Free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of fourteen years is a Constitutional mandate in India. Elementary education in India is a fundamental right. Till 1960, all efforts were focused on provision of schooling facilities. It is realization of the goal of access that other mechanism of elementary education such as universal enrolment, retention and the quality of education has become the primary focus of planners and policy makers in the country.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All Movement) is a flagship programme of the Government of India, initiated in 2000-01 to universalize elementary education has achieved a great milestone. Interventions by the Indian government under the programme aimed at increasing the number of schools, ensuring that schools have drinking water and toilets, providing effective training to teachers and improving learning outcomes. Under the SSA, special focus on providing access to education to disadvantaged groups, minorities and girls, who are often left behind was also emphasized.
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has come a long way achieving the following:
• Out of School children number has been brought down significantly (8 million in 2009, 3 million in 2012).
• Big boost to additional schools -195,000 Primary and more than 100,000 Upper Primary schools sanctioned.
• 2 million additional teacher posts. Today we have teachers with proper professional qualifications for teaching.
• Girls’ admission improved dramatically. Gender parity is achieved.
• The scheme supports 200 million children in 1.4 million schools in the country.
• Today there is a primary school within 1 Km distance of most children and almost every child is in school (Enrolment rates have gone up to 93%-95% in most parts of the country).
Fascinatingly, private investment in education has also gone up in the country. Estimates say that 27% of all the children are in private schools. In urban areas this ratio is 50%. With more urbanisation happening, the future of private schooling looks good. Therefore, in an appropriate way private schools have also contributed to universalise education in India.
India has done laudable work in universalizing primary education. The issue of access to schools and enrolment has been nearly resolved. In this scenario, the role of non-state actors has become significant. The country provides a balanced platform for a big role by private players in education. India looks forward to see the result of the interplay of the combined efforts of innovators and private players together play a major role in primary education alongside the Government.
Debate Society, Kamla Nehru College, Delhi
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