In the following sections we begin with a rough picture of this age group (11 to 18 year olds) in India by number and gender and go on to discuss school participation and work status for rural and urban boys and girls. Following it we focus on some state-wise variations in the state of adolescents.
According to census 2001 adolescents between the age group 10-19 years number an impressive 22.5 crores, constituting a little more than a fifth of the total population. iThe 2001 census has brought into focus the much lower number of female children as compared to male children in the under 6 age group in different states. In fact this is a much-discussed issue in recent years It is interesting to note that the gap between the number of female and male adolescents is even larger. In the following chart (chart 1) we see how the gap widens in the adolescent group and then declines. It is difficult to explain this phenomenon easily–the increased gap could be a virtual phenomenon arising from imperfections in data collection or from misreporting of age related data. This is not observed in all states – the differences in number is greater in states which are well known for gender discrimination.
2.3. School participation
What are these adolescents doing? Table 1 illustrates that for India as a whole, there is a sharp distinction in school participation rates13 between younger and older adolescents and between those who live in urban areas versus those who are in rural areas. Moreover, the picture is not rosy for any of the categories, and school participation is far from universal.
Source: NSSO 52nd round.
As late as in the mid-nineties (1995-6) about 30 per cent of children in the 11-13 year age group were still out of school. In the older age group the out of school proportion increases further to 50 per cent. The experiences of children in urban and rural areas vary sharply. Firstly school participation rates of both boys and girls are significantly higher in urban areas as compared to rural areas. In the former less than 20% of the children in younger age groups are out of school, and the proportion rises to about 35% among the older adolescents. In rural areas larger proportions are out of school in all age groups. The situation is particularly dismal among girls where around 40% in the 11-13 age group are out of school, and which increases to two-thirds in the 14-17 age group. Secondly, there are no obvious gender differences in school participation rates in urban areas, which is in sharp contrast to the situation in rural areas. This is similar to the picture that emerges from NFHS-2 (1998-9) data.
2.4. Schooling Attainments Some idea about schooling attainments in these age groups is available from the NFHS survey. The schooling attainment in the 15 to 19 age group shows that more than half the boys have completed elementary education, but completing class 10 remains a dream to most. The situation for girls is similar in urban areas, but in rural areas it is much worse. Given the low school attendance rates in this age group, the low attainments are not surprising at all.
Table 2. School attainments in 15-19 year age group (per cent)
Source: NFHS – II.
2.5. Working children There is no direct information on out-of-school activities of adolescents. Information on their work participation14 is collected during the census and different rounds of the NSSO survey. Researchers have pointed out that Census estimates, on account of both conceptual and methodological reasons, significantly underestimate work participation among children.15 NSSO has made an effort to plug the gap by widening the definition of child work.16 NSSO estimates are still low compared to estimates of child work based on time use data.17 NSSO data, 55th round (1999-2000), indicates that a low proportion of children below 14 years were working and this was true for both boys and girls. It rises in the next age group – the increase is very sharp particularly for boys. In the younger age group, similar proportions of girls and boys were found to be working, but gender differences are strong in the older age group. Work participation rates are much higher in rural areas as compared to urban areas.
Table 3 clearly shows there has been a decline in the proportion of working children in all age groups between 1993-4 and 1999-2000. The decline is particularly sharp among the younger adolescents in rural areas. The increased school participation for these age groups is very likely