ICTpost Education Bureau
Education holds the key to continued growth and prosperity. A well educated population adequately equipped with knowledge and skill is not only essential to support economic growth, but is also a precondition for growth to be inclusive.
According to the Census 2011, overall literacy rate has increased from 64.8 per cent in 2001 to 74.0 per cent in 2011. Improvement in female literacy has been more rapid than male literacy and the gender gap has declined to 16.7 percentage points in 2011 from 21.6 percentage points in 2001. The mean years of schooling of the working age population (over 15 years) has increased from 4.2 years in 2000 to 5.12 years in 2010. However this remains well below the level in other emerging market countries such as China (8.17 years), and Brazil (7.54 years). Fortunately, the efforts made in expanding access to education in the past 10 years will show up in the form of younger, more educated population entering the labour force. There is a good chance that we can reach an average of 8 years by the end of the Thirteenth Plan.
Before 1976, education was the exclusive responsibility of the states in India. The constitutional amendment of 1976, which included education in the concurrent List, was a far-reaching step. In 1986 when the Parliament of India adopted the National Policy on Education (NPE) that for the first time equality of opportunity was formally stated as a goal of education. Children in general became the special focus of the government only when the Ministry of Education set up by the British was later divided into the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
When India became free of the British colonisers in 1947 a partitioned and badly scarred nation needed to begin social reconstruction. The government began to become formally involved in policy decisions at national level and in 1953 the Central Social Welfare Board was formed. The major achievement was however the launch of the Integrated Child Development Program (ICDS) program in 1974, as a part of India’s fifth five year plan.
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) since its inception in 2001-02 as the main vehicle for providing elementary education to all children in the 6-14 years age-group has made considerable progress in universalisation of elementary education (UEE). With the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, it is now a fundamental right of all children to demand eight years of quality elementary education. Mid-Day Meal Scheme covers students at the elementary stage in all government, local body and aided schools, has made remarkable progress but a few weaknesses noted in its implementation need to be addressed.
Expansion of Secondary Schooling
The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) at the secondary school stage is currently around 60.0 per cent which is woefully low. With UEE becoming a reality, near universalisation of secondary education is a logical next step. Anticipating this, the scheme of Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and the Scheme of Model schools were launched in the Eleventh Plan to improve enrollment and quality in secondary education. While stepping up public investment in the sector by the Central and State Governments would be necessary, it is imperative that the private sector capabilities are fruitfully tapped particularly as a majority of our secondary schools, including aided schools, are under private management. Models for PPP in this sector also need to be vigorously explored.
ICT in Education
In the twelfth plan, The Planning Commission has stressed that ICT tools must be used for significantly improving the educational services and for streamlining the admission process. Says Dr Veera Gupta, Secretary, Central Board of Secondary Education, “ICT is integral to the teaching learning process. In an age where massive expansion of education is required, we cannot do without the use of technology. ICT is vital for dissemination of knowledge, for evaluation and for keeping data and records. The role of ICT is multi faceted and it has to be exploited to the maximum potential.”
The draft of 12th five year plan document states, “Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) should be harnessed to enrich teaching-learning experience, to extend and diversify delivery, improve research quality and collaboration by making knowledge and information widely available, and ensure effective governance both at the institutional and systemic level.” The draft says that student services needs to be significantly improved and admissions should be streamlined.