 and 12 recorded falls in student enrolments, while the rest saw an increase in new pupils, the official data showed.

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