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Education for all in India: A second look

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In this paper, the author has attempted to analyze and assess the progress of education for all (EFA) in India from 1985/1986 to 2005/2006. A similar analysis by the same author on this subject, for the period 1950-1986, was published in this journal in 1990. During that period of 35 years the development of EFA was apparently impressive, but glaring disparities in schooling facilities based on rural-urban habitation, region, caste and gender were observed. About half of all the rural schools lacked physical facilities and suffered from shortage of teachers. While enrollment had apparently increased, three-fourths of enrolled children left school without completing elementary education. The progress of literacy was also not satisfactory with the literacy rate having increased marginally from 16% in 1951 to an estimated 38% in 1986. The literacy rates also exhibited disparities based on gender, caste, region and rural-urban location. After launching of the National Policy on Education 1986, the Government of India has made concerted efforts to achieve the goal of EFA by launching several new schemes, including expansion of non-formal education for out-of-school children, improvement of physical facilities in schools, implementation of a micro-planning strategy, the launch of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and the passage of a Bill in Parliament to make elementary education a 'fundamental right' of every child. The problem of illiteracy was attacked by launching an ambitious new programme called the National Literacy Mission. However, recently published reports show that there are about 59 million out-of-school children; enrollment of girls is low; the dropout rate up to Class VIII is still high; school-age children work for wages; rural children have no easy access to schools; many schools still lack physical facilities; and there is a shortage of teachers and headmasters. The author feels that India must revise its target date for achieving the goal of EFA at least once again and suggests that the Government should carefully monitor the implementation of policies, and at the same time, enhance expenditure on education from the present 3.5% to 6% of the GNP as early as possible, so as to deal with the situation more effectively.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: National University of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi, India

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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