The Situation as in 1986
7.1.1 Provision of free and compulsory education to all children until they complete the age of 14 years is a Directive Principle of the Constitution. Since 1950 determined efforts have been made towards the achievement of this goal. Over the years there has been a very impressive increase in the number and spread of institutions as well as enrolment. Universal provision of institutions has been substantially achieved at the Primary stage (classes I-V) According to the fifth All India Education Survey, 1986, 94.5 per cent of the rural population had schools within a walking distance of 1 Km.; 83.98 per cent of the rural population was served with middle schools/sections within a walking distance of 3 Km. The number of primary schools increased from 2.10 lakhs in 1950-51 to 5.29 lakhs in 1985-86. Similarly, the number of upper primary schools went up to 1.35 lakhs in 1985-86 as compared to 13,600 in 1950-51. The gross enrolment of 6-11 age group increased from 43.1 per cent in 1950-51 to 62.4 per cent in 1960-61 to 76.4 per cent in 1970-71 to 80.5 per cent in 1980-81 and to 85.0 per cent in 1985-86. Likewise, the gross enrolment of 11-14 age group increased from 12.9 per cent in 1950-51 to 22.5 per cent in 1960-61 to 33.4 per cent in 1970-71 to 41.9 per cent in 1980-81 and to 48.9 per cent in 1985-86.
7.1.2 However, Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) in its totality is still an elusive goal and much ground is yet to be covered. Dropout rates continue to be significant, retention of children in schools is low and wastage considerable. In 1985-86, dropout rates were 47.6 per cent in classes I-V and 64.4 per cent in class I-VIII. Despite increased participation of girls, disparity still exists. Though the participation of girls in primary education (classes I-V) increased from 28.1 per cent in 1950-51 to 40.2 per cent in 1985-86, it was still below the normative percentage of about 50 per cent. The participation of girls in upper primary classes (classes VI-VIII) was lower; it increased from 16.1 per cent in 1950-51 to 35.1 per cent in 1985-86. The participation of SCs and STs is now more or less in proportion to their share in population at the primary level, but the sex disparity persists among SCs and STs. In classes I-V, SC girls account for 37.5 per cent of SC students and in classes VI-VIII 29.9 per cent (1985-86). The corresponding percentages of ST girls are 36.6 per cent and 30.4 per cent respectively.