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Unique-card tabs on dropout rates

New Delhi, Oct. 28: The government will electronically monitor enrolment and dropout rates of schoolchildren, and track how many of them go on to do higher studies, through the Aadhaar unique identity card scheme.

The Union human resource development ministry and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) yesterday signed an agreement under which:

All Indian schoolchildren will be provided with the 12-digit unique identification numbers; and

The entire data will be made available to the ministry.

That is the first step. Under step two, the schools (and higher educational institutions) will have to record each student’s unique number when he or she enrols or leaves, and must update the register regularly. This will create an electronic record of each student’s enrolment, dropping out, or transfer to another institution.

Step three: The ministry will develop a special software and provide it to every educational institution (and so, it must also provide a computer to every school that lacks one).

The software, which will identify each student through his or her unique ID number, will allow each school to upload its register data onto a central pool. So, the ministry will know how many students have taken admission (and in which class), how many have dropped out (and from which class), and how many have taken up higher studies after clearing school.

“Through the unique identification number, we will be able to monitor some of the education schemes. We can know the trend on enrolment and dropout rates of students at various stages,” human resource development minister Kapil Sibal said yesterday.

“We can also monitor the implementation of the mid-day meal scheme in schools,” Sibal added. This will be possible because the schools will maintain daily attendance registers at the free lunch and upload the data through the software.

All this will be possible when all the schoolchildren in the country — the current number is 22 crore — have been given unique ID cards. No timetable has yet been set for this, but the issuance of the cards to citizens began late last month.

Every Indian above five is entitled to the card, anyway — yesterday’s pact only means that an extra effort will be made to get all schoolchildren registered with the UIDAI. This the children are expected to do because the unique number will be linked to admission and examinations.

UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani said his organisation would engage enrolment agencies to register schoolchildren. He said the agencies would record the children’s residential details, fingerprints and iris impressions.

A UIDAI official said that if the schools can be persuaded to install biometric devices to monitor students’ attendance — each such device now costs Rs 5,000 — the ministry would also be able to monitor attendance levels across India.

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