The average dropout rate is 6.2% compared to the national average of less than 5%.
"The statistics show a worrisome trend," says Mohammed Ali Sheriff, a Harvard and IIM-B research scholar who has studied surveys by the SSA, the National Minorities Development Corporation and other agencies on school enrolment and dropouts among Muslim students.
Survey data for the period between 2008-09 and 2011-12 shows that more Muslim boys drop out of classes IX and X than girls. "This can possibly be because of the transition of a large number of students from Urdu-medium primary schools to high schools that have Kannada or English medium," Sheriff says.
About one-third of Muslim children in Karnataka study in Urdu-medium schools. One of the main reasons for increasing dropouts is that there are just 520 Urdu-medium high schools against 2,411 primary schools that have Urdu as medium of instruction.
The Gulbarga and Belgaum divisions have the highest number of students studying in Urdu-medium schools.
But there's a silver lining: between 2008-09 and 2011-12, about 15.1 lakh Muslim students were enrolled — a healthy 15% of the total enrolments in the state.
Sheriff notes: "This reveals an educational awakening among Muslims and success of the Prime Minister's pre-matric scholarship scheme for meritorious students from minority communities. Though the scheme started with only 21,018 scholarships across Karnataka in 2008-09, the number increased to 4.27 lakh in 2011-12."
Karnataka has the best gender balance among Muslims students, he says. The Gender Parity Index (the number of girls per boys) is 1.05, suggesting that more and more Muslim girls are enrolling themselves and moving to the secondary level.
Commissioner of public instruction Mohammed Mohsin told TOI that primary and secondary education minister Kimmanne Ratnakar will soon speak to Muslim legislators on checking the dropout rate. "The minister is aware of the problem and working out various schemes to arrest the trend."
Former education minister BK Chandrashekar said: "Socio-economic issues could be behind the high dropout rate among Muslim students. Community leaders and stakeholders must focus on offering scientific learning in Urdu schools at the primary level. This will make the students competent and focused."