Prof. A. K. Singh, NIEPA

NEP 2020: Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) & Special Education Zones (SEZs)

Despite spectacular development in every sphere of school education in India, the goal of universal school education is still a far distant goal that cannot be achieved without bringing all the locations/geographic areas (states, districts, blocks & habitations) and different segments of the population at par with the other areas and population groups.  Even after 75 years of independence, there are disparities not among different geographic areas but also between socio-economic disadvantaged groups such as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Minority population as well as there are gender disparities. With Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) in mind, the recently adopted National Education Policy 2020 rightly recommended establishing the Special Education Zones (SEZs). Para 6.2 and 6.6 of NEP 2020 are reproduced below for ready reference.

NEP 2020: Special Education Zones (SEZs)

“6.2. While the Indian education system and successive government policies have made steady progress towards bridging gender and social category gaps in all levels of school education, large disparities still remain – especially at the secondary level – particularly for socio-economically disadvantaged groups that have been historically underrepresented in education. Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) can be broadly categorized based on gender identities (particularly female and transgender individuals), socio-cultural identities (such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, and minorities), geographical identities (such as students from villages, small towns, and aspirational districts), disabilities (including learning disabilities), and socio-economic conditions (such as migrant communities, low income households, children in vulnerable situations, victims of or children of victims of trafficking, orphans including child beggars in urban areas, and the urban poor). While overall enrolments in schools decline steadily from Grade 1 to Grade 12, this decline in enrolments is significantly more pronounced for many of these SEDGs, with even greater declines for female students within each of these SEDGs and often even steeper in higher education. A brief status overview of the SEDGs that come within socio-cultural identities is given in following subsections.”

“6.6. Data shows that certain geographical areas contain significantly larger proportions of SEDGs. Also, there are geographical locations that have been identified as Aspirational Districts which require special interventions for promoting their educational development. Hence, it is recommended that regions of the country with large populations from educationally-disadvantaged SEDGs should be declared Special Education Zones (SEZs), where all the schemes and policies are implemented to the maximum through additional concerted efforts, in order to truly change their educational landscape.”

The objective to further reduce the educational disparities cannot be achieved without interventions in the ongoing programs in general and education, such as Samagara Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), in particular, and the orientation of the officers engaged in such programs at all levels. In SSA, there is a provision to formulate an Annual Work Plan & Budget, the methodology of which also needs to be reframed given establishing Special Education Zones with a focus on disadvantaged groups. NEP 2020 identified the following as the SEDGs:

  • Gender Identities: Female and Transgender individuals
  • Socio-Cultural identities: Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, and Minorities
  • Geographical Identities: Students from villages, small towns, and inspirational districts
  • Disabilities: Including Learning Disabilities; and
  • Socio-Economic Conditions: Migrant Communities, Low Income Households, children in vulnerable situations, victims of or children of victims of Trafficking, Orphans (Child beggars in urban areas, and the urban poor)
NIEPA’s Workshop on SEDGs & SEZs

With above in the mind, the apex education planning institute namely the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), New Delhi recently conducted a three days Online Workshop on Operationalization of Special Education Zones for the SEDGs under the NEP-2020: Implementation Challenges and Pathways  during August 29-31, 2022  with following objectives:

  • To develop a shared understanding of the concepts of `Special Education Zone’ (SEZ) and Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups
  • To identify the salient characteristics and norms adopted/envisaged by the states for the identification of the SEDGs and the mapping of the SEZs ;
  • To plan for the nature and extent of the additional inputs to be provided to the concerned groups in the SEZs ;
  • To chalk out the plan for convergence and coordination with the concerned departments and bodies;
  • To formulate suitable mechanisms for monitoring the progress of the implementation of the program inputs and outcomes.

The Information Note issued by the Department of Educational Policy of NIEPA, New Delhi under the leadership of Prof. A. K. Singh, Head of the Department who has got vast experience in working in this area can be found in the following link:

INFORMATION Guide: Workshop on Operationalization of Special Education Zones for the SEDGs under the NEP-2020: Implementation Challenges and Pathways  during August 29-31, 2022

The following themes were covered during the Workshop which was addressed by the renowned Resource Person details of which can be seen in the Information Guide.

  • Disadvantaged Groups and Areas – Concept and Context – Nature and Extent
  • Special Focus Groups, SC, ST, OBC, Migratory groups, Girls, Disabled, Orphans
  • Aspirational Districts, Educationally Backward Blocks, Special Focus Areas, and Groups
  • Special Area Mapping and Micro Planning
  • Convergence and Co-ordination with related programs and schemes and departments
  • Decentralized Governance and Community Participation
  • Effective Educational Programmes and Schemes for the Disadvantaged
  • Disaggregated Monitoring
  • Evaluation of the Programmes and Schemes
  • Sustainability Issues and Strategies

Various themes concerning SEDGs have been covered during the Workshop but Planning Methodology as such concerning SEDGs and SEZs was not covered may be different speakers might have touched the same. As far as the special education zones about school education are concerned most of the issues can be tackled through the annual plan formulation under the Samagara Shiksha which needs thorough modifications as the planning module in its existing form is not being delivered and most of the objectives of Sara/Samagra Shiksha is still far out of reach even though such programs are in operational since 1994.

A careful study of the ongoing process of the plan formulation would have revealed that the same is not being formulated as envisaged and largely plans are now formulated based on the EXCEL Sheets which is true across the Country. Without plans being formulated at the disaggregated levels, can the unfinished task be achieved? It is also a fact that there is a complete lack of a planning module, especially after the merging of SSA and RMSA into the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan. Still, all three components use the same set of EXCEL Tables (now divided into three parts) that were in use for plan formulation under the previous SSA and RMSA.

NIEPA, the apex educational planning institute must take a lead and come out with a modified planning module/methodology about SEDGs and SEZs and orient the state and district level officers in using the same. At present NIEPA is not playing a direct role in plan formulation which is being formulated as per the directives of the Technical Support Group of the Department of School Education & Literacy of the Ministry of Education and the capacity-building programs that NIEPA is conducting have a very limited reflection in the annual work plans being formulated as a part of Samagra Shiksha.  Unless both the TSG and NIEPA follow the same planning methodology, one cannot expect improvement in the process of plan formulation for which they must join hands. Without further delay, it must be taken up at the highest level as the entire school education is affected by it so as is the future of the socio-economic disadvantaged groups concerning access, participation, and learning.

Presentation on Use of Education Indicators in the Identification of Special Education Zones for SEDGs by Ganesh Kumar Nigam, UNICEF Delhi

Presentation on Use of Indicators about SEDGs & SEZs & need to relook into the existing set of indicators