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Plan panel paints education nightmare

The Planning Commission has approved an outlay of Rs 3,43,028 crore for the Department of Schools and Secondary Education in the 12th Plan.

Published: 30th September 2012 11:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th September 2012 11:14 AM   |  A+A-

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The 12th Plan Document paints a dark picture of country’s education sector. An estimated 12.58 lakh—5.64 existing vacancies and 6.94 lakh new vacancies sanctioned under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)—are waiting to be filled up. And it seems to be a long wait. To bring hope to the sector, the Planning Commission has approved an outlay of Rs 3,43,028 crore for the Department of Schools and Secondary Education in the 12th Plan.

Attendance vis a vis enrolment is a challenge schools face. Enrolment levels at the elementary level were generally high during the 11th Plan period, but student attendance was low, though there is considerable variation across states. The educationally backward states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand have the lowest student attendance rates. The 11th Plan had unsuccessfully targeted a reduction in dropout rates from 50 per cent to 20 per cent at the elementary school level; the national dropout rate is as high as 42.39 per cent. Dropout rates for SC and ST children at 51.25 per cent and 57.58 per cent respectively are much higher than that for non-SCST children at 37.22 per cent. The 12th Plan aims to reduce dropout rates to below 10 per cent. Though the number of elementary schools has increased between 2006 and 2011, many schools lack basic infrastructure facilities required under the RTE Act. The 12th Plan focuses on aligning government policies and practices with the goal of providing quality schooling to all children until 14.

In the primary education sector, the good news is that pre-school enrolment has more than doubled from 21 percent in 2005 to 47 per cent in 2010. The recent annual school education report indicated that 83. 6 per cent of rural students between three and six years of age are enrolled in preschool programmes, mostly in Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) centres, including those in private pre-schools.

The Plan document proposed a differential fund-sharing pattern for the implementation of the flagship SSA programme, which now stands modified.  Between central and state governments, it would be at a ratio of 75:25 for low literacy states such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

The continuance of Mid-Day Meals Scheme (MDMS), which has helped elimination of ‘classroom hunger’ and Mahila Samakhya, a programme for women’s education, during the 12th Plan, is crucial due to current thrust on inclusive education through RTE-SSA.

Despite the massive infrastructure initiative under SSA, a large number of schools do not possess minimum facilities. Only 4.8 per cent of government schools have all nine facilities stipulated in the RTE Act. Approximately one third of the total schools have only seven facilities while about 30 per cent schools do not have even five of these facilities such as drinking water and toilets for girls.

Higher Education on a Low: New higher education institutions, such as universities and diploma institutes grew by a stunning 58 per cent in five years, as education became big business. However, the system itself is expanding too rapidly for the sufficient number of trained quality teachers to catch up. There were 29, 384 higher educational institutions in 2006-7. Its now 46,430. The enrolment of students rose rapidly from 12.3 per cent in 2006-7 to 15.12 per cent in 2011-12. However, this is well before the world average of 26 per cent since less than one-fifth of the estimated 120 million potential Indian students are enrolled in higher education institutions. Meanwhile, maintaining that the expansion of Central institutions is a historic success, the Plan document also points out that the Central government has never established such a large number in a single Plan period. The 12th Plan outlay for higher education is Rs 1,10,700 crore —30 percent more than the in the previous Plan.

The Plan document claims that the increased enrolment rate in the 11th Plan enabled Indian higher education to cross the 15 per cent threshold of the General Enrolment Rate (GER), moving the country from an ‘elite’ to a ‘mass’ higher education system.

Underlining the strategic shift in central funding for state higher education, the Plan document proposed synergy in spending by the central and state government and the central funding to be linked to academic, administrative and financial reforms of state higher education.

Improving academic quality is a major objective of the 12th Plan. The bill to set up a National Accreditation Agency is still pending in Parliament; but the Plan envisages that the accreditation of institutes will play a central role in the regulatory arrangements for higher education. Multi-disciplinary research universities will be promoted. The Plan aims to create 20 Centres of Excellence as world-class research centres within existing universities and institutions of national repute.

New models of Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) in higher education are encouraged, particularly in establishment of research and innovation institutions.

Underlining the strategic shift in central funding for state higher education, the Plan document proposed synergy in spending by the central and state government and the central funding to be linked to academic, administrative and financial reforms of state higher education.

 

-Sunday Standard



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