Development since the NPE 1986 and its POA

7.3.1 Most of the directives of NPE-POA, have been operationalised by the Union and States/UTs. The number of primary schools has increased from 5.29 lakhs in 1985-86 to 5.58 lakhs in 1990-91; and the number of upper primary schools has increased from 1.35 lakhs to 1.46 lakhs during the same period.

The drop out rates declined from 47.61 per cent in 1985-86 to 46.97 per cent in 1987-88 in respect of classes I-V and from 64.42 per cent in 1985-86 to 62.29 per cent in 1987-88 of classes I-VIII. However, the data for subsequent years is not available, which is an indication of the weakness of the data collection system.

7.3.2 Non-formal education has become an accepted alternative channel for children who cannot attend full-time schools. The NFE scheme was revised in its content and emphasis in 1987-88. Although its focus is still on the ten educationally ward States, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, it covers urban slums, hilly, tribal and desert areas and areas with concentration of working children in the other States as well. Financial responsibility is shared by the Central and State Governments in the ratio of 50:50 for co-educational centers and 90:10 for girls’ NFE centers. Assistance to the extent of 100 per cent is provided to voluntary agencies for running. NFE centers for experimental and innovative projects. The number of NFE centers increased from 1.26 lakhs 1986 to 2.72 lakhs by March, 1992 and the enrolment from 36.45 lakhs to 68 lakhs. During this period the number of girls’ centers has increased from 20,500 to 81,600. In this programme, over 390 voluntary agencies also have participated and have been sanctioned grant-in-aid under the scheme of Non-formal Education since, NPE, 1986. Alongside, 50 Experimental and Innovative Projects and 19 district Resource Units have also been sanctioned for in-depth work in NFE.

7.3.3 By March 1992, Operation Blackboard covered 4.14 lakh (77 per cent) schools in 5385 (84 per cent) Community Development Blocks and 1142 (29 per cent) Municipal areas. Owing to resource constraint all the primary schools of the country could not be covered as envisaged. About 70,000 (46 per cent) teachers have been appointed as against 1.52 lakh single teacher schools identified for coverage. Over 1.00 lakh (43 per cent) class rooms have been constructed as against the target of 2.39 lakhs.

7.3.4 Following the guidelines in the National Curricular Framework, the NCERT revised the entire school syllabi and brought out revised textbooks for classes I to VII. Based on the National Curricular Framework and the NCERT syllabi/textbooks, the States and Union territories have also undertaken measures of curriculum renewal and development of new textbooks for different stages of school education for their introduction into the school system in a phase manner.

7.3.5 Guidelines for operationalising micro planning have been prepared and distributed to the State Governments. The concept of micro planning and local level capacity building have been given currency and efforts launched to decentralize educational planning and management vide new schemes or experimental projects. The resulting impact of these measures is expected to be felt during the coming years.

7.3.6 A positive externality, rather unanticipated, of the Total Literacy Campaigns, has been that in many districts covered by the campaign there has been an upsurge in the demand for primary education. In quite a few districts “out of school” children in the age group 9-14 was covered by the campaigns. Further, in these districts the awareness generated among parents is leading to better participation of children in primary schools. This happy experience has reconfirmed the need to pay more attention to the “demand side” in strategies for achieving UEE and highlighted the need for a disaggregated approach to the problem of UEE whereby districts, not States, and specific disadvantaged groups – the girls of SCs and STs – should become the basis for future planning.

7.3.7 Significant developments have taken place in the area of learner achievement. The NPE, 1986 spells out Minimum Levels of Learning (MLL) and stated that “to promote equality it will be necessary to provide for equal opportunity to all not only in access but also in the condition for success. Besides, awareness of the inherent equality of all will be created through the core curriculum…. Minimum Levels Learning will be laid down for each stage of education.” In pursuance of this policy and based on the report of a Committee appointed by the Ministry in 1990 and the recommendations of the CABE, MLL have been laid down for the primary stage with the intention of reducing the curriculum load and making it more relevant and functional for those children who have no support for learning at or outside the school, who are not likely to avail of the opportunity of education beyond this stage and who must learn here what is required to sustain them throughout their lives and enable them to function in their world as socially useful and contributing individuals. It is now acknowledged that UEE cannot be accepted as having been achieved unless children passing out of school acquire MLL; achievement has come to be assigned equal importance along with access and retention.

7.3.8 Another important development was the World Conference on Education for All (EFA) held in March 1990, in Jomtien, Thailand. The Conference was organized by UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP and the World Bank and attended by 155 member states of United Nations system and several donor agencies. The Conference adopted a declaration calling upon all member states and international agencies to take effective steps for achieving EFA by the year A.D. 2000. The conference advocated a holistic concept of basic education in lieu of a sectoral approach segregating sections like primary schooling, Non-formal Education, Adult and Continuing Education in separate compartments. In order to harness increased donor interest in the basic education, as a result of the Conference, it was decided to formulate comprehensive basic education projects in educational ward States. The framework for availing external assistance for basic education was evolved at the 46th meeting of the CABE held on 8-9 March, 1991 and reiterated in the 47th meeting of the CABE held on 5-6 May, 1992.

7.3.9 CABE considered the failure to universalize elementary education and literacy as not only of a question of lack of resources but also of systemic deficiencies. The additional resources that may be available under externals assistance should, therefore, be used for educational reconstruction which should go beyond the conventional measures such as opening new schools, construction of school buildings and appointing teachers. It is necessary to adopt a holistic approach, and to address.

  1. i) the educational needs of the working children, girls and disadvantaged groups, and
  2. ii) issues of content, process and quality.

Projects should be also used to develop sustainable and replicable models in different programmes related to basic education. Therefore, these projects should be developed and implemented in the true spirit of meaningful participation between the Centre and States as envisaged in NPE. It would also be necessary to implement these projects in a mission mode with effective and participative management structures and with involvement of local community, teachers and NGOs.

7.3.10 Two such externally assisted projects, viz., the Bihar Education Project with UNESCO assistance and the Lok Jumbish Project in Rajasthan with the assistance of Swedish International Development Agency have been launched. The CABE further decided that project formulation should be a process of capacity building.

Forty Years of Arun C Mehta at NIEPA: 1980 to 2019 (e-Book)

Forty years of Arun C Mehta at NIEPA: 1980 to 2019

Times of India, New Delhi, 21st September 2021

UDISE, Interview of Prof. Arun C Mehta in Times of India, New Delhi, 21st September 2021