In education, children’s poor nutrition and health status is rarely recognised as a significant factor for school enrolment, participation and achievement. However, there has been ever growing empirical evidence from global research pointing out that malnourishment among young children influences schooling in several direct and indirect ways. Malnutrition is a wide-spread problem that results from a complex interaction between environmental deprivation and undernutrition. Malnourished children typically experience a range of other environmental difficulties associated with poverty, such as poor housing, poor health-care, weak family and community support systems. There is a need to understand the way child malnutrition and poor health influence access and school participation of children.
In this paper, an attempt is made to draw broad contours for developing such an understanding of the issue rooted in the Indian context. A general overview of the research evidence on the linkage between malnutrition and cognitive development has been presented. The scale and nature of malnourishment among young children in India has been detailed, highlighting the distribution across population groups and states in the country. The paper also presents a discussion of the research evidence in India that correlates malnutrition and other factors related to school participation. Further, two major national intervention programmes aimed at early stimulation and improvement of nutritional status of children have been discussed. Based on the analysis presented in the paper, the last section of the paper identifies areas that need further exploration.
Neelam Sood. Malnourishment Among Children in India: Linkages with Cognitive Development and School Participation. In: CREATE Pathways to Access Series, Research Monograph Number 25. (2010) 1-47. ISBN 0-901881-36-8