By – Subhash C. Khuntia : Secondary Education occupies a crucial stage in the educational hierarchy as it prepares the students for higher education and also to face the challenges of life at large. Besides moulding the personality traits, this stage of education also enhances individual level of productivity.
The remarkable growth of enrolment in elementary education and improvement in retention rate over the past few years, particularly among more disadvantageous sections of society, have dramatically shifted the focus to the Secondary Education sector in the country.
Increased Demand For Secondary And Higher Education
While pressure on Secondary Education is already being felt due to the success of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Universalisation of Elementary Education ), India’s impressive and sustained economic growth has worked as an impetus for increased demand for Secondary and Higher Secondary Education.
Added to this is the increased awareness about the role of Secondary Education, in particular for the girl child, in reinforcing positive social outcomes. There is a growing realization of the desirability to universalize access to secondary education leading to greater opportunity for participation to all. In other words, the challenge today is how to drastically improve the reach and quality of Secondary Education.
Keeping in view the rapid growth of Indian economy, the demographic advantage that India enjoys, the centrality of education in social and economic development, and the role of education in poverty reduction, an all out emphasis on education is visible in the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-08 to 2011-12) which has an allocation of Rs. 2,89,000 crore for Education constituting 19.4% of the total plan size. This is a steep increase from the share of 7.7% in the 10th Plan. With a view to achieve the goal of universalisation of access to secondary education while improving quality in a phased and sustained manner, the allocation for the Secondary Education sector for the 11th five year plan has been pegged at Rs. 53,550 crore, which reflects a quantum jump from the 10th Five year plan allocation of Rs. 4, 325 crore. This twelve fold increase brings within its fold a series of new schemes besides revising existing schemes making their design, intervention and coverage wider and more focused. The importance accorded to secondary education can be gauged from the fact that it occupies a share of 19.9% of the total Central Plan allocation to the education sector in the 11th Plan as compared to only 9.9% in the 10th Plan.
The Most Active, Dynamic And Happening Sector
In all, there are eight important schemes being rolled out in the Secondary Education sector alone, during the 11th Plan, making it one of the most active, dynamic and happening sectors. The new schemes that have already been rolled out, or in the pipeline are: (1) Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, (2) Model Schools, (3) National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship, (4) Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education, (5) Girls’ Hostel (6) ICT in Schools, (7) Inclusive Education for the Disabled Children and (8) Vocationalization of Secondary Education. These schemes, individually as well as collectively, address issues connected with access, equity and quality in the entire gamut of Secondary Education sector.
Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan
Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) or SUCCESS (Scheme of Universalization of Access to and Improvement of Quality at Secondary Stage) , as the scheme is alternatively called, will be a centrally sponsored scheme for universalizing access to secondary level through substantial enhancement of access so that by the end of 12th Five Year Plan, there would generally be a high school within 5 kms of any habitation. The main objectives include improvement of the gross enrolment ratio for classes IX-X to 75% by 2012 from 52.26% in 2005-06 and to provide facilities for estimated additional enrolment of 63 lakh by 2011-12 through strengthening of 44,000 existing Government high schools and opening of nearly 12, 000 new high schools, through upgradation of higher primary schools, appointment of 2.50 lakh additional teachers and construction of 1.33 lakh additional classrooms.
The scheme envisages development of State-specific norms. The general strategies are to provide required infrastructure and teaching-learning resources, including laboratories, libraries , computer rooms, toilets and qualified teachers. The scheme also envisages in-service training of teachers, capacity building of Headmasters and broad-based curricular, examination and educational governance reforms. National Curriculum Framework 2005 is already a right step in the direction of desirable curricular reforms.
As a basic requirement in planning the entire activity, complete mapping of secondary schools for developing a comprehensive Secondary Education Information and Management System (SEMIS) is being undertaken by the States.
Rs. 20,120 crore has been allocated for this scheme during the 11th Five year Plan, with a budget provision of Rs. 2185 crore during 2008-09. The ultimate aim is to universalize secondary education by achieving full enrolment by the end of the XIIth Plan, i.e., 2017, and to attain full retention by 2020.
6000 Model Schools at Block Level
Pursuant to the announcement of the Prime Minister, during his address to the nation on the Independence Day last year, the scheme of model school supports 6,000 new high quality schools – one in every block of the country. These schools will play a pace-setting role for other schools in the Block. The schools would have quality infrastructure, innovative curriculum, pedagogy and assessment system, effective and innovative use of educational technologies including ICT and a superior system of school management and governance. 3500 of these schools will be set up in the Government sector whereas 2500 will be set up under public-private partnership.
An amount of Rs. 12,750 crore has been earmarked for the scheme in the 11th five year plan and the budget allocation for 2008-09 is Rs. 650 crore. It is expected that these schools, spread over the entire country, will act as live demonstration of what a good school should be, and will act as nuclei for a positive qualitative shift in the schools of the neighbouring area, and will thus lead to a quality revolution in the secondary education sector.
National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme
While access to secondary education needs to be substantially improved, the issue of equity is equally important to achieve our ultimate aim of inclusiveness in the society. To bring meritorious students belonging to dis-advantageous and socially and economically backward section of the society to the secondary schools, the Central Government has launched a scheme to award one lakh new scholarships every year to students of class IX. Each selected student will be given Rs. 500 per month for study in classes IX upto XII. This is intended to arrest the drop-out at class VIII and to encourage the students to continue upto the end of the higher secondary stage.
Selection test for the first batch of students is being conducted by most State Governments on 16th or 17th August, 2008. It is hoped that the drop-outing of many bright students at the end of upper primary level would be checked because of this scheme, which will motivate them to continue to excel.
Incentive Scheme for SC/ST Girls
Gender disparity in secondary education is a cause of concern. In 2005-06, the enrolment ratio for girls in the secondary stage was 46.23% as against the figure of 57.72% for boys. Similarly, the drop-out rate for girls from class I to X was 73.7% as against 68% for boys. The disparity in case of SC/ST girls is even more alarming with the enrolment for ST girls at a lowly 32.6% and drop-out rate at a high of 79.8%.
In this background, the Central Government has launched a centrally sponsored scheme to encourage higher participation of girls. Under the scheme, a sum of Rs. 3000 will be deposited in the names of all SC/ST girls and also all girls who have studied in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, who pass class VIII and enrol for class IX in Government and Government-aided schools. The amount with interest will be payable to the girls after they reach the age of 18 provided they complete at least class X successfully.
Girls’ Hostel Scheme
Another scheme specially aimed at enhancement of participation of girl students, is to provide hostel facility so that they don’t discontinue secondary education due to distance from home to school. The scheme will assist the State Governments for construction of one 100-seater hostel in each of about 3500 identified educationally backward blocks in the country. The target group would be the girls studying in classes IX to XII, with special focus on SC, ST, OBC, minority and families below poverty line. The Central Government will also assist the States in meeting a major part of the recurring cost for running the hostels during the 11th Plan. An allocation of Rs. 2000 crore has been made in the 11th Plan for this purpose.
Information & Communication Technology (ICT) in Schools
The Centrally Sponsored Scheme “Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in School” was launched in December 2004, for imparting ICT literacy to high school students and also to use ICT in an effective way to enhance the quality of teaching. The Scheme is a major catalyst to bridge the digital divide amongst students of various socio economic and other geographical barriers. The Scheme provides support to States/UTs to establish ICT infrastructure on a sustainable basis and to provide internet connectivity.
The Scheme currently covers both Government and Government aided secondary and higher secondary schools.
Support is provided for procurement of computers and peripherals, educational software, training of teachers and internet connectivity.
A computer lab having at least 10 working stations is envisaged in each school. For Smart Schools the lab may have at least 40 work stations.
The project cost is shared in the ratio of : 75:25 between Centre and General Category States and 90:10 between Centre and Special Category States. During 2007-08, assistance was provided for 22,833 schools.
Allocation for the scheme for the 11th Five Year Plan is Rs. 6000 crore. It is proposed to ICT-enable all the government and government aided schools in the country by the end of the 11th Plan, so as to bring about a major qualitative improvement in teaching-learning process in these schools.
Inclusive Education for Disabled Children
The Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Integrated Education for Disabled Children was launched in 1974 with a view to provide educational opportunities to children with mild to moderate disability in common schools and facilitate their retention in the school system.
Under the scheme, disabled children receive allowances for books & stationery, uniform, equipment (assistive aids), transport, readers, escorts, and boarding and lodging. The scheme also provides for appointment of special teachers, attendants for severely orthopaedically handicapped children, removal of architectural barriers and production of relevant instructional material. 2.84 lakh disabled children were covered under this scheme in 28 States/UTs during the Xth Plan. Over 200 NGOs were engaged in implementing the scheme. At the end of the 2007-08, 3.6 lakh disabled children were covered in 31 States/UTs with an expenditure of Rs.76.11 crore in 2007-08.
Steps have been initiated for launching a new scheme of “Inclusive Education of the Disabled at Secondary Stage” so as to shift the focus from integration to inclusion, and a no rejection policy in the schools.
Vocationalisation of Secondary Education
The existing Centrally Sponsored scheme of Vocationalisation of Secondary Education was launched in 1988 and has already covered 10,000 schools with 25,000 vocational sections through establishment of capacity for an annual intake of 10 lakh students. Presently 150 vocational courses are being offered. The scheme of Vocationalisation of Secondary Education is under revamp to make it more need-based and to reduce the demand and supply gap in the economy. Besides introducing new skill-based courses at the higher secondary level with appropriate curriculum, 10,000 new vocational schools are proposed to be opened so as to enroll about 25 lakh students in these courses. Linkage with industry, scope for horizontal and vertical mobility, training of vocational teachers, modularity of courses with multiple entry and exit facilities, career guidance and counseling, apprenticeship etc., will be insisted upon so as to ensure that the courses practically benefit the students in choosing the career and in specialization in higher education.
The Central Government also runs Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas through autonomous organizations to provide quality education. These are pace setting schools for the entire country. There are 981 Kendriya Vidyalayas as of now. 50 of these were opened in educationally backward special focus districts during the last two years.
Navodaya Vidyalayas are residential schools meant to provide quality education to talented rural children. There are 554 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas in as many districts and these help fulfilling the aspiration of a large number of bright rural children and their parents. All expenses on boarding and lodging of students of JNVs as well as expenses on their uniform, stationery etc. are borne through support from the Central Government. It has been decided to open 20 new Vidyalayas in districts having large concentration of SC and ST population so as to give a boost to education of meritorious SC/ST children.
National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), another autonomous organization under the Ministry of HRD provides opportunity to those outside the formal school system to learn through distance education mode. The Central Government also encourages State Governments to open their own State Open Schools. Besides conventional curriculum for various stages of school education till higher secondary level, the National Open School also offers a variety of vocational courses of practical utility. With the advent of knowledge economy and its attendant requirement of skill and attitude, the importance of secondary education can not be over stressed. The Central Government, in partnership with State Governments has chalked out a blue print to enhance access to quality secondary education while ensuring equity.
*Joint Secretary, (Secondary Education), Ministry of Human Resource Development