Education For All in India with Focus on Elementary Education: Current Status, Recent Initiatives And Future Prospects
Arun C. Mehta
Free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of fourteen years is the Constitutional commitment in India. At the time of adoption of the Constitution in 1950, the aim was to achieve the goal of Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) within the next ten years i.e. by 1960. Keeping in view the educational facilities available in the country at that time, the goal was far too ambitious to achieve within a short span of ten years. Hence, the target date was shifted a number of times. Till 1960, all efforts were focused on provision of schooling facilities. It was only after the near realization of the goal of access that other components of UEE, such as universal enrolment and retention, started receiving attention of planners and policy makers. It is the Quality of Education, which is at present in the focus in all programmes relating to elementary education in general and primary education in particular.
Significant efforts have been made in the last fifty years to universalize elementary education. Since 1950, impressive progress has been made in every sphere of elementary education. In 1950-51, there were about 210 thousand primary and 14 thousand upper primary schools. Their numbers are now increased to 627 thousand and 190 thousand respectively as in the year 1998-99; thus showing an average annual growth of 2.30 and 5.58 per cent per annum. As many as 83 per cent of the total 1,061 thousand habitations have access to primary schooling facilities within 1 km and 76 per cent habitations to upper primary schooling facilities within a distance of 3 km. About 94 and 85 per cent of the total rural population is accessed to primary and upper primary schools/sections. The ratio of primary to upper primary schools over time has improved which is at present 3.3. More than 84 per cent of the total 570 thousand primary schools in 1993-94 had school buildings. The number of single-teacher primary schools has also considerably declined.
The number of teachers both at the primary and upper primary levels of education over time has increased many folds. From a low of 538 thousand in 1950-51, the number of primary school teachers in 1998-99 increased to 1,904 thousand (MHRD, 2000a). Similarly, upper primary teachers during the same period increased from 86 thousand to 1,278 thousand. The pupil-teacher ratio is at present 42: 1 at the primary and 37:1 at the upper primary level of education. Despite the significant improvement in number of teachers, the percentage of female teachers is still low at 35 and 36 per cent respectively at the primary and upper primary level of education. However, the majority of teachers, both at the primary (87 per cent) and upper primary (88 per cent) levels, are trained.
Over a period of time, enrolment, both at the primary and upper levels of education, has increased significantly. From a low of 19 million in 1950-51, it has increased to about 111 million in 1998-99 at the primary and from 3 to 40 million at the upper primary level. At present, the enrolment ratio (gross) is 92 and 58 per cent respectively at the primary and upper primary level of education. The percentage of girl’s enrolment to the total enrolment at the primary and upper primary level of education in 1998-99 was about 44 and 41 per cent. Despite improvement in retention rates, the drop out rate is still high at 40 and 57 per cent respectively at the primary and elementary level of education. The transition from primary to upper primary and upper primary to secondary level is as high as 94 and 83 per cent. However, the learner’s achievement across the country remained unsatisfactory and far below than the expectations. The Government of India initiated a number of programmes and projects to attain the status of universal enrolment. Despite all these significant achievements, the goal of universal elementary education remains elusive and far a distant dream.
An attempt has been made in the present article to review the progress made with regard to different components of Education for All (EFA), such as, Early Childhood Care and Education, Elementary Education and Adult Literacy and Continuing Education programmes. However, the focus of the article is on elementary education. The World Conference on EFA was held recently in Senegal (April 2000) and the previous one at Jomtien in 1990. Therefore an attempt has also been made to review the progress made between 1990 & 2000. Within the elementary education, different components such as, universal enrolment, access, retention and quality of education have been critically analyzed.
By using the secondary data, a set of indicators is developed and analyzed. The analysis is confined to all-India level, however wherever necessary, state-specific situation is also analyzed. First the composition of school education across the states is presented. Some of the indicators that are developed and analyzed are literacy rates, habitations covered by schooling facilities, enrolment rates, attendance rates, transition rates, percentage of female teachers, average number of teachers in schools, trained teachers, facilities available in schools, pupil-teacher ratio, ratio of primary to upper primary schools and indicators of internal efficiency of education system. In addition, out-of-school children and additional enrolment that would be required to achieve the goal of universal enrolment is also worked-out. Further, the article also takes a view of the recent enrolment projection exercises and attempts to redefine the concept of universal elementary education. The government has initiated a number of programmes under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes to achieve the goal of EFA in general and UEE in particular; all that are briefly discussed in the paper with regard to achievements made so far.
3. DATA SOURCES
The Indian education system is perhaps the largest system in the world catering the need of more than 190 million students of different socio-economic background in pre-primary to primary, upper primary, secondary and higher secondary to college and university level. Keeping in view the size of the system, it is bound to have certain limitations, which can be grouped under administrative and non-administrative problems. Data gaps, time-lag in data, inadequate, untrained and unqualified staff, lack of equipments and understanding of definitions and concepts of educational terms, poor dissemination, feedback and utilization of data, etc. are some of the major limitations in the existing information system. However, reliability of data remained the major cause of concern of the data users (Mehta, 1996). In the recent past efforts have been made to strengthen information system among which the development of computerized information system under the centrally sponsored District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) is the most prominent and sincere one.
In the present article, information generated by the government and semi-governmental agencies have been used to assess the status of Universalisation of Elementary Education. The Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development is the official agency that is responsible for collection and dissemination of educational data on annual basis. In addition, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) also occasionally collect information on educational variables through sample surveys. Generally, private unrecognized educational institutions that are large in number are not included in the official collection of statistics. In some locations, especially in urban areas, such institutions are large in number. A recent survey conducted in one of the states revealed that private unrecognized schools (primary) constitute 25-30 per cent of the total enrolment in recognized institutions.
4. LITERACY SCENARIO
A little less than 50 per cent of the total population in 1991 was illiterate but since than the country has made considerable progress both in terms of total (7+ population) and adult literacy (15+) rates. Since the latest census based on complete enumeration was conducted in 1991, beyond that year literacy statistics in India is not available. However, the same on household sample basis is available from a semi-government organization, namely the National Sample Survey Organization. The literacy rate (7+ Population) increased from 52 per cent in 1991 to 62 per cent in 1998, thus showing an impressive increase of 10 percentage points in a short period of about seven years. However, no significant improvement is noticed in male/female differential in literacy rate, which has declined from 25 to 23 per cent during the same period. It may however be noted that during 1991 to 1998, the increase in female literacy (11 per cent) was higher than the increase in male literacy (9 per cent). In addition, many states have lower literacy rates than at the all-India level and among weaker sections (SC, 37 and ST, 30 per cent), it is very poor.
The rural/urban distribution of literacy rates reveal that increase was higher in rural areas than in urban areas and the difference was of the tune of four percentage points. The rural/urban differential in literacy during the period 1991 to 1998 declined from 28 to 24 per cent but the male/female differential in rural areas continues to be significantly high at 25 percentage points. Despite all these significant achievements, a large number of people in rural areas are still illiterate (44 per cent) compared to which only 20 per cent urban population is illiterate. Not only the literacy rates improved significantly but also the number of illiterates declined considerably during the period 1991 to 1998 and is expected to further decline by the year 2001 (MHRD, 2000d). From 329 million illiterates (7+ population) in 1991, it has declined to 294 million in 1998 and is further likely to decline to 258 million in the year 2001.
Following the general pattern, the adult literacy rate (15+ population) also increased significantly from 49 per cent in 1991 to 57 per cent in 1998, thus showing an increase of 8 percentage points in a short span of about seven years. However, male/female differential in literacy remained high at 27 percentage points, which shows that, both the male and female literacy rates between 1991 and 1998 have increased by equal percentage points. Unless all the females are made literate, the goal of universal literacy will continue to remain a distant dream. The other major concern is that many of the literates are simply literate and have not completed formal schooling. The NSSO data for year 1995-96 reveals that about 10 per cent of the total literates (15+ Population) are either literate without formal schooling or below primary level. About 28 per cent of the total literates have completed either primary or upper primary schooling. The rest of the literates have completed other higher levels of education.
The significant improvement in literacy rates during 1991 to 1998 is because of the measures that have been initiated during this period. The literacy programmes in India are managed by the National Literacy Mission (NLM) launched in 1992 with an aim to make 100 million literates of the age group 15-35 years by the turn of the century i.e. 1999. Based on the Ernakulam experience in mobilizing society in the affairs of literacy programs, the NLM launched Total Literacy Campaigns in a large number of districts. Since then a number of districts have become total literate districts. The achievement is also because of the fact that during 1990’s, a number of innovative projects and programmes were initiated, which is quite visible in enrolment and drop out trends analyzed in the subsequent sections.
5. EARLY CHILDHOOD CARE AND EDUCATION (ECCE) PROGRAMMES
The National Policy on Education (1987 & 1992) recommended strengthening of ECCE programme as an essential component of human development and UEE. Only a limited statistics is available on ECCE related programmes and whatever is available from the official sources is total number of pre-primary (recognized) centers and their enrolment. In fact, a large number of unrecognized centers are also engaged in ECCE related activities. The Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) is one of the major programmes under ECCE. The scheme is funded by the Central Government and children below age ‘6’ are its clientele. Since the health input at lower ages is more as compared to the educational input, the ICDS and the Anganwadis/Balwadis is considered more as welfare activity and is part of the activities performed by the Welfare Department and not under the Department of Education (Thakur & Mehta, 1999). Since its inception, the ICDS has covered all the community development blocks (5,320) of the country. More than 11 million children of age group 3-6 years were enrolled in these centers most of which are from the disadvantage section of the society. A perusal of Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) during the period 1990 to 1998 reveals that the same has increased from 10 per cent in 1990 to about 17 per cent in 1998. But a few of the 32 States & UTs have GER even less than 10 per cent. However, it may be noted that ECCE programmes are not a pre-requisite condition for obtaining admission in Grade I. Further, it is noticed that the boys/girls differential in GER is almost negligible both at the state and all-India level.
6. ELEMENTARY EDUCATION
6.1 SCHOOL STRUCTURE
As mentioned above that free and compulsory education to all children up to the age fourteen is constitutional commitment. In 1993, the Supreme Court of India declared education up to fourteen years of age to be a fundamental right of children in India. The entire school education can be divided in to four parts, namely, primary, upper primary, secondary and higher secondary levels. The National Policy of Education (1968 & 1986) and its revised formulation (1992) envisaged a uniform pattern of school education (10+2 pattern, 12 years of schooling) across the states. Since education is on the concurrent list, i.e. state subject; the States & UTs are free to evolve their own pattern of school education. Eight years of primary education is envisaged in two stages: a junior stage covering a period of five years and a senior stage covering a period of 3 years. It needs to be mentioned that 8 years of compulsory education was envisaged as one integrated unit, although there were two stages in the cycle. Hence elementary education became the compulsory component of education in India (Varghese and Mehta, 1999a). It is this compulsory stage that has been incorporated as a directive principle in the constitution in 1950. The official age (entry) to obtain admission in Grade I is 6 years but a few States & UTs have 5 years as entry-age. The Government has recently decided to re-introduce the Constitutional Amendment Bill, which will make elementary education a fundamental right. This will be implemented as a part of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. It may however be noted that about 10-12 states have already made elementary education compulsory. But the situation in most of these states is not different than other states with regards to enrolment and retention.
The Table 4 shows that in twelve states primary education consists of Grades I to IV where as in rest of the states it is Grades I to V. The National Policy advocates Grade I to V at the primary and VI to VIII at the upper primary level of education. The states that have adopted Grades I to IV as its composition of primary level generally have grades V to VII as part of the upper primary education. Like elementary education, the secondary level of education has also got divergent composition across the states. While in 19 States & UTs, secondary stage consists of Grades IX and X; it consists of Grades VIII, IX and X in thirteen States & UTs (EFA the Year 2000 Assessment, Country Report: India). However, it may be noted that within a state, a complete uniformity is in existence but the type of institutions that offer school education (management) vary across the states and even within its districts and blocks. Different type of institutions that are in existence are schools run by government management, schools under the local bodies and private managed schools. The private managed schools can further be divided into private aided and unaided schools. In addition, private unrecognized institutions spread over across the country both in rural and urban areas are also in existence in large number.
6.2 UNIVERSAL ACCESS
Availability of schooling facilities is measured by a set of indicators concerning to access. As per norms, a habitation is entitled to have a primary school, if it has a total population of 300 & more and has no school within a distance of one kilometre. For upper primary schools, the corresponding norm is total population of 500 & more and a distance of three kilometres. However, the norm is often relaxed in case of hilly and tribal dominated areas, difficult terrains and border districts. A distance of one and three kilometre is treated as the maximum walking distance to which a child is expected to travel from his residence to school. The states have their own norms according to which they provide schooling facilities. Micro planning and school mapping related activities play an important role in making provision for schools and also deciding location where a school is to be opened. Efforts have been made in the recent past to conduct micro planning and school mapping exercises under the DPEP and Lok Jumbish Project. First let us have a look on growth in number of schools in India.
(a) Number of Schools
There has been substantial expansion of primary and upper primary schools in the country. Growth of upper primary schools is influenced by the expansion of primary education in India. The number of primary schools in India increased from 210 thousand in 1950-51 to 627 thousand in 1998-99, thus showing an average annual growth of 2.30 per cent per annum. During the same period, upper primary schools increased from 14 thousand to 190 thousand, a growth of 5.58 per cent per annum. In other words, primary schools registered an increase of almost three-fold while upper primary schools increased by fourteen times during the period 1950-51 to 1998-99. Although it may look very impressive when compared to primary schools, it needs to be noted that the base of upper primary education was too narrow in 1950-51 when compared to that at the primary level (Table 5). During 1990-98, about 65.8 thousand primary schools were opened against 38.7 thousand upper primary schools.
The trends in growth of primary schools further reveal that the rates of growth were higher during the initial decades following independence and they continuously declined thereafter. The average annual growth in number of primary schools at the all-India level has considerably declined from 3.5 per cent during the period from 1955-56 to 1960-61 to 1.4 per cent during the period from 1980-81 to 1995-96 and further to 1.3 per cent during the period from 1990-91 to 1995-96 (Varghese and Mehta, 1999a). The compound growth rates in number of upper primary schools reveal that in the initial period (1955-56 to 1960-61) the growth rate was as high as 18.0 per cent, which is also the highest throughout the period from 1955-56 to 1995-96. The growth rates showed a decline from the sixties reaching a figure of 2.5 per cent during the period from 1990-91 to 1995-96. Although the growth rates declined, these low growth rates of upper primary schools are still substantially higher than the corresponding growth rates in primary schools. An analysis of state-specific growth rates reveal that during the most recent period i.e. from 1990-91 to 1995-96, barring a few exceptions they were positives. The state like Bihar where both literacy rates and participation of children in education are low, the growth rate in the number of schools is also noticed to be low both at the primary and upper primary levels. Uttar Pradesh experienced a negative growth rate in the number of upper primary schools. These low and negative growth rates in these two states is a matter of concern to universalize elementary education because these two are highly populous states and influence the all-India figures significantly. Kerala, one of the most educationally advanced states of the country, experienced a very low growth rate, throughout the period during 1980-81 to 1995-96. This is explicable because the state has almost achieved the goal of universal enrolment. In fact, due to declining child population many primary schools in Kerala are being closed down. A clearer picture about availability of school will emerge when ratio of primary to upper primary schools is analyzed, which is presented below. The ratio can be treated an indicator of access conditions or the spread of facilities for upper primary education.
(b) Ratio of Primary to Upper Primary Schools
The ratio of primary to upper primary schools during the period from 1950-51 to 1998-99 at the all-India level (Table 5) reveals that the ratio has considerably improved from 1:15.4 in 1950-51 to 1:6.7 in 1960-61. It showed a declining trend thereafter and it stabilized at around 1:3.3. The improvement in the ratios over a period of time indicates that the overall situation changed for the better. The Programme of Action (1992) also envisaged an upper primary school for every two primary schools. The trend shows that the expansion of primary education has exerted considerable pressure on upper primary education system to expand and the government has responded positively by providing larger number of schools and school places for children who are completing primary level of education. In addition, there may be a few non-formal education centres and unrecognized schools; also that impart both primary as well as upper primary education.
The state-specific ratios are presented in Table 8 that shows that states have divergent positions with regard to provision of upper primary schooling facilities. On the one-hand states, such as, Chandigarh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Mizoram and Rajasthan, have almost provided an upper primary schools for every two primary schools they have. On the other hand a few states, namely Goa, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal etc. have a high ratio, which means that they are yet to provide a large number of upper primary schools so that the ratio is improved near to 1:2. Despite all the impressive achievements there may still be a few habitations that may not have access to primary and upper primary schooling facilities within the specified norms. An analysis of indicators of access will throw more light on access conditions in the country, which is presented below.
(c) Habitations Accessed to Schooling Facilities
Despite the increase in number of habitations and population, both the percentage of habitations and rural population served by primary and upper primary schools/sections within a distance of 1 and 3 kms. has increased significantly over a period of time from 1965 to 1993. Of the total 1,061 thousand rural habitations in the country, 528 thousand (about 50 per cent) habitations had a primary school/section within the habitation itself in 1993-94 (NCERT, 1998). On the other hand, about 83.4 per cent habitations had a primary school/section within a distance of one kilometre, against which about 177 thousand habitations, though eligible did not have schooling facilities. The alternative and innovative programme envisages opening alternative elementary centres in all these habitations. Many of the unserved habitations are not entitled to have a school/section because of the population norms. There were about 581 thousand habitations in 1993-94 that had a population of 300 & more of which more than 40 thousand habitations (7 per cent) did not have access to schooling facilities within a distance of 1 km. It may be noted that the number of unserved habitations in 1986-87 (population 300 & more) was 142 thousand (26.76 per cent).
On the other hand, as many as 808 thousand habitations (76.15 per cent) providing access to about 85 per cent population in 1993-94 had upper primary schooling facilities within a distance of three kilometres. However, when schooling facilities in terms of number of habitations having population of 500 & more is analyzed; one notices that only 474 thousand (71.60 per cent) habitations had facilities within a distance of three kilometres. This shows that about 65 thousand habitations did not have access to an upper primary school/section but were otherwise entitled to have the same as per the norms. The aggregate data further indicates that the number of habitations having access to upper primary schools/sections declines with the decline in population size of habitation, which is quite similar to the situation at the primary level. On the other hand, a good number of habitations (474 thousand) who had population below 500 in 1993-94 had schooling facilities within a distance of three kilometres of which about 26 thousand had the facilities even within the habitation. But the percentage population to which they serve is only 5.40 per cent of the total population in that slab. It may also be noted that most of the educationally backward states still have a large number of unserved habitations. Except Sikkim, Tripura and Andaman & Nicobar Islands, all other States & UTs have more than 90 per cent habitations accessed to a primary school/section within a distance of one kilometre. Daman & Diu and Lakshadweep are the only two UTs in the country that have provided a primary and upper primary school/section to all of its habitations within a distance of one and three kilometres (Table 8). Except Orissa, educationally backward states had a lower percentage of habitations having access to a upper primary school/section within a distance of three kilometres. In general, it has been observed that the states that had a lower percentage of habitations served by a primary school/section also had a lower percentage of upper primary schools/sections.
(d) Rural Population having Access to Educational Facilities
In 1986-87, more than 95 per cent rural population had a primary school/section within a distance of one kilometre compared to 94 per cent in 1993-94. The corresponding figures at the upper primary level were 84 and 85 per cent. Although the percentage during 1986-87 to 1993-94 remained almost stagnant but is termed spectacular because of the massive increase in total number of habitations during the same period. More than 65 thousand habitations were added during 1986 to 1993. The facilities distributed according to different population slabs reveal that both the percentages of habitations and rural population accessed to schools/sections decline with the decline in the population size. It is only in Daman & Diu that the entire rural population is accessed to an upper primary school/section within a distance of three kilometres. Among the major states, Andhra Pradesh (79.43 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (72.60 per cent), Rajasthan (79.00 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (82.09 per cent) had a lower percentage of population served by upper primary schooling facilities than at the all-India level (Mehta, 1999).
(e) Unserved Habitations and NFE Centres
The unserved habitations may have a non-formal education center or even unrecognized institutions. At the all-India level, only 6 per cent of the total unserved habitations (within one kilometre) with 9 per cent population had a non-formal education centre in 1993-94. Of the total 121 thousand primary and upper primary centres in 1993-94, 94.52 per cent were in rural areas and the remaining 5.48 per cent centres were in the urban areas. A good number of centres are being run by the Voluntary Agencies. The average size of a non-formal education (primary) centre in 1993-94 was about 27 learners. There were about 4,553 primary and 128 upper primary centres that respectively had an average enrolment of 26 and 36 learners but did not have an instructor. On the other hand, there were about 729 primary and 22 upper primary centres that had at least one instructor but did not have a learner. In addition, there were a few upper primary centres (18) that had more than two instructors but did not have a learner, thus indicating a lot of wastage and lack of seriousness in implementing the programme. The percentage of learners in the Government run centres (primary and upper primary) to total elementary enrolment (Grades I-VIII) in 1993-94 indicates that it was as small as 2.54 and 2.33 per cent respectively in case of girls and total enrolment. The coverage of unserved habitations and enrolment in NFE centres suggests that the objective of non-formal system has not been realized in providing alternative facilities to areas where out-of-school children concentrate and schooling facilities are not available. It may be interesting to note that a little less than 50 per cent of the total villages in the country had both the unrecognized primary and upper primary schools.
6.3 FACILITIES IN SCHOOLS
Provision of schools does not guarantee availability of necessary facilities in schools, which is reflected in statistics presented in Table 9. Over a period of time, facilities in schools have improved significantly but still a large number of primary schools do not have adequate facilities that are required for smooth functioning of a school. Both the Central and State Governments had initiated a number of programmes to improve facilities, one such programme is the Operation Blackboard Scheme.
A perusal of Table 9 reveals that of the total 0.57 million primary schools in 1993-94, only 65.01 per cent had pucca (permanent) buildings. The rest of the schools had either partially permanent buildings or were functioning in open space or even in tents (4.20 percent, 24 thousand schools). Of the total building-less schools, government schools constitute more than 65 per cent, whereas schools managed by private organizations do not have any such school. On the other hand only a few upper primary schools in 1993-94 were functioning in open space/tents (2,966). Even if a school has building that need not guarantee that it has got adequate number of instructional rooms. Most of the primary schools on an average had 2 instructional rooms, which is less than the total number of grades/sections a school has got. But there are several schools, which had more than even 10 rooms. On the other hand an upper primary school on an average had four rooms. Further, it has been noticed that the majority of primary schools did not have ancillary facilities in 1993-94. The drinking water facility was available in only 44.23 per cent primary schools against which 18.93 per cent had urinal facility in school. Further, it is noticed that government run schools had poor facilities than in schools managed by the private organizations. Even if the schools have necessary infrastructure that itself is not a guarantee that it has also got adequate number of teachers. Therefore the growth in number of teachers, pupil-teacher ratio and average number of teachers in a school is critically analyzed below.
6.4 GROWTH IN NUMBER OF TEACHERS
The growth in number of primary teachers during the period 1950-51 to 1998-99 shows (Table 10) that it has increased from a low 538 thousand in 1950-51 to 1,904 thousand in 1998-99, thus showing an increase of more than 3.5 times. During the same period, upper primary teachers increased from 86 thousand to 1,278 thousand, which is fifteen times more than the total teachers in 1950-51. During 1990-98, primary and upper primary teachers increased respectively by 288 and 205 thousand. Despite the significant achievements still a large number of teachers’ positions in a number of states are lying vacant mostly because of the court cases. Without diluting the academic qualifications states, such as, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have appointed para teachers. The qualification requirement to become a primary or upper primary school teacher is generally 10 years of general education followed by one or two years of pre-service training. However, in the recent past many states have increased qualification requirements for elementary school teachers and pre-service training is also not a pre condition. Once the teachers are appointed, they are imparted in-service training duration of which vary from state to state. Teachers are generally appointed for the elementary level and then they are deployed either in primary or upper primary school.
Over time, the number of female teachers (Table 11) has also increased impressively but their share remained lower than their counterparts’ male teachers. In terms of percentage, female teachers increased from 15.24 and 15.12 per cent in 1950-51 to 34.56 to 36.31 percent in 1998-99 respectively at the primary and upper primary level of education. The impressive improvement in number of teachers is also reflected in average number of teachers in a primary and upper primary school, which was about 3 and 7 in 1993-94. In addition, there may be a large number of single teacher primary schools but it is not reflected in the aggregate data presented above. The number of teachers in primary schools suggests that teachers are involved in multi-grade teaching but the same is not true in case of upper primary teachers. Further, it may also be noticed that barring northeastern states, most of the teachers both at the primary and upper primary levels of education are trained.
The state-specific pupil-teacher ratio, average number of teachers in a school and percentage of female teachers are presented in Table 11, which shows that states have divergent positions. However, it may be noted that Bihar, an educationally backward state has the highest pupil-teacher ratio both at the primary (63:1) and upper primary (49:1) level. The percentage of female teacher in the state is also dismally lowest at 19 (primary) and 23 (upper primary) per cent. More than 40 thousand positions of teachers in the state are lying vacant for last many years. The situation in other backward states (Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal) is also not encouraging. In one of the educationally most advanced state, Kerala, the pupil-teacher ratio (primary) in 1998-99 was lowest (among major states) at 29:1; the percentage of female teachers at 70 (primary) and 66 (upper primary) and also it has got a very high average number of teachers, 8 (primary) and 18 (upper primary).
6.5 UNIVERSAL ENROLMENT
Since universal enrolment is the most important component of UEE, a detailed analysis of growth of enrolment is undertaken. In addition, out-of-school children and additional enrolment required to achieve the goal of universal enrolment, is also estimated.
(a) Growth in Enrolment
Considerable progress has been made so far as enrolment at primary and upper primary levels of education is concerned. Enrolment at the primary level was 19.16 million in 1950-51; which has now been increased to 110.9 million in 1998-99. Compared to primary level, the growth in enrolment at the upper primary level is much impressive and substantial but is not adequate to attain the status of universal enrolment. From a low 3.12 million enrolment in the year 1950-51, enrolment at the upper primary level increased to 40.30 million in the year 1998-99 accounting for thirteen fold increase as against six times at the primary level. The impressive growth is attributed to comparatively a low enrolment base in the initial year and consistent increase of girls’ participation in upper primary education (Varghese & Mehta, 1999a)
It has also been noticed that during the last forty-five years, the highest rates of growth have taken place during the period 1960 to 1965. Another interesting feature of the trend in growth of enrolment is the higher rates of growth of enrolment of girls at all periods of time that we have considered. Again, it has been noticed that after the period 1965 to 1970, the growth rates in all variables showed consistent decline. It has also been revealed that over a period of time, enrolment, teachers and institutions have increased but at different rates. During the previous decade (1990-98), number of primary schools, teachers and enrolment increased at an annual rate of 1.40, 2.07 and 1.64 per cent compared to 2.89, 2.21 and 2.15 per cent respectively at the upper primary level.
(b) Share of Girls in Enrolment
The percentage share of girls to total enrolment both at primary and upper primary levels of education have increased considerably and consistently over a period of time from 1950-51 to 1998-99 (Table 13). However, girls share to the total enrolment at the upper primary level (40.50 per cent) continues to be lower than their share at the primary level (43.50 per cent).
In 1950-51, the share of girl’s enrolment to total enrolment was 28.13 and 16.13 per cent respectively at the primary and upper primary levels of education (Table 13). In the next ten years, i.e. from 1950-51 to 1960-61, their share increased to 32.57 and 24.32 per cent respectively at the primary and upper primary levels, which has further been improved to 43.50 and 40.50 per cent in the year 1998-99. This means that for every three boys there were at least two girls in the system. Further, the state-specific percentage of girl’s enrolment at the upper primary level reveals that a few states had considerably a higher percentage than the all-India average. Kerala had almost equal participation of boys and girls in the upper primary education. However, the major cause of concern is the educationally backward states, which have a much lower percentage than the all-India average. The comparatively low participation of girls suggest that unless the primary system is improved to a significant effect, the goal of universal enrolment may not be realized in the near future. The majority of out-of-school children also come from these states.
(c) Intake Rate
One of the important indicators that give information on coverage of child population (age-6) is the intake rate. Both the planners and policy makers are interested in this rate which is unless brought to hundred, the goal of universal primary enrolment cannot be achieved. The indicator considers enrolment in Grade I and population of age-6. The Gross Intake Rate considers total enrolment of Grade I irrespective of age whereas, enrolment in Grade I of age-6 is considered in Net Intake Rate. But in India, age-specific enrolment data is not available from the official sources. However, the same is available from the information system created under the DPEP. Based on this set of data, percentage of enrolment in Grade I of age-6 have been worked out. Since the data was available only for twelve states, average of these states was applied to remaining states to workout intake rates (Thakur & Mehta, 1999). The results suggest that the percentage of enrolment in Grade I of age-6 was highest in Tamil Nadu (76 per cent) and lowest in Gujarat (35 per cent). At the all-India level, the Gross Intake Rate in 1997-98 was 116 per cent compared to the Net Intake Rate of 68 per cent. This indicates that as many as 32 per cent of the total children aged-6 years were not enrolled in the system. The boys/girls differential in gross and net intake rate was of the tune of 21 and 13 percentage points. Further, a few states have lower net intake rates than the all-India average. All this suggests that rigorous efforts are needed to bring all unenrolled children, especially girls under the umbrella of education system.
(d) Enrolment Ratio
A perusal of Table 14 reveals that Gross Enrolment Ratio between the period 1950-51 and 1998-99 improved significantly but the same is not adequate to attain the status of universal enrolment, if overage and underage children are taken out from enrolment. However, it may be noted that as we approach UPE, the percentage of over-age and underage children, as well as the enrolment ratio (gross) will decline. As against the GER of 100.1 and 62.1 per cent in 1990, the corresponding ratio in 1998 was 92.14 and 57.58 per cent. The boys/girls differential in GER at the primary and upper primary level declined significantly from 28 and 30 percentage points in 1990-91 to 18 and 16 percentages points in 1998-99. The erratic trend in GER is because of the projected population used in computing ratio. Otherwise, a consistent trend is noticed in absolute enrolment both at the primary and upper primary levels of education. The Net Enrolment Ratio is considered an ideal indicator but the same is not available from the official sources. However, recently as a part of EFA: The Year 2000 Assessment, NER at primary level was estimated by assuming that 1993-94 percentage of overage and underage children will remain constant in 1997-98.
A perusal of Table 15 reveals a significant gap between GER and NER at the primary level. The NER in case of boys and girls in 1997-98 was as low as 78 and 64 per cent, which suggests that boys/girls differential in NER to be of 14 percentage points. The overall NER at the primary level was 71 per cent, which suggests that at least 29 per cent children of the age group 6-11 were out-of-school in 1997-98. The educationally backward states have lower NER than the all-India average of 71 per cent. An NER of 71 per cent does not guarantee that all these children attend school regularly. This can be known only if the average daily attendance is analyzed. From the regular sources, it is not possible to obtain idea about children attending schools. However, on household sample basis NSSO (52nd Round) recently collected data on school attendance. It may be noted that because of the difference in data collection methodology and years for which information is available, different data sets i.e. MHRD, NCERT and NSSO are not comparable. However, they give reasonably good indication regarding children attending school. School, habitations and households are the unit of data collection respectively in the MHRD, NCERT and NSSO set of data.
The Net Attendance Ratio in 1995-96 was 65 per cent against which the NER (primary, estimated) in 1997-98 was 71 per cent (Table 15). Similarly, as against 43 per cent attendance ratio among the children of age group 11-13 years, the corresponding GER was 58 per cent. The slight deviation between the two estimates suggests that less number of children attend schools than actually enrolled. The actual deviation may even be higher than the one presented above because of the fact that NSSO data on attendance includes all students irrespective of the management of school. This means that enrolment in private unrecognized institutions are also included in the attendance ratio but the same is not included in the official enrolment because unrecognized schools do not form part of the regular collection of statistics. Since then, attendance rates might have further been improved because of the nutritious noon meal scheme, which was initiated in 1995. The age-specific enrolment ratio suggests that it was 69 and 72 per cent respectively among the children of age groups 6-10 and 11-13 years. It means that about 31 and 28 per cent children of the age groups 6-10 and 11-13 years do not attend schools. It may however be noted that age specific enrolment ratio considers enrolment irrespective of grades which means that many of these children (age groups 6-10 and 11-13 years) may not necessarily be in the primary and/or upper primary grades.
The state-specific attendance ratio suggests that many states are in a position to attain the status of UPE but the same is not true in case of UEE. States such as, Assam, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu had very high net attendance ratio at primary level in 1995-96 but the corresponding ratio at the upper primary level is found very low. Many children those who attend school at present may not retain and dropout from the system even before completion of an education cycle. This severely affects the internal efficiency of the education system. Therefore, indicators that give information regarding efficiency of the education system are analyzed below.
(e) Universal Retention
The retention rates computed during the period 1964-65 to 1998-99 (Table 16) reveals that both at the primary and elementary levels of education, it has improved gradually. At present the retention rates at the primary and elementary levels are 60 and 43 per cent respectively. This otherwise suggests a dropout rate of 40 and 57 per cent respectively at the primary and upper primary level. Further, it has been noticed that throughout the period, the percentage of girls who remained in the system (up to Grade V) was lower than the overall retention at the all-India level. However, the differences between girls and boys in retention are less than the difference noticed between the two in enrolment. The boys/girls differential in retention rate in 1998-99 continues to be about 3 and 6 per cent respectively at the primary and elementary level of education. At the primary level, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh etc. had dropout rate higher than 50 per cent. Whereas Goa, Kerala, Chandigarh, Delhi etc. had lower than 5 per cent drop out in 1998-99. At the elementary level, it was as high as 77 per cent in Bihar, 68 per cent in Orissa, 53 per cent in Uttar Pradesh and 74 per cent in West Bengal. The boys/girls differential in a few states is also significantly high.
Further, it may be noted that despite the policy of no detention up to the Grade V, a large number of children used to repeat a grade. However, boys/girls differential in repetition rate is almost negligible. The repetition rate in 1993-94 was as high as 8, 6, 7, 6 and 6 per cent respectively in Grades I, II, III, IV and V Table 17). This severely affects the internal efficiency of the education system and because of this, children take more years to become primary graduates than ideally required. The indicators of efficiency are calculated on the basis of assumptions that 1993-94 rates of repetition (Table 17) will remain constant throughout the evolution of cohort and no student will allow to repeat more than 3 times in a grade. After 3 repetitions, the child would either promote to next grade or will dropout from the system. The results reveal that boys take 7.2 years to become primary graduates against which girls are taking 8.0 years, thus showing a lot of inefficiency in the system. Needless to mention that ideal number of years a student should take to become a primary graduate is five years. The state-specific results also suggest that not a single state is exactly taking five years to produce a primary graduate (Table 18). In the states of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, it was as high as 15 and 14 years. Input/Output ratio calculated for measuring the efficiency of education system also supports this. The system at the all-India level is found to be efficient to the tune of only 67 per cent, thus indicating a lot of scope of improvement. The inefficiency in the system is due to two reasons, namely high incidence of dropout and repetition. The state-specific indicators of efficiency reveal that a few states have lower level of efficiency even lower than the all-India average. Particularly, the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal need immediate attention where the level of efficiency is very low and graduates are taking more years than ideally required. Even if students graduate primary level, there is no guarantee that they will transit to upper primary level. This can be known if transition from primary to upper primary level is analyzed which is presented below.
(f) Transition Rate
The transition rate at the all-India level during the period 1970-71 to 1991-92 and state level for the year 1991-92 is calculated which is based upon the final set of the MHRD data produced in Education in India. In addition, the same for the year 1997-98 has also been calculated (without considering repeaters) on the basis of provisional information produced in Selected Educational Statistics. So far as the computation of transition rate is concerned, the procedure followed is that first the repeaters are taken out from enrolment in the first grade (V/VI) of upper primary cycle which is then divided by the terminal grade of previous cycle (IV/V), that is primary level (Varghese & Mehta, 1999a). However, from the existing set of data, it is not possible to exactly know how many children successfully complete Grade IV/V and then take admission in Grade V/VI the next year. In a few states, transition rates are more than hundred, which is by definition not possible unless a heavy in-migration is taken place.
A perusal of state-specific rates reveals that transition from primary to upper primary level in 1991-92 (Table 20), irrespective of states is noticed higher than 74 per cent (except Sikkim and Dadra and Nagara Haveli). The educationally backward States had a mix of high and very high transition rates. The provisional rates for 1997-98 show that in case of two crucial states, namely Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, it has gone down considerably. In rest of the states, an increasing trend in transition rates is generally noticed both in case of boys and girls. Between upper primary grades, the transition is also found to be high in four districts that were surveyed recently by Varghese and Mehta (1999b). Kerala that had shown almost a consistent enrolment both in the ratio and absolute form for the last more than 25 years also had a very high transition rate for both boys and girls. The improving transition rates across the states indicate more demand for upper primary education in years that follow.
The transition rate at the All-India level reveals that over a period of time, it has improved to a significant effect. This is also reflected in boys/girls differential, which has considerably been declined during the same period (Table 19). The transition rate from primary to upper primary level, which was 82.56 per cent in 1970-71, improved to 84.58 per cent in 1975-76 and further to 94.42 per cent in the year 1990-91 (Table 19 & 20). However, during the following year, it has declined to 85 per cent but improved again the next year (86 per cent). For the first time
in the recent past, transition rate for girls in 1997-98 was higher than boys by 2 percentage points. The results further reveal that about 14 percent children, who were in Grade IV/V in 1997-98, dropped out from the system in transition.
(g) Out-Of-School Children
Out of School children and additional enrolment that would be required to achieve the goal of universal primary education by the year 2007 has been worked out. It may be noted that under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the goal of universal primary enrolment is to be achieved by the year 2007.
First refined enrolment is obtained by taking out overage and underage children from enrolment in Grades I-V in 1998. The 1993-94 estimates of overage and underage children (sixth survey) are used for this purpose. The difference of age specific population (6-11 Years) and adjusted enrolment is termed as out-of-school children. While computing additional enrolment, first enrolment required within the age group 6-11 years in 2007 is obtained by subtracting out-of-school children (in 1998) from the projected population (6-11 years) in 2007. The projected population is obtained by extrapolation, which is based on the estimates provided by the Office of the Registrar General of India between 1991 and 2001. The enrolment outside the age group 6-11 years is obtained by applying the percentage of overage and underage children to the required enrolment within the age group 6-11 years. Required enrolment within and outside the age group is then added to obtain the net additional requirement of enrolment in 2007. The percentage of overage and underage children at the primary level in 1993-94 was 21.15, 21.51 and 21.31 per cent respectively in case of boys, girls and total enrolment. However, a few states have higher percentages than the all-India average.
A perusal of Table 21 reveals that as many as 33.06 million children of age-group 6-11 years were out-of-school in 1998 of which girls constitute 20.34 million (61.52 per cent). The estimates further suggest that of the total 33.06 million out-of-school children, more than 17 million (48.94 per cent) come from the most educationally backward states of Bihar (2.96 Million), Rajasthan (1.75 million), Uttar Pradesh (11.48 Million) and West Bengal (4.61 Million). The projected estimates of enrolment suggest that 40.11 million children (including overage and underage) would be additionally required to enroll in 2007 to achieve UPE. The corresponding estimate for girls is 25.95 million, which is 64.70 per cent of the net additional enrolment required in 2007. The additional enrolment will help to estimate school places that would be required in 2007. This will also help in better implementation and effective monitoring of different incentive schemes. The aggregated estimates are of limited use. Unless the same is computed at least at the block level and out-of-school children located, the benefits of new programmes and schemes are not likely to reach them.
(h) Quality Of Education
The last but the most important component of UEE is the Quality of Education that is measured in India in terms of learner’s achievement. Even, the states that have almost attained universal access, enrolment and retention, the quality of education is very poor. It is only in the recent past (during 1990’s) that quality of education has got attention of policy makers. It may be noted that India follows policy of no detention up to primary level i.e. IV/V. But in practice, divergent models are in existence across states. Generally, at the end of primary cycle, examinations are compulsory and promotion to next cycle is linked to children performance in this examination.
It may however be noted that data on learner’s achievement is not available on regular basis. The official agency (Department of Education, MHRD) does not collect data on this aspect except that it disseminate statistics on examination results at secondary and plus-two levels. It is only in the recent past (1994) that achievement tests were conducted under the District Primary Education Programme through the Baseline Assessment Surveys (BAS). DPEP envisages improving learner’s achievement by at least 25 percentage points over the project period ranging between 5-7 years. The non-DPEP states do not have this set of data. However, the NPE (1986) had given emphasized to learners’ achievement and thereafter the Government of India specified the minimum levels of learning and initiated 16 projects to improve the learner’s achievement. Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, it is expected that districts will conduct Baseline Assessment Surveys to know status of student’s achievement both at the primary and upper primary levels of education.
To monitor achievement levels, a Mid Term Assessment Survey (MAS) was conducted by the NCERT in 1997 in 42 districts of 7 states where the first Baseline Assessment Survey was conducted in 1994 (NCERT, 1998). One of the major objectives of MAS was to measure average performance of students’ achievement on the newly developed competency based achievement tests in language and mathematics at the end of Grade I and at the end of Grade III/IV of primary level. The study covered 66,831 students, 6,221 teachers and 2,068 schools spread over 42 districts across the seven states. The MAS results show improvement in average performance of students in language as well as mathematics over 1994 to 1997 but still the mean score across states is low and far below than the expectations (Box 1).
Box 1: Mid Term Assessment Survey
The study has shown that the average performance of students in Grade I in 25 districts in language and 24 districts in mathematics has crossed 60 per cent level. Except two districts in language and four in mathematics in the state of Madhya Pradesh, all other districts have crossed 50 per cent level of achievement in both the subjects in Grade I. While student performance in Grades III/IV has touched 60 per cent marks in some districts, in some others it has stood below 40 per cent mark. A comparison of 1994 BAS and 1997 MAS has shown positive trends in 28 out of 42 districts in language with 19 districts showing statistically significant improvement. In mathematics, 33 out of 42 districts have shown significant improvement. The hike in achievement in language and mathematics varies widely ranging from 1 per cent to 44 per cent for Grade I. Similar analysis of Grade III/IV students’ achievement shows positive trends in 31 out of 42 districts in language with 27 showing significant improvement and in 29 out of 42 in mathematics with 23 showing significant improvement. The hike in achievement in these grades varies from 10-25 per cent. The goal of reducing the differences between gender groups to less than 5 per cent has been realized in almost all the districts across grades in both the subjects
MHRD: Annual Report, 1998-99.
(i) Future Prospects and Redefining the Concept of UEE
The analysis presented above reveals that at all levels of school education, a significant progress in enrolment is made on all aspects of UEE but a large number of children still remain out-of-school. Do the quantitative expansion of educational facilities imply that target of universal enrolment will be achieved in the near future. The estimates of enrolments and attendance give reasonably sound reasons to believe that stipulated targets may not be achieved in the near future. Mehta (1995 & 1998) projected that India may attain the status of UPE in 2007. The goal is likely to be achieved by 2004-05 in case of boys and 2007-08 in case of girls. The projected enrolment further reveal that all boys of age group 11-14 years are likely to be enrolled by 2007-08 but universalisation of girls’ education would continue to remain far out of the sight. However, a few states may achieve goal earlier than projected at the all-India level (Table 22).
It may however be noted that without attaining the status of universal primary enrolment, the goal of universal elementary education cannot be achieved. Primary enrolment is a function of 6-11 years population but the same is not true in case of upper primary enrolment (Varghese & Mehta, 1999a). Upper primary enrolment is not a function of 11-14 year population but is a function of primary graduates. Only primary graduates can obtain admission in upper primary classes. It may be quite possible that many of the 11-14 year children are out of system or there may also be dropped out children or are still in the primary classes. Therefore, upper primary level of education cannot be expanded in isolation of primary level. An inefficient primary system would send fewer children to upper primary level. Thus, availability of graduates’ along with transition from primary to upper primary level would decide the future expansion of upper primary level. The demand is more likely to be in the educationally disadvantage areas where primary education has not been fully expanded. Further expansion of primary education in these areas and high transition from primary to upper primary level will generate more intensive demand for upper primary education to expand. Further improvement in transition may result into rapid demand for upper primary education in year that follows.
7. EFA THE YEAR 2000 ASSESSMENT
The World Conference on Education for All – The Year 2000 Assessment was held recently (April 2000) at Dakar, Senegal. A lot of activities were initiated in this regard in India. The country report was based upon a set of three core documents, namely (i) EFA 18-core indicators; (ii) The state of the art review on learning achievements; and (iii) The state of the art review on learning conditions. In addition, twenty-three studies covering different aspects of EFA in India were also initiated. This exercise has generated enormous amount of information about India in its efforts towards achieving the goal of EFA during the previous decade. In this section, a gist of findings of these studies is briefly presented (Box 2).
Box 2: EFA Year 2000 Assessment: Studies Conducted in India
- The study on decentralization of education (by Vinod Raina) concludes that there is little doubt that during the past decade, a noticeable desire to decentralize primary education has been evident in the country. However, the limited attempts to involve communities have not really translated in diminishing the role of the state in controlling and regulating education.
- The study on participatory micro planning for universal primary education (by Abhimanyu Singh observes that during the previous decade a new hierarchy of micro planning has evolved Further, the study on role and contribution of NGOs to basic education (by Disha Nawani) concludes that NGOs’ existed in India for over a long period and has contributed immensely towards its various developmental programmes. However, the study notices tremendous diversity among the NGOs.
- Over time, the concept of continuing education has undergone several evolutionary changes and reincarnations. The study on changing concepts and shifting goals (by C. J. Daswani) advocates that for a post literacy programme to succeed, it is necessary to ensure that the non-literate is equipped with stable literacy skills before the basic literacy programme is terminated. Dr. A. Mathew in his study on Indian engagement with adult education and literacy also mentions that the methodology adopted for implementation of the mass literacy campaigns during 1990s’ had brought in a breath of fresh air.
- The study on early childhood care and education (by Venita Kaul) concludes that there has been a quantum leap in services and programmes related to ECCE during the last decade. The private sector is making rapid expansion in this area but hardly there is any system of regulation. The study emphasis the need to strengthen the linkages of ECCE programmes with primary education so that it caters to overall development of the child and not be limited to the academic learning aspect.
- The study on role of private schools in basic education (by Anuradha De, Manabi Majumadar, Meera Samson and Claire Noronha) observes that private schools have been expanding rapidly in recent years. It cautions that increasing privatization will only increase the already strong gender bias in schooling. The number of private institutions is expected to increase, if government system is allowed to deteriorate further.
- The study on out-of-school children (by Sharada Jain) presents various estimates of out-of-school children of age group 6-14 years that ranges between 63 to 75 million. The children engaged in full-time work as child labourers is estimated to be 60 million.
- Though significant progress has been made in the provision of education for all girls, the task is not yet complete (by Usha Nayar). Provision of post primary education to girls in rural areas, continued thrust on gender sensitive and gender inclusive curriculum etc. are the major issues that are yet to be tackled with regards to education of girls.
- The study on status of elementary teachers (by A. S. Seetharamu) mentions that teachers are rarely aware of the values of their work with the overall goals and values of EFA. EFA is not integral to their thinking process. It further mentions that for similar levels of qualifications, certification and performance teachers are paid different salaries. Another study on primary teacher training in the EFA decade (by C. Seshadri) observes that primary teacher education has made remarkable progress in terms of increase in enrolments, variety of training and support institutions. The creation of National council of Teacher Education has, by and large, succeeded in creating a conducive climate for the pursuit of quality in primary teacher education.
- The study on education of children with special needs (by Sudesh Mukhopadhyay and M. N. G. Mani) observes that the last decade of the century recognized that children with disabilities and special education needs to constitute a significant group in the monitoring of EFA targets. However, there are still serious challenges, which would require increased effort and decisions for ensuring expansion of educational facilities in different parts of the country. The study on education among tribals (by K. Sujatha) concludes that during the past few years, tribal education has witnessed a rapid transformation particularly in the arena of access, pedagogic reform and community participation. However, the study cautions that improvement of educational scenario in tribal areas should not be left out as an intermediate strategy rather efforts should be undertaken to make it sustainable.
- The study on financing of elementary education in India (by J. B. G. Tilak) reveals that government expenditure on elementary education as proportion of national income declined from 1.6 per cent in 1990-91 to 1.4 per cent in 1996-97. It cautions that unless sufficient resources are devoted to elementary education, the goal might remain unaccomplished. The additional requirements of Rs. 137,000 crores in next ten years for universalisation according to study is neither unachievable nor un-affordable. The study suggests that a strong political commitment to finance liberally the education sector from domestic resources seems to be the only alternative.
- The study on texts in context (by Anita Rampal) concludes that there have been some major developments in the last decade, though much still remains to be done. There has been a perceptible shift from a monolithic mechanism of curriculum design, through an apex-centralized body, to many more agencies involved in the exercise.
- The study on role of media in EFA (by Avik Ghosh) observes that considerable investments are made in using communication technologies in education and the coverage of basic education in the media is more than it was 10-15 years ago. The access to information resource centres online, downloading information etc. are a reality to only a few teachers and students in the privileged private schools which should be extended to more teachers and students through a well planned public investment programme in basic education.
Summarized by the author based on different EFA Year 2000 Assessment Studies conducted in India, MHRD & NIEPA, 2000(d).
8. THE RECENT INITIATIVES
Since independence, India has made considerably progress towards the goal of UEE. However, past trends do not indicate that the goal is right now in the sight. However, the trend can be reversed and goal may be achieved earlier than projected, if concerted efforts are made to bring all concerned under the umbrella of education. The Union Government initiated a number of projects and programmes under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes most of which have been initiated after the National Policy of Education was evolved in 1986 and World Conference on Education for All held at Jomtien in 1990. Some of these projects in terms of their objectives and major achievements are briefly discussed below.
(a) The Scheme of Operation Blackboard
The scheme of Operation Blackboard (OB) was launched in 1987 to improve facilities in schools by providing for more teachers, rooms and teaching learning equipments. The OB Scheme seeks to bring both the quantitative and qualitative improvements in primary education. The scheme had three components, namely (i) an additional teacher to single teacher primary schools; (ii) providing at least two classrooms in each primary school; and (iii) providing teaching-learning equipment to all primary schools. The scheme is implemented through the State Governments with 100 per cent assistance from the Central Government towards the salary of additional teachers and teaching learning equipments. It was proposed to cover all primary schools under the OB scheme that were in existence as on September 30, 1986.
Construction of school buildings is the responsibility of the State Governments but funds were arranged for this purpose from other Ministries like the Rural Development. However in the revised scheme, assistance is made available to State Governments on 75:25 share basis. For construction of school buildings, an amount of Rs. 2,308 crores (about 550 Million US $) has been invested on OB scheme. About 185 thousand classrooms are constructed, 1.49 thousand teachers appointed and 520 thousand schools were provided teaching-learning equipments. Recently the OB scheme has been extended to upper primary level and sanction of third teacher to primary school having enrolment more than 100 has also been provided. During the Ninth Plan, third teacher was provided to more than 22 thousand schools and about 78 thousand upper primary schools were covered and teaching-learning material supplied.
Despite all these significant achievements, all is not well in schools. Large number of primary schools still has only one teacher and do not have adequate physical facilities and other teaching-learning material. In addition, a few schools do not have buildings and those who have, may not be in good condition and need repairs. The instructional rooms are also not adequate in a good number of primary schools. Even if the teaching-learning material is available that itself is not a guarantee that teachers are equipped to utilize these aids, which is noticed recently even in a state like Kerala also. The OB support is one time affair and the material provided under the scheme may not even traceable in a good number of schools. Even teachers in schools spread over four states that we visited recently were not aware of such equipments in schools. Teachers in other schools where the OB kits are available are of the view that they are inadequate.
It has also been noticed that teachers appointed under the OB scheme are not efficiently deployed in schools. That is why we still have single-teacher schools. On the other hand, a few schools have got more than adequate number of teachers. This is more so true in case of schools located in urban areas or in rural areas located near to towns and cities. The OB scheme envisaged that one of the two teachers appointed under the scheme would preferably be a female teacher. No doubt, OB interventions have improved number of female teachers but in many locations their share is still poor. On an average we have one female teacher for every 2 & 3 male teachers respectively at primary and upper primary level. Detailed evaluation of the scheme is presently carried out by NIEPA and the report is expected soon.
(b) District Institutes of Education and Training
The scheme to strengthen teacher education by establishing quality training institutions, such as, the District Institutes of Education and Training (DIET) was initiated in 1987. The scheme proposed to create viable institutional, academic and technical resource base for orientations, training and continuous up-gradation of knowledge, competence and pedagogical skills of school teachers’ in the country. The guidelines provided seven academic units with 22 faculty positions that cover different areas such as planning and management, education technology, material development etc. Since then 433 DIETs have been sanctioned of which 401 are functional. Below the district level, under DPEP, Block Resource and Circle Resource Centres have been established that ensure capacity building at the grassroots level. In non-DPEP districts, such institutions are not in existence. However, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan envisages creating BRC and CRC in non-DPEP districts. The DIETs are now twelve years old but still many of them do not function as was envisaged in its guidelines (Box 3).
(c) Non-Formal Education
The Non-Formal Education (NFE) scheme was initiated in 1979 to cater learning needs of working children and children in difficult circumstances is one of the other important centrally sponsored schemes. The NFE programme is for the children of 6-14 age group who remain outside the formal system due to various reasons. Initially, the focus of the programme was on to Nine Educationally Backward states but at present it is in operation in 25 states. In 1999, there were 297 thousand NFE centers, which had a total enrolment of 7.42 million. The duration of NFE course is two years and a locally recruited and trained instructor is provided to impart education (equivalent to formal system) at a time and place most convenient to learners in smaller groups. A large number of voluntary agencies are also involved in NFE programme. The total number of centers run by voluntary agencies was 59 thousand in 1998-99. An amount of Rs. 1,195 million to States & UTs and Rs. 400 million to voluntary agencies was released in 1998-99 for the implementation of the programme. The scheme is recently revised and named as Scheme of Alternative and Innovative Education. The scheme envisages that all habitations that do not have an elementary education centre within a radius of one kilometre will have one at the earliest. As a part of the scheme, school-mapping exercise will be conducted to identify school-less habitations, which will help to locate habitations where alternative centres are to be provided.
(d) Total Literacy Campaigns
The Total Literacy Campaigns mobilize communities and contributed to greater participation of children in schools. So far 450 districts have been covered under the TLC of which 250 campaigns have moved into post-literacy and 65 to continuing education stage. The campaigns cover an estimated 148 million persons. Of 94 million persons enrolled, so far 73 million persons have been completed level III. The uniqueness of the TLC lies in the fact that it is delivered through voluntarism. The programme is being implemented through the Zilla (district) Saksharata Samities created for the purpose. As mentioned, literacy rate has improved from 52 in 1991 to 62 percent in 1998.
(e) National Programme for Nutritional Support (Mid-day Meal)
The National Programme for Nutritional Support to Primary Education (launched in 1995) provides food grains/cooked meals to children in primary classes. The programme assures 100 grams of grains per day for attending schools for at least 80 per cent of the total school days in a month. The programme had benefited more than 98 million children spread over 0.69 million schools. In the latest year, about 9.90 million children are covered under the scheme and allocated 2.71 million metric tones of grains (Annual Report: MHRD, 1999-2000). Along with teachers, local community is also given responsibility in the distribution of grains. In previous years, a significant gap has been noticed in quantity of food grains sanctioned and actually lifted. However, only 65 and 42 per cent children of age group 6-11 and 11-14 years were found to be attended primary and upper primary schools in 1995-96 (NSSO, 1998). Since then the same, due to mid-day meal intervention might have improved to a significant effect. This is also reflected in the absolute enrolment during the period 1995-98. A few states are not keen to implement the scheme because of the administrative problems or states like Punjab even do not need such type of programme. Punjab is the highest food grains produced state of the country. In difficult areas, the administrative cost is much higher than the actual cost of the food grains. The evaluation of the programme shows that on one hand it has given boost to enrolment in a few states, on the other hand it has had a positive impact on attendance in other states.
Box 3: DIETs: An Evaluation Study*
A recent evaluation study on functioning of DIETs by Govinda and Sood of NIEPA has come out with many revelations. The study found that different DIETs are at different state of development as some states have just begun and the others started very late. Since the inception of the scheme, a number of new districts have been created across the states and DIETs in these districts by and large have not been established. Most of the DIETs (83 per cent) have their own buildings but they are poorly maintained. In a few states, such as Delhi, Pondicherry and Meghalaya, hostel facilities are not available and as such 39 per cent of the DIETs do not have hostels. The study reveals that girls’ hostels are not fully utilized. The states have divergent recruitment policy and 4 to 80 per cent of the positions across the states are vacant. In all the states, the study found shortage of the teaching positions.
With a few exceptions, ET equipments are not found in working condition. In a state like, Uttar Pradesh they are not at all in use. Most of the states have adopted DIET guidelines in total and as such there are no state-specific adaptions. In a large number of DIETs, units like Planning and Management, Curriculum and Material Development, Educational Technology etc. are found almost non-functional. The study found non-involvement of DIET faculty in development and implementation of plans. Even in DPEP districts, though willing, the faculty is not involved in managing and development of information systems. Libraries have been found to be totally neglected in most of the DIETs.
The study found lack of coordination in organizing in-service training programmes with the activities of BRCs and CRCs in many DPEP states. Most of the DIETs are implementing standard programmes of the states and hence a very little innovations are noticed. The DIETs focuses its activities only on primary school teachers and orientation of other functionaries is sporadic. The study notices that in-service programmes are conducted without a long-term perspective.
The study by Govinda and Sood further found research and field experimentation the weakest component in DIETs. Research activities are not reported from the DIETs located in the North Eastern part of the country. This is because of the fact that in many states, sub-committees on studies and action research have not been constituted. Low motivation and lack of capacity and academic support are found to be the other major reasons. There are varying patterns so far as the management and coordination of the programme at the state level is concerned. SCERTs have emerged as the main coordinating agency in a number of states. However, poor support from the SCERT is reported in a few states. Under utilization of funds is also found to be a common feature in most of the DIETs.
*Summarized by the author based on the presentations made by Dr. R. Govinda and Dr. N. Sood at NIEPA, New Delhi on May 17, 2000.
Innovative Projects and Programmes
I. District Primary Education Programme
The state specific basic education projects in Bihar (Bihar Education Project), Rajasthan (Lok Jumbish & Shiksha Karmi), Andhra Pradesh (Andhra Pradesh Primary Education Project), Uttar Pradesh (Uttar Pradesh Basic Shiksha Project) and the District Primary Education Programme are of recent origin. Among these, the scope and coverage of DPEP is much more wider than other programmes of similar nature. The programme that was first introduced in 1994 in 42 districts spread over seven states is now under implementation in about 240 districts of fifteen states. The programme is structured in such a fashion so that it can provide additional inputs over and above the provisions made by the state governments for elementary education. Eighty five per cent of the project cost is shared by the Government of India and the rest 15 per cent by the concerned project states. The Government of India share is resourced by external funding from IDA, European Community, Government of Netherlands, DFID (UK) and UNICEF.
Decentralized planning in a project mode, disaggregated target setting, community mobilization through Village Education Committees, participative planning process and autonomy to set targets, priorities and strategies are some of the salient features of DPEP (Box 4). For guidance and supervision, state-specific autonomous bodies are created at the state level and at the district level, District Planning Teams were constituted. With the participation of the local community and others – both government and non-governmental agencies and individuals including the NGOs, district-specific plans were developed which are at different stages of implementation. The programme however confines to only primary level but the Government of India at present is thinking seriously to upgrade it to the upper primary level initially in 42 phase one districts. Also under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, provisions are made to cover the entire elementary level.
Over the project period, more than 8,000 new formal schools are opened in the project districts and another 15,000 are in the pipeline. About 38,000 alternative schooling centres of different types have also been set-up and about 75,000 more are planned. In phase one districts about 2,709 school buildings are constructed and another 2,027 were in the progress. In addition, a large number of additional classrooms were also constructed, drinking water and toilet facilities in schools provided and repairs of school buildings undertaken. Majority of 0.85 million teachers under the DPEP has received in-service training more than once. Teachers in a school are given Rs. 500/- per annum as teacher grant, which help them to develop local-specific teaching aids. All primary schools under the project have been granted Rs. 2,000/- per annum as school grant. More than 3 million community members have been trained and given responsibilities in the affairs of education at the grassroots level. As mentioned above, a large number of Circle Resource Centres (CRC) and Block Resource Centres (BRC) have been created where training to teachers is imparted. Teachers discuss problems and other topics of common interest in CRCs meetings.
A growth of 6.2 per cent per annum in primary enrolment has been noticed in 42 phase one (1995-98) districts with average GER at 99.7 per cent. In the phase two districts (1995-97) also, an increase of 2.55 per cent in enrolment has been noticed. Reducing the gender gap, which is one of the important objectives of DPEP is closing rapidly. Twenty-three of the 42 districts have the gender parity index in enrolment above 95 per cent. Index for social equity for Scheduled Caste children is more than 100 in all the phase one districts. Overall repetition rate has shown a decline in phase one district and come down to 5.2 per cent in 1997 from 7.5 per cent in 1995. The decline in dropout rates has been in the range of 4-20 per cent and most of the districts now have dropout rate in the range of 17-31 per cent. It may be noted that utilization rate across districts remains very low. However, in a few project districts, enrolment in Grade I has started declining which is a major cause of concern. One of the possible explanations of this phenomenon is that children started diverting from government schools to unrecognized private schools. Or with the expansion of alternate schools, children of lower age group prefer alternate schools than the formal schools.
Box 4: DPEP Objectives
The DPEP is a centrally sponsored scheme providing special thrust to achieve UEE. It takes a holistic view of primary education development and seeks to operationalise the strategy of UPE through district specific planning with emphasis on decentralized management, participatory processes, empowerment and capacity building at all levels. DPEP aims at providing access to primary education for all children, reducing primary dropout rate to less than 10 per cent, increasing learning achievement of primary school students by at least 25 per cent, and reducing the gap among gender and social groups to less than five per cent
MHRD: Annual Report, 1999-2000
The significant achievements are not reflected in the all-India averages because of the limited coverage of districts under the DPEP. In view of this, as mentioned above, the Government of India has initiated SSA, which over time will cover all the districts of the country. In most of the project districts, Computerized Educational Management Information System is now in existence but poor dissemination and low utilization of data have marred this significant achievement. Districts have also undertaken micro planning and school mapping exercises but the information generated is neither properly analyzed nor is used in planning exercises. A huge amount of data is generated but only a small amount of that is been utilized. In many districts, micro planning is conducted as one time exercise. The districts have not utilized school mapping in deciding the location of a new school, which is mostly because of the fact that school mapping as such has not at all been conducted in any of the districts. Rather, the capacity to conduct school mapping is not available both at the state and district level. The utilization pattern also suggests that most of the districts do not have capacity to utilize the funds. Whatever they could utilize, a chunk of which is spent on civil work activities and activities relating to innovation, research, retention, quality improvement programmes etc. have not picked-up as per expectations. Teacher is the most important actor of the education system through whom only all the interventions are expected to reflect in the classroom transactions. But a majority of states have filled-up vacant positions by appointing para teachers.
One of the other major limitations of the programme is that the targets, which are set out over the project period, are almost same (GER 120% and Retention 90%). The first phase districts got seven years while the phase two and three districts got only five years to implement the plan. In this process, districts, which were in position to achieve the goal earlier than seven years also, got seven years as the plan period. The upper ceiling of the plan was kept at Rs. 400 million irrespective of the size of the district. In view of this, districts proposed over ambitious proposals. A glance at few of the plan documents reveal that districts have undertaken a detailed analysis of educational development and also attempted demographic and enrolment projection exercises but the same in most of the cases is not handled efficiently. Frequent transfers of the DPEP officials at all levels across states have severely affected the implementation of the programme. Despite all these limitations, a lot of progress is made across districts and capacity of officials involved in the programme is also built-up significantly at all levels.
II. Lok Jumbish and Shiksha Karmi Projects
Apart from DPEP, Lok Jumbish (Peoples’ Movement) and Shiksha Karmi Projects are the other two important programmes, which are, received attention at the international level. Both these projects are under implementation in Rajasthan since 1992, which is one of the most educationally backward states of India. Lok Jumbish and Shiksha Karmi are funded by SIDA. The main objective of LJP is to achieve EFA through people’s mobilization and participation. Whereas, SKP focuses it attention on universalisation and qualitative improvement of primary education in remote, arid area and socio-economically backward villages with primary attention given to girls. The project identifies teacher absenteeism as a major obstacle in achieving the goal of UEE. The LJ Parishad, an autonomous society, implements the LJP. Two phases of LJP during 1992 & 1994 and 1994 & 1998 are already over and the third phase (1999-2004) with the assistance of Department of International Development (UK) is currently under implementation. For the first two phases, about Rs. 1,110 million were invested and for the third phase, an amount to the tune of Rs. 2,250 million is allocated. It has undertaken environment-building activities in 8,675 villages and has completed school mapping exercise in 6,974 villages. 529 new schools have been opened and another 268 were upgraded. LJP has been able to set-up innovative management structures incorporating the principles of decentralization and delegation of authority as well as building partnership with local communities and the voluntary sector. It has also set-up vibrant block and cluster resource groups for providing academic supervision and regular training of primary school teachers.
However, it may be noted that the LJP has covered only 75 blocks, which is just one quarter of the total blocks in Rajasthan. The management cost of LJP is high compared to other programmes of similar nature. It is also not known whether the success it has achieved, will it able to replicate elsewhere in Rajasthan and outside Rajasthan. The school mapping exercises, which are conducted under the LJP, though termed as school mapping but in fact, is a micro planning exercise. The disappointing aspect is closing down of LJP in about 10 blocks and another 9 may also meet the same fate. This is because of the DPEP, which is presently under implementation in 10 districts of Rajasthan, and another 9 are in pipeline. The Government of Rajasthan decided to close down LJP in blocks, which falls under DPEP districts.
III. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
In addition to the Centrally Sponsored Schemes, states have initiated schemes to give momentum to their efforts towards the goal of Education for All. More recently, the Government of India has also initiated an ambitious programme called Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA): An Initiative for Universal Elementary Education to achieve the goal of UEE. The programme is initially planned to initiate in about 50 low female districts spread over fifteen states. It is envisaged that all the districts of the country will come under the programme before the end of the Ninth Plan (MHRD, 2000b). Unlike the District Primary Education Programme, the SSA envisages to develop district-specific elementary education plans within the framework of decentralized management of education with a focus on Panchayati Raj Institutions. In the DPEP, the focus was only on the primary level. In these districts, it would be the first attempt to develop plans with the active involvement of local people in a participatory planning mode. District planning teams in these districts have already been formed and training in planning methodology is being imparted. Three of such programmes have already been organized by NIEPA at Shillong, Aizawl and Mussoorie where a large number of members of the district planning teams and states representatives were trained. This exercise will help to build-up capacity at the grassroots level, which will help district and sub-district officers in developing plans. It is expected that districts will initiate pre-project activities soon for which an amount of Rs. 5 million (upper ceiling) is allocated to each of the districts covered under SSA.
It may however be noted that a recent SSA discussion document envisages habitation/cluster as a unit of planning as has been experimented in the Lok Jumbish Project. The document is not clear how this would be achieved? Do we have education offices at the habitation level? Or will it be achieved through convergence? Do we have other governmental offices at the habitation level? Are some of the important questions, which should be dealt with? Therefore, the proposal at this stage may be treated over ambitious and challenging one specially keeping in view that a large number of persons that would be required to involve in this task. Of the total 1061 thousand habitations in the country, 581 thousand had population 300 & more and are eligible for schooling facilities. An average of 4-5 persons per habitation would need at least 2-3 million persons to be trained and involved in this task. Do we have capacity to build-up capacity of these grassroots people? Can DIETs handle this mammoth task? Certainly we are not ready to take up this challenging task at this stage, which is more specifically true in the light of quality of training facilities that are available at lower levels (see Box 3). To begin with it would be better to develop district-specific plans with block as the basic unit of planning. DPEP is said to be successful in achieving significant increase in both enrolment and retention and also in creating effective information system, management structures and training centres both at the block and cluster levels. Can’t we adopt this model in the SSA districts? This is what exactly has been done in SSA but inputs from other programmes, like the Lok Jumbish Project has made it too heavy and over ambitious. It seems that there are too many eggs in a basket.
The SSA, which is a holistic programme, envisages involving community in a big way. The community ownership is central to the SSA programme (Box 5). All the existing centrally sponsored schemes discussed above will come under one umbrella programme i.e. SSA. This is expected to smoothen the flow of funds from Central Government to State level registered societies and District Planning Teams created for the implementation of the programme. However, not a single district covered under SSA has yet estimated actually how much funds over time have been received and utilized under different Centrally Sponsored Schemes or how much are they spending on elementary education.
The targets under the SSA is that all children will bring back to school by 2003 and complete five years of schooling by 2007 and eight years by 2010. Accordingly, all children of age-group 6-11 years will have to be enrolled by the year 2002-03 and retain till 2007 to achieve UPE. As per the proposals, all the districts of the country will come under the SSA before the end of the Ninth Plan i.e. 2002. By no magic, it can be achieved. Even, the Dakar Framework for Action to which India is a signatory envisages achieving the goal of UPE by the year 2015. Therefore, the target dates should be left to the districts which can adopt district and block-specific targets and if necessary separately for boys and girls, SC and ST children and would be based on their present status of educational development. It may also quite possible that a few states and districts may achieve UPE even earlier than 2007. The focus of the programme is on to bridge gender and social category gaps at the primary by 2007 and elementary level by 2010 and universal retention by 2010.
Box 5: Strategy Frame for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
The SSA a people’s movement for EFA will provide useful and relevant elementary education of satisfactory quality for all by 2010 bridging all social and gender gaps, with the active participation of the community in the affairs of school. To achieve UEE, in a holistic and convergent approach, the following key strategies have been worked out:
- Emphasis to be laid on retention and achievement rather than on mere enrolment;
- Adopt incremental approach for creating school facilities. Education Guarantee Centres in unserved habitations and ‘back to school camps’ for out of school;
- Focus to be shifted from educationally backward states to educationally backward districts;
- Adoption of disaggregated approach with focus on preparation of district specific and population plans;
- Universal access to schooling facilities particularly to girls, disaggregated groups and out of school children;
- Make education relevant by curricular reforms to promote life skills;
- Improvement in school effectiveness, teacher competence, training and motivation;
- Decentralization of planning and management through Panchayati Raj Institutions/Village Education Committees and stress on participative processes; and
- Convergence of different schemes of elementary education and related services such as early childhood care and education, school health and nutrition programmes etc.
Source; MHRD: Annual Report (2000b &c).
SSA proposes to provide funds for the renewal of school equipments, which is otherwise not covered in any other scheme. In addition, a variety of incentive schemes have also been proposed. During the recent past, a number of primary schools are opened under the Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS). Under the EGS, the government is bound to provide a primary school within 90 days. Para Teachers (low paid teachers without diluting academic qualifications) are appointed in EGS schools that are recommended by the community. The SAS proposes to upgrade 15 per cent of the EGS schools and alternative schooling centres. It also proposes to make available funds for maintenance and repair of school buildings. Further, the SSA provides for an over a 6 per cent ceiling on management and 15 per cent on civil works cost. Unlike DPEP, SSA will not have ceiling on plan size and also its duration so that districts can develop realistic plans which itself is debatable. It is also not clear from the guidelines how SSA will become a movement and will be different than other programmes of similar nature implemented in the past.
During the last five years the total investment on elementary education has almost doubled from Rs. 14,430 million in 1995-96 to Rs. 28,521 million in 1999-2000. The Ninth Plan allocation on elementary education was Rs. 1,18,420 million, which is in addition to allocation of Rs. 45,268 million on mid-day meal scheme. In the current financial year 2000-01, an allocation of Rs. 36,088 million is made for elementary education, which is about Rs. 7,567 million more than the total allocation in the previous year. The four major programmes, namely the OB Scheme, NFE, Mid-day Meal and Teacher Education have been allocated Rs. 4,000/-, Rs. 3,000/-, Rs. 10,900/- and Rs. 2,200/- million respectively in the current financial year. In addition, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has been allocated Rs. 3,500 million. It is expected that from the next year onwards the entire amount for elementary education would be shown under one single programme head i.e. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. A number of committees estimated total investment that would be required to universalize elementary education. The Saikia Committee (1997), Majumadar Committee (1998) and Department of Elementary and Literacy of the MHRD estimated that an additional amount of Rs. 8,000/- crores (annually), Rs. 13,700/- crores (annually over ten years) and Rs. 10,000/- crores (annually over ten years) would be required to universalize elementary education.
9. CONCLUDING REMARKS
Based on the analysis presented above on different components of EFA one gets the impression that the country progressed tremendously but still it has certain areas of concern, which are primarily responsible for unfulfillment of the goals of universal literacy and enrolment. Across the country, educational facilities are now available to a large segment of population and areas but compared to primary, upper primary facilities are not yet available to all areas and population. Over a period of time, ratio of primary to upper primary schools improved significantly but the same is not as envisaged in the policy directives. The country also failed to adequately create, utilize and make available alternative facilities in all unserved habitations and areas where out-of-school children concentrate.
A few schools still do not have school buildings and other teaching-learning facilities. The number of teachers and pupil-teacher ratio over time has improved significantly but still there are schools that do not have adequate number of teachers and instructional rooms. The number of female teachers over time improved significantly but still their number is far less than their male counterparts. Except the northeastern part of the country, majority of teachers are trained. The responsibility of training is entrusted to District Institutes of Educational Training. But the majority of DIETs are not fully equipped to handle this mammoth task mainly because of the shortage of faculty and lack of expertise. Below the district level, Block Resource Centre, Cluster Resource Centre and Village Education Committees have been formed in the DPEP districts but such bodies (except VECs) are not yet envisaged in non-DPEP districts. VECs are yet to be fully entrusted powers and responsibilities as envisaged in the Panchayati Raj Institution Bill. With the creation of the State Institute of Educational Management and Training (SIEMT) in DPEP states, training activities are expected to get momentum. In non-DPEP states, there are no such proposals.
The enrolment at the primary and upper primary levels of education over time improved significantly but still more girls are out-of-school than their boys counterpart. The enrolment ratio at the upper primary level is much lower than at the primary level. The efficiency of primary education system has direct implications on upper primary system to expand. Unlike primary enrolment, which is a function of 6-11 years population, upper primary enrolment is strictly a function of primary graduates. Therefore, unless the goal of UPE is achieved, the dream of UEE is not likely to be realized. Till then, imparting upper primary education to all primary graduates will be treated as achieving UEE.
A large number of children continue to dropout from the system before completion of an education cycle, which severely affects the efficiency of the education system. The children are taking more years to become primary graduates than ideally required. The unfinished task in terms of unenrolled and out-of-school children is a challenging one. Rigorous efforts are needed to bring and retain them under the umbrella of education system. Disaggregated planning with block as its unit may help to identify disadvantage groups and areas. The community, in this direction, can play a vital role in bringing and retaining unenrolled children to schools. Micro planning exercises in this regard and development of village education plans may be useful. This has been experimented in the DPEP and the response is encouraging. Local people and functionaries are made involved in developing and implementing district plans that, if experimented elsewhere may bring a sea change in quality of plans and their implementation. Unless more districts are added, or new programmes are initiated, DPEP is not expected to improve the situation. Keeping this in view, the Government of India recently initiated a new programme called Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan: An initiative for Universal Elementary Education. Before the end of the ninth plan, all the districts of the country are expected to cover under this programme. The districts will develop district-specific plans by involving local community in a big way within the broad parameters of decentralization.
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