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PART II EFA IN INDIA: AN ANALYSIS

ACHIEVEMENTS AND CHALLENGES

The last decade of the century definitely marks a significantly positive note in the history of basic education in India. Though the constitution of the country had made a commitment to providing free and compulsory education to all children upto the age of 14, the task of providing basic education for all received high priority with concrete plans of action mainly after the National Policy on Education was launched in 1986 and revised in 1992. The educational priorities enunciated by the National Policy on Education 1986 have continued through the 90s. This has been reflected in the higher allocation of resources as well as in terms of clearly defined strategies to achieve the goals of education for all. The World Declaration on Education For All – 1990 adopted in Jomtien, undoubtedly, gave further fillip to the national commitment for reaching basic education for all children. The Jomtien Declaration together with several positive developments within the country brought to the central stage the need for viewing basic education as a fundamental right of every citizen. India is one of the few countries where during the stabilization phase of structural adjustment, expenditure on education has been stepped up.

Achievements during the last fifty years are not insignificant. An estimated 95% of the rural population living in 826,000 habitations have a primary school within 1 km. and about 85% population have an upper primary school within 3 km. More than 150 million children are currently enrolled covering around 90% of the children in the age group of 6-14 years. Recent surveys on literacy rates indicate a phenomenal progress in the 90s. Basic education policies and programmes in the recent years have gone beyond the mere emphasis on numbers to focus on quality concerns in basic education, on the education of girls and disadvantaged sections of the society, the need for people’s involvement in basic education programmes and decentralisation of educational management. It is also during this period that World Bank and other international donor agencies began providing additional funds for speeding up the process of universalisation of elementary education. Despite such significant achievements and positive goal orientation in the recent years, it is realised that there are serious problems of gender, regional, sectional and caste disparities in UEE. A significant proportion of students continue to dropout due to socio-economic and cultural factors as also due to lack of adequate infrastructure, shortage of teachers and unsatisfactory quality of education provided. The country still is the home for more than 300 million illiterates. The challenges have been many. Therefore, the review of progress made in the 90s represent this struggle to resolve some of the basic problems and make concrete progress towards the goal of EFA against all odds. Though the progress made is not insignificant, the country realises that the challenges ahead at the turn of the century are quite daunting, demanding not only continued commitment but also an enhanced attention and resources to meet the challenges in the coming years. The government is fully seized of the fact that nothing less than a whole hearted national effort both in the public and private sectors would be necessary if India is to emerge as a fully literate and economically vibrant nation of the 21st century.

The review of progress presented in this section is mainly according to the framework provided by UNESCO in order to generate a common comparative picture of progress made by different countries. The core set of data base used in the review relate to the 18 EFA Indicators identified for this purpose. However, wherever found relevant, quantitative and qualitative information on various other aspects of EFA, which are considered important in the Indian context, have been used to describe the progress made and the challenges ahead.

(1) EARLY CHILDHOOD CARE AND EDUCATION (ECCE)

Recognizing the crucial importance of early childhood education, the National Policy on Education-1986 recommended for strengthening ECCE programmes not only as an essential component of human development but also as a support to universalisation of elementary education and a programme of women's development. The programme is expected to provide necessary maturational and experiential readiness to the child for meeting the demands of the primary curriculum. It also indirectly enhances enrolment and retention of girls in primary schools by providing substitute care facility for younger siblings. The national policy envisages ECCE as a holistic input fostering health, psychological and nutritional development of children.

The Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) is the largest programme under ECCE. It is an inter sectoral programme which seeks to directly reach out to children from vulnerable and remote areas and give them a head-start by providing an integrated programme of health, nutrition and early childhood education. Its package of services includes supplementary nutrition, immunization, health check-up, referral services, non-formal pre-school education and community participation for children below six years and to pregnant and nursing mothers. The scheme is funded by the central government.

Though ICDS is the major programme catering to the ECCE needs, several other schemes have also been initiated by the central and state governments mainly to supplement the ICDS provisions, in content and coverage. For instance, ‘Creches and Day Care Centres Scheme’ was started in 1975 to provide day care services for children below five years. It caters mainly to children of casual, migrant, agricultural and construction labourers. The programme in the scheme is primarily custodial in nature. Similarly, 'Early Childhood Education Scheme' was introduced as a distinct strategy to reduce the drop-out rate and to improve the rate of retention of children in primary schools. Under this scheme, central assistance is given to voluntary organisations for running pre-school education centres. In addition to these schemes that reach out to the rural, urban slums and tribal areas, there are innumerable private, fee charging nursery schools which cater to the needs of the parents living in urban and semi-urban areas. At present, there is no system of licensing or recognition of such institutions. Table 2.1 presents details about coverage under various ECCE schemes in 1989-90.

Table 2.1 : Coverage under Various Childhood Education Schemes 1989-90

Programs

Number of centers

Beneficiaries coverage

Percentage of population in age group 3-6 *

ICDS (preschool education age group 3-6)

(2424 sanctioned Projects)

Early Childhood Education (ECE) Centres

Creches and Day Care Centers-age group 0-5 (estimated coverage on the basis of 25 children per creche)

Balwadis-age group 3-6

(estimated coverage on the basis of 30 children per Balwadi)

Pre-primary schools

 

203,383

4,365

 

 

12,230

 

 

5,641

14,765

 

657,800+

153,000

 

 

306,000

 

 

169,000

144,000

 

11.43

0.27

 

 

0.53

 

 

0.29

2.50

Total

-

864,600

15.02

*Total population in the age group 3-6 years in March 1990 (estimated on the basis of 7 per cent of total population) - 57.54 million

Source: Rajlakshmi Murlidharan and Venita Kaul , Early Childhood Care and Education : Status and Problems

During the last ten years, the ICDS has been expanded considerably. For instance, during 1992-95, 911 new blocks were brought under the scheme bringing the total coverage of blocks under the scheme to 3072. The ICDS scheme has been universalised during 1995-96 through sanction of projects for all the 5320 community development blocks, and 310 major urban slums thus increasing the total number of sanctioned Anganwadis to about 798,000. Over 10.63 million children in the age group of 3-6 years from disadvantaged groups are availing this pre-school facility. Table 2.2 presents the gross enrolment ratio depicting the expansion of ECCE programmes and the progress made in 1990s.

Table 2.2 : Comparative picture of GER-ECCE for 1990 and 1997-98

 

STATE/UT

GER 1990

GER 1997-98

TOTAL

Boys

Girls

Total

Andhra Pradesh

7.49

13.3

13.4

13.3

Arunachal Pradesh

38.20

75.4

67.7

71.6

Assam

10.11

13.1

12.4

12.8

Bihar

5.75

8.6

7.7

8.1

Goa

24.74

15.7

17.4

16.5

Gujarat

16.35

16.1

17.4

16.7

Haryana

10.14

28.8

29.3

29

Himachal Pradesh

13.49

16.8

17.4

17.1

Jammu & Kashmir

-

13.9

13.1

13.5

Karnataka

20.51

36.9

36.1

36.5

Kerala

10.59

16.9

18.1

17.5

Madhya Pradesh

8.57

19.1

12.7

15.6

Maharashtra

14.36

27.9

27.4

27.6

Manipur

38.81

125

126.1

125.5

Meghalaya

129.38

91

91.1

91

Mizoram

51.38

52.6

53.2

52.9

Nagaland

136.99

151.9

135.7

143.9

Orissa

7.81

20.9

21.6

21.2

Punjab

10.72

16.8

15.8

16.3

Rajasthan

10.86

15.5

14.3

14.9

Sikkim

60.31

73.6

71.5

72.6

Tamil Nadu

5.90

11.8

11.7

11.8

Tripura

66.07

81.9

84.1

83

Uttar Pradesh

5.52

8

8

8

West Bengal

9.24

17

15.7

16.3

A & N Islands

66.27

65.8

63.9

64.8

Chandigarh

38.54

41.1

40

40.6

Dadra & N. Haveli

22.24

31.4

33.1

32.3

Daman & Diu

35.92

50.5

49.3

49.9

Delhi

25.48

28.9

30.8

29.9

Lakshadweep

51.05

90.3

138

109

Pondicherry

50.15

41.7

38.2

40

INDIA

10.33

17.3

16.4

16.9

Source : EFA Indicators,1999

Observations

It can be noted that the spread of ECCE facilities, particularly in terms of ICDS centres, has been phenomenal during the recent years covering all the 5,320 community development blocks in the country. However, the actual outreach and coverage in respect of early childhood education component has been rather poor. This is evident from the fact that the GER of 10.33 in 1990 has improved only to 16.9 in 1997-98.

Further, the coverage is very uneven across different part of the country. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh represents a serious situation with less than 10 percent coverage. Most states in the north-east seem to be doing well in this regard. Proper understanding of the variations in the levels of participation of children in the ECCE facilities will require additional data related to different dimensions of community life and development viz., demographic, social, cultural, political and economic.

Apart from the quantitative expansion of facilities, there have also been efforts to create alternative models of ECCE under different EFA programmes. The efforts made in this direction particularly in the states of Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are worth mentioning. In addition, there have also been attempts to create convergence between the ongoing programmes of ICDS and the early childhood education activities, essentially by expanding the scope of the ICDS programmes. In spite of all these efforts, the challenge in extending the ECCE facilities to all children is enormous and has to be made an integral part of all EFA projects in the years to come. Another point emphasised in this regard is to strengthen the linkage between early childhood education programmes and primary education programmes. Towards this end, many state governments are establishing pre-primary units attached to primary schools. In fact a massive effort of this kind with corporate funding support is going on in the city of Mumbai.

It is recognized that inter-sectoral convergence and co-ordination is crucial for the success of any ECCE/ECE programme and its linkage with primary education. Setting up of state level coordination committees by state governments to prepare state specific plans is being promoted as a viable convergence strategy. To facilitate this and periodically review the situation, constitution of a National Advisory Group for ECCE is being proposed with representation from different regions and different sectors related to ECE.

(2) PROVIDING ACCESS TO PRIMARY SCHOOLING

With vast area to be covered and the huge, still burgeoning, population to be reached, it has not been easy to provide access for all children to primary schools. However, considering the difficult socio-economic conditions in which a large number of people particularly in rural areas live, it has been the endeavour of the government to provide primary schooling facilities within easy access of all children. Though this may imply providing smaller schools with relatively less facilities, it is considered that expecting parents to send their children long distance for centralized schooling facilities may prove counter-productive. This is particularly true in case of girls. Keeping this in view, following norms have been drawn in terms of distance and population within which primary schools have to be provided:

Table 2.3: Number of Primary/Upper Primary Schools

(1990-1997)

Year

Primary

Increase

Upper Primary

increase

1990

560935

57172

151456

29079

1991

566744

5809

155926

4470

1992

571248

4504

158498

2572

1996

598354

27106

176772

18272

1997

610763

12409

185506

8734

Source: Education in India 1992, & Selected Educational Statistics, 1997-98, Deptt. of Education.

Chart 2.1: Rural habitations/population in India served by primary and upper primary school sections (1993)

(Source: Sixth All India Educational Survey 1993, Volume 1- Educational Facilities in rural and urban areas, NCERT)

There has been substantial expansion of primary and upper primary schools in the country. Number of primary schools increased nearly three times between 1951 and 1991. The increasing trend has continued, perhaps with greater vigour, during the last decade. This is quite clear from the figures presented in Table 2.3. This has, no doubt, helped spread basic education in some of the remote corners of the country. However, this may not indicate whether the entire population and habitations in India have been adequately covered/served by basic schooling facilities within reasonable distance as prescribed for the children of these age groups.

In order to assess the extent provision according to the norms, periodic surveys have been conducted at the national level. Data on school provision according to the survey conducted in 1993 are given in Chart 2.1. As seen from the data presented, facilities for primary schooling had been made available within their neighbourhood for 93.76 percent population of rural habitations, by 1993. Only about 6 percent population in rural habitations did not have such facilities within the norm of one 1 km. distance. The accessibility to the facility of primary schooling has further increased after 1993, as more than 27,000 new primary schools were established during the period from 1992-93 to 1996-97.

Similarly, the number of rural habitations not served by primary sections in 1993 was only 16.64 per cent; but it meant 1,76,523 habitations are still to be provided with access to the facility of primary schooling. There is another relevant fact about the population of these rural habitations without access to primary schooling. While 45.25 percent of these are having population less than 300, about 40,000 habitations have population of 300 or more which have to be provided by primary schools as per the norms referred to earlier in this section. Thus, provision of primary schools to unserved small habitations became a major concern during the 1990’s and considerable success could be achieved in this regard in some of the states. For instance, the Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) initiated by the Madhya Pradesh government has demonstrated how a demand based provision with the community at the centre stage can help in much faster progress. Under the Scheme, any community, which has a group of at least 25 school-going age children, can demand from the government to provide a primary school within their habitation. As a reciprocal measure, the community has to find a place for conducting the school and also ensure the attendance of the children enrolled in the EGS school, as consistently low attendance would lead to closure of the school. Of the 19289 schools which were started under the EGS upto September 1998, 10325 (54 per cent) were in tribal pockets, which is indicative of the efforts directed to the schooling of children of socially disadvantaged groups. Similar efforts based on micro-planning and school mapping exercises have been attempted under Lok Jumbish, the EFA project in Rajasthan. Other major projects such as DPEP have also focused on improving the access to primary school facilities in remote and un-served habitations.

School Related Construction in DPEP Phase I States

 

Planned (1994-97)

Completed (Dec.1997)

In Progress (Dec. 1997)

New School Buildings

5156

2709

2027

Additional classrooms

6603

3680

2623

Toilets

6716

5260

868

Drinking Water

3493

1968

921

Repairs

4265

2835

310

Schooling facility at the upper primary stage has also increased over the years. The facilities of upper primary schooling, though widespread are comparatively less accessible, as the norms for establishment specify a radius of 3 km. At this stage, 85 per cent rural population has schooling facilities within a distance of 3 km. In terms of rural habitations the access to upper primary schooling facilities is 76.15 per cent. The access to these facilities of upper primary schools has improved considerably as 23,000 upper primary schools (Middle Schools) have been established during the period from 1992-93 to 1996-97, indicating an increase of 14.8 percent, raising the per cent of rural population served by upper primary section to 90.95. In fact, a major programme for further improvement of upper primary schooling facility is being worked out within the framework of DPEP.

Improvement in the availability of upper primary schools is also indicated by the changing ratio of upper primary schools to lower primary ones. Specifically, in 1957, there was only one upper primary school for every six lower primary schools. This situation has gradually improved. In 1987, the ratio of lower primary schools to upper primary schools was 4:1 which further improved to 3:1 by 1993. This improvement, indirectly also indicates the considerable increase in the demand for upper primary education and improvement in transition rates from lower primary to upper primary classes. The goal is to improve the situation further and provide at least one upper primary school to every two lower primary schools.

(3) PROGRESS IN ENROLLMENT

The progress made in the provision of schooling facilities during the last few decades has, undoubtedly, been quite impressive. Mere existence of schooling facility does not guarantee the participation of children in schooling. This is clearly brought out by the large variations among the States/UTs in respect of access to elementary education (primary and upper primary schooling). For instance, the highest percentage of unserved population by a primary school/section within 1 km. distance, is that for Himachal Pradesh, though this is a State with literacy rate much above the national average (57.3 in 1991 and 72 in 1997). In contrast, in respect of Bihar, the percentage of population unserved by primary school/section is only 4.49 which is quite low comparatively, though Bihar has the lowest literacy rate in the country, viz., 35.1 which indirectly indicates that a large section of the population has not been making use of the schooling facility available. What is the progress made in terms of student enrollment and attendance in the present decade? How big is the demand for additional places in the primary schools if all children are to be enrolled in school? These questions have been examined in the present section.

Expanding Size of the Primary School System

India embarked on the task of building a mass education system fifty years ago after becoming independent from British colonial rule. Since then the system has grown several folds in size both in terms of number of schools and the total enrollment of children in primary schools. Table 2.4 presents relevant enrolment figures for 1990s as well as for the previous four decades.

Table 2.4: Growth in Primary School Enrollment (in millions)

 

Year

BOYS

GIRLS

TOTAL

I-V

Prim-ary

VI-VIII

Upper Prim-ary

I-VIII

Eleme-ntary

I-V

Prim-ary

VI-VIII

Upper Prim-ary

I-VIII

Eleme-ntary

I-V

Prim-ary

VI-VIII

Upper Primary

I-VIII

Eleme-ntary

1951

13.79

2.98

16.77

5.51

.67

6.18

19.30

3.65

22.95

1961

25.98

5.62

31.6

13.12

1.87

14.99

39.10

7.48

46.58

1971

36.78

9.64

46.42

22.03

4.04

26.07

58.82

13.68

72.50

1981

46.71

14.69

61.40

29.39

7.25

36.64

76.11

21.95

98.07

1991

58.64

22.05

80.69

42.30

13.60

55.90

100.94

35.65

136.59

1992

57.87

21.22

79.09

41.75

12.87

54.62

99.62

34.09

133.71

1996

62.5

24.7

87.20

47.9

16.3

64.20

110.4

41.0

151.50

1997

61.83

23.7

85.53

47.59

15.80

63.39

109.41

39.50

148.91

Source: Growth of School Enrolment 1950-1993 MHRD, Government of India

Enrolment in primary level of education has increased by about six times between 1951-1997 while the enrolment in upper primary level increased by about eleven times during the same period. The increase in case of girls had been nine times in primary level, and twenty four times in upper primary level. The annual compound growth rate of enrolment in primary classes has been 3.76 per cent while in case of upper primary level, it has been 4.06 per cent per annum. Some significant points have to be noted from the figures given in Table2.4:



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