THE findings of the Public Expenditure Review Commission (PERC) that was earlier constituted by the government, in relation to education at primary and secondary levels were highlighted in newspaper reports. The same are shocking to say the least. Among other things, the PERC's study found out that the government stipends are failing to check the drop-out rate at the primary level and to improve the performance of the children at secondary levels. A high percentage of the drop-outs -- some 48 per cent -- come from families in the category of the absolute poor and only one-third of the girls from the poorest families seem to be getting the benefits of the stipend programme.
The primary school drop-outs and the number of poor female students at the secondary level only substantiate the allegations profusely seen in the press these days about incidents of stipend receivers not getting the money the government earmarks for them regularly through the education budget. Primary schooling in government schools has been made practically free of costs and generous stipends are there for children who do not drop out and continue their studies in the secondary level.
The free schooling and the stipends should have created enough incentives to expand enrolment and reduce the drop-out rate to a very low level. But such positive developments are not noted. In many government-run schools, specially the ones located in rural areas, school children or their guardians have not even heard of stipends or lack the confidence to demand the same in the face of powerful groups. In many cases, the students are asked instead to pay regularly or irregularly sums of money to keep their names in registers and for them to be allowed to sit for examinations. Newspapers have reported even the slaying of guardian through hired goons as they demanded stipend money of their children from the authorities of schools.
Clearly, the reaching of targets at the primary and secondary levels of education calls for hard actions to flush very clean the corrupt ones from the schools to ensure that public money is actually spent on the education of children.