Computer courses are being taught to children across India as the government seeks to attract more students to the education sector by offering them more opportunities to pursue their educational aspirations.
A study by a think tank has found that about 60 per cent of children in India are not enrolled in computer-based subjects in the first year, according to a survey of over 50,000 students conducted by the Centre for Science Education Research (CSER).
This is despite the fact that computer courses are a top-tier option for the younger generation of students in the country, and the CSER study, titled ‘The Changing Face of Computer Studies in India’, says that a quarter of the students in this age group are not taking up computer-related subjects in primary and secondary schools.
“The CSER survey shows that in the second and third years, the enrolment of computer subjects among children in primary schools was only 43 per cent and 36 per cent, respectively, and this is even with the fact of enrolment in computer science courses,” said Sandeep Gopalan, director, CSER, in a statement.
“In the fourth year, enrolment was only 38 per cent.”
The study also showed that the proportion of students enrolled in science and technology subjects remained stagnant, with only 35 per cent taking up such subjects.
The remaining students, who are either students in a technical or technical technical-based course, did not take up any subjects.
The CSESR study, which was conducted by CSER and The Hindu, also shows that the average age of a child enrolled in a computer-focused course in India has decreased from 21 years to 19 years.
“While there has been an increase in the age of enrollment of students taking up science and tech courses, this is not due to a change in their educational system or because the enrolments of students with the same educational background have decreased,” Gopaman said.
“The enrolment has increased because students have access to computer-enabled devices.”
The CSERS survey was conducted from December, 2015 to March, 2016, with a sample size of 1,000 children aged 0-18 years in 11 districts in the state of Karnataka.
The study found that of the 4,895 students who enrolled in the study, around 45 per cent were boys, and that the majority of students are from economically disadvantaged families.
Of those students who took up computer courses, 70 per cent are from the economically disadvantaged castes, and of these, 58 per cent come from castes where there are higher rates of unemployment.
While the study shows that a majority of children who took part in the CSES Research were in the same castes as those who did not enrol, the study also shows a shift in the number of girls in computer courses.
“There is a shift from girls taking computer courses to girls taking more technical courses, and more women taking the courses,” Gomila Agarwal, senior economist, CSERS, said in a written response to queries.
The number of students who are enrolled in two-year, two-semester and three-year computer courses has increased from 1,073 in 2015 to 1,085 in 2016, the CSERS study found.
“It is not clear whether these students will enroll in courses in the future, but the enroltion of girls is increasing in both these areas,” Goshal Dutt, senior research fellow at the Centre, said.
While CSER said the increase in enrolment would result in more students taking a computer courses in future, it said the number was not enough to change the nature of education in India.
“If the enrolmentation of girls were higher, it would not be necessary for a study to be conducted, but as enrolment is falling, the data is not useful for us to know,” Dutt said.
The government has been seeking to increase the number and quality of students and teachers in computer classes.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he would make it mandatory for all Indian students to take computer- based subjects in secondary schools, including those from economically deprived communities.