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Largest chunk of children who do not attend pre-school are Muslims according to UNICEF.

The latest edition of the ‘The State of the World’s Children’, report by Unicef has pointed out that pre-school is important for a strong educational foundation and in Indian children Muslims form the largest chunk who don’t attend pre-school (34%) followed by Hindus (25.9%).

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The latest annual iteration of ‘The State of the World's Children’, Unicef's flagship report has portrayed a grim picture of what maybe the future of the world's poorest children if governments, donors, businesses and international organisations do not accelerate efforts to address their needs.

At a global level, 69 million children under age 5 will die from mostly preventable causes, 167 million children will live in poverty, and 750 million women will have been married as children by 2030 if current trends continue.

It’s ironic that the year 2030 has been set the target date for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"We have a choice: Invest in these children now or allow our world to become still more unequal and divided," said Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake.

The report focused on education in the Indian context. While it celebrated India’s initiatives like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and implementation of the Right to Education Act which have enabled children to access schools, it also pointed out that 6 million children were still out of school in 2014. This number was notably higher at 8 million in 2009 for children between 6 to 13 years.

While releasing the report, Unicef Representative in India Louis-Georges Arsenault emphasised the importance of a strong start and said, "The early years are foundational and children who start behind stay behind."

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"There are long-term consequences, particularly for the most marginalised children, when they enter school without a quality preschool education. The gaps between disadvantaged children and other children become harder to bridge at later points in their education," he added.

The report revealed that the highest percentage of children not attending pre-school education were from the Muslim community (34%), followed by Hindus at 25.9%.

"In India, out of the 74 million children between 3-6 years, about 20 million were not attending any preschool education in 2014, and it is the children from the poorest families and marginalised communities who are often left behind," the report said.

The report pointed to the evidence that investing in the most vulnerable children can yield immediate and long-term benefits.

"On average, each additional year of education a child receives increases his or her adult earnings by about 10%. And for each additional year of schooling completed, on average, by young adults in a country, that country's poverty rates fall by 9%," it said.

Senior officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, other central ministries, academics, and civil society activists participated in the report release event.

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