ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Elementary Education: A Sorry State

Several states have reacted with consternation to the revision, as proposed by the 11th Five-year Plan, of funding patterns to the government’s flagship programme for universalisation of elementary education (UEE), the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA). The revision that would imply a shift away from the present 75:25 pattern between the centre and the states to 50:50 has also been specified in the SSA’s statement of objectives, but the mid-term appraisal of the 10th Plan had recommended a continuation of the 75:25 pattern to enable the SSA achieve its objectives by 2010. Several states such as Rajasthan and Bihar have already lowered their respective budgetary outlays on education citing a shortfall of funds.

The SSA’s progress has been varied and uneven across states and on parameters such as enrolment, learning levels, infrastructure, ability of teachers and community participation. The focus of governments at central and state levels, as recent studies such as Pratham’s survey of education 2006 establish, has been on tom-toming successes in raising enrolment targets that stand an impressive 93 per cent across India. Yet out-ofschool children are 3.5 per cent of the 20.21 crore children in the 6-14 population group. More than 50,000 out-of-school children are concentrated in 24 districts in the states of West Bengal (9) and Bihar (11); the remaining four districts lie in the states of Assam, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa. Moreover, enrolment figures do not reveal actual attendance levels, even as the quality of education imparted is abysmal. The Pratham study revealed for example that in Kerala, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Bihar and Chhattisgarh, less than 25 per cent of children currently studying in class V were able to read a story of class II level with some ease. And the proportion of children at the same level unable to read at this level is higher for other states, i e, nearly 50 per cent children in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. In another instance, a survey by the National Council of Education Research and Training reveals that there are 6,014 primary schools in the country without a single teacher.

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