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Nutritional Support to Primary Education

The Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education, popularly known as the Mid-day Meal Scheme, was launched in August 1995 on a nationwide basis. The Programme intends to boost universalisation of primary education by increasing enrollment, retention and attendance and to improve the nutritional status of children in primary classes. The Programme covers all the children studying in government, local body and government aided schools. The number of beneficiaries covered is estimated to be more than 97 million studying in about 688,000 primary schools.

Year

No. of Children covered (millions)

Quantity of foodgrains allocated

(million metric tonnes)

1995-96

3.4

0.71

1996-97

5.8

1.59

1997-98

9.10

2.57

1998-99

9.75

2.71

Shiksha Karmi – The Barefoot Teacher of Rajasthan

To overcome the problem of teacher absenteeism, the concept of 'barefoot teachers' was introduced by the Shiksha Karmi Project (SKP) which is being implemented in Rajasthan since 1987 with financial assistance from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The idea was to substitute the absentee primary school teacher by a 'local educational worker'. The project aims at universalisation and qualitative improvement of primary education in remote and socio-economically backward villages in Rajasthan, with primary attention being given to girls. The project works on the following assumptions:

Studies have shown that though economic and social factors constitute major cause for dropping out of school, a sizeable number of children do not attend or even drop out due to school related reasons. Major factors include a curriculum, which is not relevant to the life of the children and an uninteresting teaching-learning process, which gives undue emphasis to rote learning and memorization of facts. In order to overcome this problem, improvement in teaching learning material and pedagogic practices have received very high priority in DPEP as well as all other ongoing EFA projects.

(5) ENROLLING ALL CHILDREN: MAGNITUDE OF THE TASK AHEAD

Current enrollment in primary schools of the country adds up to more than 100 million. Considerable progress has been achieved in improving the participation level of children during last 10 years. Several special measures have been implemented to bring all children to school and retain them for the full cycle of primary education. Yet, it is a reality that a large number of children have still remained out of school. Goal of EFA is to bring all such children into the fold of primary education. What is the magnitude of the task involved for enrolling all children in primary schools, if one were to achieve the goals of EFA by 2000? Estimates of net additional enrolment required by the year 2000 to achieve the goal of universal primary education are given in Table 2.7.

As per the estimates presented above, in 1997, 35.06 million children of age group 6-11 years were out of school. This number would, as per estimates, swell to 39.25 million. Therefore net additional enrolment of this order will be required in order to achieve the goal of EFA. The data clearly show how varied the requirement is among different states. One can also observe that the bulk of the children to be enrolled are in a few educationally backward states.

Of the additional net enrolment of 39.25 million, a large portion consisting of 30.45 million children are estimated to be in eight States, viz., Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The net additional enrolment required in these eight States is 77.58 percent of the total net additional enrolment estimated. Even among these eight states five states, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal account for 67.86 per cent of the total net additional enrolment required.

Table 2.8: Additional enrolment required for universal primary education

State/UT

Enrolment 1997 (Provisional)

Net Additional Enrolment Required

Andhra Pradesh

8370079

2443450

Arunachal Pradesh

149719

59867

Assam

3816603

23242

Bihar

10266989

2949604

Goa

125717

72162

Gujarat

6003862

1131525

Haryana

2096106

802759

Himachal Pradesh

694412

301625

Jammu & Kashmir

893005

697778

Karnataka

6912100

473602

Kerala

2749535

926634

Madhya Pradesh

10161269

1334582

Maharashtra

11879899

2129491

Manipur

251651

112553

Meghalaya

302518

234882

Mizoram

134091

32205

Nagaland

203689

117971

Orissa

3945000

1349312

Punjab

2121310

951003

Rajasthan

6860625

2494302

Sikkim

84986

34057

Tamil Nadu

6814039

658210

Tripura

440886

116857

Uttar Pradesh

13707742

13811685

West Bengal

8907736

5300365

A&N Islands

39967

20887

Chandigarh

65978

45947

D&N Haveli

25003

5404

Doman & Diu

14868

4419

Delhi

1261359

576248

Lakshadweep

8362

2630

Pondicherry

103798

34700

India

109412903

39249957

Source: i. Selected Statistics, 1997-98, MHRD

ii. Sixth All India Educational Survey, NCERT, 1997

iii. Experts Committee, Planning Commission (Cited in EFA Indicators Sub-Table 21)

(6) NON-FORMAL EDUCATION: MEETING THE NEEDS OF OUT-OF-SCHOOL CHILDREN  

As already mentioned, despite considerable expansion of schooling facilities, a large segment of children from marginalised groups continue to be deprived of primary education. Recognizing the need for providing alternate means of reaching primary education to such children a progamme of non-formal education (NFE) was launched by the government nearly two decades ago. The NFE programme caters to learning needs of children in the age group, 6-14 years who remain outside the formal system of education for variety of reasons. These include drop-outs of the formal schools, children from habitations without schools, children who assist in performing domestic chores like fetching fuel, fodder, water, attending to siblings, grazing cattle, etc. and girls who are unable to attend formal schools. The programme has been revised and strengthened during the 1990s. Though the original scheme was meant only for 10 educationally backward states, it has been extended to cover urban slums, hilly, tribal and desert areas and projects for working children in other states also.

Main Features of NFE

The NFE programme is characterised by flexible features that facilitate spread of basic education among traditionally disadvantaged sections of population. Some of the important features are:

Progress in NFE during 1990s

Since its inception two decades ago, the NFE programme has consistently grown in size and coverage. In particular, significant expansion of the programme took place during 1990s in terms of number of NFE centres and the number of children enrolled in them. By 1997, there were 279,000 NFE centres covering about 7 million children in 21 States. Of these, 240,747 are being run by State Governments and 37,808 by 544 NGOs/Voluntary Agencies. Five States, viz., Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa account for 81 percent of NFE centres. The spread of NFE programme is moderate in Rajasthan and Assam. Coverage is very limited in Jammu and Kashmir, and NorthEastern States; the programme started in Arunachal Pradesh during 1990s. Following are some major points to be noted with regard to progress during the current decade:

Expanding Partnership with NGOs

A unique feature of the NFE programme is its emphasis on implementation through local and national NGOs/Voluntary Agencies. Government of India has been giving liberal grants to support such activities by NGOs. Participation of voluntary agencies in NFE has increased phenomenally during 1990s. While there were 7310 NFE centres run by voluntary agencies in 1993, their number swelled to 37,808 in 1996 and to 58788 in 1999. Besides running NFE centres, these NGOs have been implementing 41 experimental and innovative programmes for promoting elementary education. The number of NGOs participating in NFE has been increasing during 1990s, as shown by the data presented Table 2.9.

Table 2.9: NGOs/Volunteer Agencies participating in NFE

Year

Number of NGOs implementing NFE

Number of NFE Centres run by NGOs

1992-93

363

-

1993-94

410

7310

1994-95

440

-

1995-96

544

-

1996-97

590

37,808

1997-98

741

-

1998-99

816

58,788

Strengthening the Non-Formal Education programme

(7) EDUCATION OF WORKING CHILDREN 

A problem closely related to universalisation of elementary education is that of child labour. According to 1991 census, there are 11.28 million child workers (6.18 million boys and 5.10 million girls) in the age group 5-14. About 91 percent of these children are concentrated in the rural areas. Of the 11.28 million working children, 9.08 millions are classified as main workers and another 2.2 million are classified as marginal workers. Besides, nearly 7 million children are enumerated as involved in house-hold duties. It may be noted here that 6.2 millions (88 per cent) of these are girls. Household duties could mean anything from assisting in the family farm or any other family occupation besides taking care of household chores like cooking, taking care of children, fetching water, fuel and so on. Thus, if a comprehensive definition of work is taken, the total incidence of child workers is quite substantial and merit serious attention when progress towards EFA is being assessed.

Action Plan for Dealing with the Problem

India has all along followed a proactive policy in the matter of tackling the problem of child labour. The Indian Constitution requires the State to protect children against being forced by economic necessity to enter vocations unsuited to their age and strength. However, it should be recognized that the problem of working children and their education can not be treated only as a responsibility of the Labour or Education Department. It is a multi-sectoral problem having a direct interface with several other areas of social and economic policy making. Keeping these factors in view and in pursuance of the constitutional mandate, the government adopted the National Policy on Child Labour in 1987. The Policy which forms the framework of action with respect

to the problem of child labour comprise a legislative action plan, focussing on general development programmes for benefiting children wherever possible and project-based action plans in areas of high concentration of child labour engaged in wage/quasi-wage employment. These action plans together with the recommendations of the National Policy on Education – 1986 for the bases for initiating programmes for education of the working children.

Major Action Initiated in Recent Years

Following the National Policy on Child Labour and the National Policy on Education, several new initiatives have been taken for reaching basic education to the working children. From several angles, the intensity of action both through media campaigns and innovative educational programmes has been at a high pitch. There is no doubt that this has been considerably influenced by the intense debates and consultations that have taken place at the international level in the last couple of decades including the adoption of the Convention of Child Rights to which India is a signatory. Some of the important initiatives during the 1990s need mention.

(8) TOWARDS QUALITY IMPROVEMENT IN BASIC EDUCATION

Redefinition of universalisation of elementary education in the National Policy on Education – 1986 as consisting not only of enrollment and attendance but also of learner achievement brought focus on quality of primary education in a significant manner. The emphasis laid on achievement indicators by the Jomtien Declaration gave further impetus to this and brought quality concerns and improvement in learner achievement to the centre stage of policy making and planning for basic education in the country.

The Strategy

Quality improvement is a complex question, unlike improvement in infrastructure, appointment of teachers or even of equipping schools with better academic facilities. It is not that there were no quality improvement measures in primary education in the past. However, learning from the past efforts, it is realised that there is no single factor solution for the problem. With this in view, the government has pursued a five-fold strategy following the recommendations of the NPE consisting of (a) Improvement in provision of infrastructure and human resources for primary education; (b) Provision of improved curriculum and teaching-learning material; (c) Improving the quality of teaching-learning process through the introduction of child-centred pedagogy; (d) Attention to teacher capacity building; and (e) Increased focus on specification and measurement of learner achievement levels.

Progress Made in the Area of Quality Improvement

It is recognized that quality improvement in education cannot be carried out on a turn-key basis in a prespecified time-frame. Persisting with efforts to move ahead on all fronts mentioned in the strategy above is seen as the most important factor. Keeping this in view a number of programmes and schemes have been initiated by the central as well as state governments. Also, quality improvement component has been given high priority in all the EFA projects such as DPEP and Lok Jumbish.

Providing basic infrastructure and human resources

In the traditional framework for providing classrooms and teachers, number of students has been the main determining factor. Under this framework, small schools located in remote areas and invariably serving marginalised groups suffer from serious inadequacies. Breaking away from this framework, following the recommendations of the NPE, a national programme called ‘Operation Blackboard’ was launched around 1990 to equip every school with certain basic infrastructure and human resources. As a part of this programme, every school was to have a minimum of two teachers and two classrooms and certain other basic teaching-learning and other school equipment. Government of India has spent on an average about Rs. 400 million per year during the last ten years on this Scheme. More than 182,000 classrooms have been built and 149,000 additional teachers appointed. Besides, 42,000 posts of teachers have been sanctioned to add a third teacher to primary schools with more than 100 enrollment. A standard set of school equipment has also been supplied to all primary schools.

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

It should be noted that, this is in addition to the teacher augmentation and construction of school building done by state governments through various state level schemes. Further, the EFA projects have also given considerable importance to improvement in infra-structure including repair and maintenance of school buildings. An important dimension of this whole exercise is the element of community involvement. In most cases, under DPEP as well as Lok Jumbish, emphasis is laid on the role played by community members through village education committees or special school building construction committees. For instance, more than 5000 new school buildings are to be constructed in the seven DPEP (Phase I) states.

With the expansion of educational facilities, the number of teachers has also increased over the years. The policy of the Government is to provide 2 teachers to every Primary School initially and ultimately the endeavour is to provide one teacher for every class or section in Primary Schools. In the Upper Primary Schools the teachers are provided on the basis of subject teaching and teaching workload. Table 2.10 gives the growth in the number of teachers over the last few years in the Primary and Upper Primary Schools.

Table 2.10 Increase in Number of Teachers from 1990 to 1997

Number of Teachers in

Primary Schools

Upper Primary Schools

Year

Total

% of

trained teachers

% of

Female

teachers

Total

% of

trained

teachers

% of

Female

teachers

1990-91

1616020

85.25

29.24

1072911

88.02

33.24

1991-92

1643701

85.31

29.92

1079034

88.24

33.82

1992-93

1651416

83.54

31.14

1085301

87.32

34.63

1996-97*

1789733

88.00

32.68

1195845

88.00

35.77

1997-98*

1871542

87.00

34.34

1211803

88.00

36.08

* Provisional

The number of teachers in Primary Schools has increased more than three times while the number of female teachers has increased by more than seven times from 89,164 in 1951 to 642,671 during 1997. In case of Upper Primary Schools, the number of total teachers has increased from 90,532 to 1,211,803 i.e. by more than thirteen times. This increase in the case of female teachers is more than thirty one times. Annual average growth rate in case of primary school teachers has been 2.57 per cent during 1951-1997 while this rate in case of upper primary school teachers has been 5.67 per cent annually. The percentage of trained teachers in primary schools has increased from 61 per cent in 1951 to 87 per cent in 1997-98 while in upper primary schools it has increased from 53 per cent to 88 per cent during the same period. The share of female teachers has also considerably increased from 17.19 per cent in 1951 to 34.34 per cent in 1997-98 and in case of upper primary schools, it has increased from 15.76 per cent in 1951 to 36.08 per cent in 1997.

From the trend shown in Chart 2.6, one can conclude that the teacher-pupil ratio has remained stable during the period from 1990 to 1997. One may consider that the number of pupils per teacher is somewhat on the higher side at the primary stage. But this has to be viewed in the context of significant efforts made to mobilize the community and increase the enrollment and participation of children in primary schools. In fact, a more important question to be looked into is the wide variation in the teacher-pupil ratio across different states of the country as given in Table 2.11

Chart 2.6: Pupil-Teacher Ratio In Schools By Type

* Provisional

Table 2.11: State-wise Enrollment and Teachers in Primary Schools

(1997-98)

States/UTs

Total Enrolment

Total Teachers

Teacher Pupil Ratio

% of Trained Teachers

%of Female Teachers

Andhra Pradesh

8370079

154194

54

95.4

33.23

Arunachal Pradesh

149719

4295

35

50.3

28.59

Assam

3816603

82091

46

47.5

24.97

Bihar

10266989

130822

78

90.4

19.48

Goa

125717

4445

28

92.6

67.33

Gujarat

6003862

99543

60

96.5

46.97

Haryana

2096106

48905

43

96.5

51.73

Himachal Pradesh

694412

23985

29

88.0

38.58

J&K

893005

30286

29

63.5

37.20

Karnataka

6912100

95495

72

100.0

47.25

Kerala

2749535

74784

37

97.4

69.57

Madhya Pradesh

10161269

227154

45

67.8

27.36

Maharashtra

11879899

221475

54

95.6

50.31

Manipur

251651

11735

21

34.8

34.78

Meghalaya

302518

10550

29

42.5

45.43

Mizoram

134091

5210

26

67.6

47.43

Nagaland

203689

9376

22

50.8

39.29

Orissa

3945000

112876

35

98.9

25.87

Punjab

2121310

57011

37

98.6

60.96

Rajasthan

6860625

134061

51

97.6

28.79

Sikkim

84986

5092

17

46.4

45.46

Tamil Nadu

6814039

155349

44

99.8

44.08

Tripura

440886

20653

21

33.1

21.04

Uttar Pradesh

13707742

318769

43

97.3

24.97

West Bengal

8907736

181710

49

67.2

24.84

A&N Islands

39967

1969

20

97.7

47.74

Chandigarh

65978

1773

37

100.0

96.39

D&N Haveli

25003

483

52

98.1

34.16

Daman & Diu

14868

424

35

97.6

57.08

Delhi

1261359

37532

34

100.0

62.42

Lakshadweep

8362

284

29

100.0

42.25

Pondicherry

103798

3408

30

97.0

58.60

ALL INDIA

2265739

48

87.7

35.79

RURAL

81709398

1689980

48

87.7

35.79

URBAN

27703505

575759

48

87.7

35.79

Source: Selected Educational Statistics 1997-98, MHRD

Renewal of Curriculum and Teaching-Learning Material

Curriculum prescription and textbook preparation for schools is essentially a subject handled by state governments within a national curricular framework prepared by the NCERT. The state level authorities decide on the specific curricular inputs and teaching-learning material to be followed in all the state supported schools. The last ten years have witnessed a variety of activities in the area of curriculum and teaching-learning material preparation in all the states. The purpose of the exercise has been mainly to make the material more relevant, interesting and child friendly. The specification of Minimum Levels of Learning in early 90’s at the national level also prompted the states to take up the task of curriculum and textbook revision. A series of activities in all the states with EFA projects as well as others were set in motion. The exercise has been guided by the following principles:

Three factors have characterised the process of material development. First, a participatory approach has been the high point of textbook development processes involving teachers, field personnel and experts from SCERTs. Secondly, people involved in textbook development have been periodically exposed to ‘good practices’ of other states and also NGOs. For instance, an attempt was made in Madhya Pradesh to conceive and produce jointly by the SCERT and Ekalavya, which has been well recognized for its long experience in producing innovative teaching-learning material. Thirdly, in most states, field trialling of textbooks and other material have been undertaken to identify gaps that could be corrected before large-scale introduction took place.

Improving Quality of Teaching-Learning Processes

In the final analysis, quality of education depends on the nature of teaching- learning process. In fact, studies have also brought out that non-attendance of children in schooling and subsequent dropping out from school for many of them is determined by the nature of the teaching-learning process. It is in this context that a number of activities to improve the quality of classroom interaction and making it child centred and joyful have been initiated during the last several years.

The main thrust in the area of action is to help teachers make the classroom processes more contextualised to the local conditions characterizing the school and the community. It is recognized that many schools have to continue working under minimal infrastructure and without adequate learner support material. In spite of additional teachers being appointed in many project schools, majority of the schools in the country – around 80 to 85 percent, adopt multi-grade teaching. This perhaps, is inevitable with more schools in smaller habitations being opened. Adapting to such conditions and making the teaching-learning process still effective is a big challenge faced by a primary school teacher. This has been the main focus of all the EFA initiatives in the country.

A major project initiative called "Shikshak Samakhya" (Teacher Empowerment) was initiated in early 1990s in Madhya Pradesh with UNICEF support, which emphasized teacher creativity and autonomy for classroom organization and teaching with a view to making learning a joyful experience for the children. The experiment has influenced the pedagogic renewal process in many other states, viz., Ananddayi Shikshan in Maharashtra and Guru Mitra Yojana in Rajasthan. Similarly, following the model evolved by the Rishi Valley Education Trust in Andhra Pradesh, a small effort for resetting the teaching learning process in a block in Mysore district. After extensive trialling and adaptation to local conditions, the DPEP in Karnataka is attempting to extend the initiative to other districts in the state. In fact, this process of effective dissemination of experiences from across state boundaries and their meaningful adaptation in larger areas is an important feature of the efforts for pedagogic renewal process under the EFA projects of 1990s.

The HD Kote Project: Joyful Learning in a Multi-Grade Context

Teachers have to be equipped to deal with multi-grade teaching, as even in the foreseeable future the multi-grade situation will continue to be the norm rather than the exception. Training programmes to deal with multi-grade situations have hitherto concentrated on how the teacher should divide her time among children of different grades, without sufficient thought being given to how optimum use can be made of the time available to the child for learning activities. This is not the real spirit of multi-grade teaching, which brings children of different grades and abilities together in one class room. The HD Kote project reflects what is possible in a multi-grade situation. The project which drew inspiration from the experiment conducted by the Rishi Valley Education Trust, Madanapalli, Andhra Pradesh has been in operation with UNICEF support since 1995 in 270 schools of HD Kote block in Mysore district. Two major strategies developed are:

The major strengths of the programme are:

The programme has resulted in significant improvements in enrolment, increase in retention rates and appreciable increases in learning achievement. The experiment is being upscaled to cover six additional blocks of Mysore district with DPEP assistance in 1998.

(Source: Human Development in Karnataka, Government of Karnataka, 1999)

Teacher Capacity Building: Moving towards a Decentralized Support System

Whenever questions of quality are raised, all fingers invariably point towards the teachers, their capacity and motivation. While this is natural, what kind of academic support do primary school teachers get on a continuous basis? Placed as they are working in difficult circumstances it is perhaps impractical to expect high levels of performance from all the teachers without external support and monitoring. It is with this in view, the National Policy on Education recommended decentralizing the technical and academic support mechanism by establishing a District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) in each district exclusively to cater to the development needs of elementary education of the particular district. The country has moved ahead considerably in this process of decentralization of academic support to teachers.

Establishing a 3-tier Mechanism in Each District: Before 1987, the main source for academic support and training for teachers in the elementary schools was the State Council of Educational Research and Training in each state. This was proving to be woefully inadequate to meet the capacity building needs in most of the states. The establishment of a DIET in each district following the NPE-1986 was therefore a major step in taking the support system nearer to the field. During the last 10 years more than 400 such district level institutions have been established. This process of decentralization has been further extended under the externally aided EFA projects through the establishment of Block Resource Centres (BRCs) and Cluster Resource Centres (CRCs). The main function of these sub-district level institutions is capacity building among teachers. Recent reviews of DPEP report the creation of 414 BRCs and 5224 CRCs across different states of the country.

Collaboration with NGOs: Another important feature of the inservice teacher training programmes in the recent years has been the partnership between government bodies and NGOs with field experience in teacher training. For instance, Lok Jumbish has been working very closely with Sandhan, Allaripu and Digantar and oseveral other NGOs in their programmes for teacher capacity building as well as for training of other field level personnel working for quality improvement in school functioning. The Rajiv Gandhi Shiksha Mission which implements DPEP in Madhya Pradesh has been taking the help of Ekalavya. Attempts are being made in other states also to work in collaboration with NGOs for teacher training and other related activities.

Distance Education for Teacher Capacity Building: It is realised that even with the establishment of an extensive institutional network, continuous upgradation of knowledge and skills cannot be done effectively in view of the perpetually expanding system of schools and teachers. With this in view, a major move has been made in the 1990s to use modern technology and distance education mechanisms to reach out to the school teachers on a continuous basis. Two programmes in this regard need to be mentioned. One is the expanding programme of reaching out to teachers and teacher educators through satellite based teleconferencing network. The second is the fairly large sized Distance Education Project within the framework of the DPEP. Both the programmes are operated in a collaborative fashion involving various organizations such as IGNOU, NCERT, SAC and several other national and state level organizations. In fact, one can see that distance education is gradually emerging as an effective means of providing academic and technical support to school teachers on a continuous basis.

Increased Focus on Learner Achievement: The 1990s have also witnessed a high level of importance and attention given to assessment of learner achievement. The first prompting for this came from the special emphasis given to learner achievement in the NPE. However the main thrust for activity in this regard came from the specification of Minimum Levels of Learning at the national level through an expert body set up by the Government of India. Following this, most of the state governments with the help of NCERT and SCERTs not only revised their curriculum and textbooks but also initiated programme for measuring learner achievement on a regular basis. The Government of India supported 16 large scale projects to study and streamline this process and work out the processes needed for achieving of competencies by all children.

Minimum Levels of Learning

The National Policy of Education, 1986, brought to the forefront the need for focusing not only on quantitative aspects but also on quality in terms of achievement levels. Towards this end, a committee constituted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development specified the basic competencies to be achieved by all children at the primary stage in the form of Minimum levels of Learning (MLLs) in selected subjects such as Language, Mathematics and Environmental Studies across the country. Currently, 12 states are implementing the programme through the institutional mechanism of around 200 DIETs and the programme is being up-scaled. Under this scheme, financial assistance is being provided to the state governments for a wide range of activities such as preparation of competency based textbooks, training of teachers, preparation of teaching learning materials, orientation of education personnel and conducting benchmark surveys.

The programme aims to lay down learning outcomes expected from basic education at a realistic, relevant and functional level, prescribes the adoption of measures that would ensure that all children who complete a stage of schooling achieve these outcomes. The endeavour is to monitor learning achievement, to direct greater resources where levels of learning are lower, and to consciously accelerate the pace of development in the needy areas, thereby reducing disparities, equalising standards and determining inputs for quality improvement and enhanced efficiency of the system.

A second set of efforts in this direction emerged with the launching of EFA projects which carried out baseline studies to assess the achievement of learners in various classes of the primary school. Some of the projects have even set targets for raising the learner achievement levels in a phased manner. For instance, DPEP has set the target of raising achievement levels by 25% during the project period. Towards monitoring the programmes to raise the achievement levels, periodic surveys have been carried out both in DPEP and Lok Jumbish. Have these efforts help increase the levels of learner achievement? It is difficult to respond categorically to this. First of all, there is no all India survey done to determine the current levels of achievement. Further, since the programme content as well as context of schooling is quite different in each state, it will be difficult to

generalize on the progress made in this regard. Finally, though the initial results show positive change in the learning levels of children different project schools, both under Lok Jumbish and DPEP, one cannot expect any dramatic upswing in the learner performance in the short term. Performance of learners does not depend only on inputs provided in the school. They are also influenced by many other socio-economic contextual factors, which do not fall within the purview of education development projects. Also, it may be counter-productive to anchor all quality improvement efforts only to improvement in performance of learners in achievement tests in selected subject areas. They have to be coupled with focus on learner growth and development in other areas which are not necessarily performance based and measurable.

Students Achievement under DPEP : An Appraisal

In order to assess the level of success in realising the DPEP objectives after lapse of three years, a Mid-term Learning Assessment Survey (MAS) covering all the 42 districts of Phase I States was conducted by the NCERT in 1997. The study has shown that the average performance of students in Class I in 25 districts in language and in 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 class I. While student performance in classes III-IV has touched 60 per cent marks in some of the districts, in some others it has stood below 40 per cent mark.

A comparative analysis of Class I students' achievement on Baseline Assessment Survey (BAS) tests conducted in 1994 with that of the same set of tests readministered in 1997 under 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 Class I. Similar analysis of Classes III-IV students’ achievement on BAS tests in 1994 vs 1997 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 classes varies from 10-25 per cent..

The goal of reducing the differences between gender groups to less than 5 per cent has been realised in almost all the districts across the classes in both the subjects. The results, however,.are not so encouraging n regard to social groups.

(Source: Annual Report, MHRD, 1998-99)



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