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Education holds the key to economic growth and social transformation. Though the major indicators of socio-economic development viz., the growth rate of the economy, birth rate, death rate, infant mortality rate (IMR) and literacy rate, are all interconnected, the literacy rate has been the major determinant of the rise or fall in the other indicators. There is enough evidence in India to show that a high literacy rate, especially in the case of women, correlates with low birth rate, low IMR and increase in the rate of life expectancy. The recognition of this fact has created awareness on the need to focus upon literacy and elementary education programmes, not simply as a matter of social justice but more to foster economic growth, social well-being and social stability.

The National Policy on Education formulated in 1986 and modified in 1992 aims to play a positive and interventionist role in correcting social and regional imbalances, empowering women and in securing rightful place for the disadvantaged and the minorities. At the national level there is the commitment under the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) for increasing public expenditure on education to 6 per cent of GDP and for universalising elementary education. There is also an obligation, under the Constitution's 86th Amendment, for making available free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years.

India's Position in Education Sector

  • India has the third largest higher education system in the world
    o 431 Universities & 20,677 colleges
    o 7000 technical education institutions
    o 11.6 million students' enrolled and 0.55 million teachers were appointed
    o 1500 research institutions

  • Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of 11% with government intending to take it to 15 % by 2012.

  • Public spending on Education at 3.6% of GDP with 0.7% on higher education is in line with BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries.

  • India's education and training sector offers private institutions an estimated US$ 40 bn market, with a potential 16% five-year Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR).

  • After K-12 (sum of primary and secondary education), private professional colleges form the single biggest category in Indian education constituting about US$ 7 bn market out of which engineering takes the major share of US $ 5.85 bn (83%).

  • Private Sector Institutions constitute:
    o 84% of management institutes
    o 64% of engineering institutes
    o 76% of medical colleges

  • Total annual output of graduates from Indian Universities &HEIs:
    o Engineering graduates: 400,000
    o PhDs in engineering: 800
    o Medical graduates: 22,000
    o PhDs in Science: 5000

Structure of Education

Education system in India can be broadly classified into 3 categories:

  • Elementary education
  • Secondary education
  • Higher education

Elementary Education

In an effort to improve the performance of the school system and provide education to all children in the 6-14 age group by 2010,the government has implemented a number of programmes. These include:

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is an effort to universalise elementary education by community-ownership of the school system. It is a response to the demand for quality basic education all over the country. The SSA programme is also an attempt to provide an opportunity for improving human capabilities to all children, through provision of community-owned quality education in a mission mode.

Objectives of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

  • All children complete five years of primary schooling by 2007
  • All children complete eight years of elementary schooling by 2010
  • Focus on elementary education of satisfactory quality with emphasis on education for life
  • Bridge all gender and social category gaps at primary stage by 2007 and at elementary education level by 2010
  • Universal retention by 2010

Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme

Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme is a centrally sponsored programme to support universalisation of primary education and to improve the nutritional status of children at primary stage. The scheme is being implemented by all states and union territories. Being the largest school feeding programme in the world, MDM scheme covers nearly 9.70 crore children studying at the primary stage of education in classes I-V in 9.50 lakh Government (including local body) and Government aided schools, and the Centres run under Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) and Alternative & Innovative Education (AIE). The programme was extended, with effect from 1.10.2007, to children in the upper primary stage of education (classes VI-VIII) in 3,479 Educationally Backward Blocks (EBBs). Approximately 1.7 crore additional children in classes VI-VIII in EBBs are expected to be included.

The MDM programme has helped in promoting school participation, preventing class room hunger, instilling educational values and fostering social and gender equality.The scheme, in its first year of implementation, has led to positive outcomes such as, increase in enrollment, more significantly of girls, surge in daily attendance, particular of girls and children from poorer sections, improvement in retention, learning ability and achievement,· Curbing of teacher absenteeism, a rallying point for parents' involvement in governance of schools.

In a new path-breaking initiatives, it has been decided to empower mothers of children covered under the MDM scheme to supervise the preparation and serving of the meal. Mothers are being encouraged to come forward and take turn to supervise the feeding of the children, thus ensuring regularly and quality of the meal. This initiative is aimed at giving mothers a voice and a role and greater ownership of the programme. States have been requested to launch a concerted campaign for mass mobilization of mothers.

National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Education (NPEGEL)

The programme is aimed at enhancing girls’ education by providing additional support for development of a “model girl child friendly school” in every cluster with more intense community mobilization and supervision of girls enrolment in schools. Under NPEGEL, 35,252 model schools have been opened in addition to supporting 25,537. Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) centres. Besides, 24,387 additional classrooms have been constructed, and 1.85 lakh teachers have been given training on gender sensitization. Remedial teaching has also been provided to 9.67 lakh girls, apart from holding bridge courses covering 1.53 lakh girls and additional incentives like uniforms, etc. to about 71.46 lakh girls.

Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) Scheme

The Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) scheme was launched in July 2004 for setting up residential schools at upper primary level for girls belonging predominantly to the SC, ST, OBC and minority communities.The Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya scheme ran as separate scheme for two years but was merged with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan w.e.f. April 1, 2007.


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