Government Policies for Promotion of Education: RTE Act, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, Mid Day Meal Scheme, National Youth Policy

Policy Initiatives of the Government in the Education Sector

National Policy on Education 1986.

A key milestone in India’s march towards Education for All was the adoption of the National Policy on Education 1986 (revised in 1992) which states “In our national perception, education is essentially for all”.

Some of the key thrust areas of the National Policy on Education 1986/92 include;

  • National system of education which implies that “up to a given level, all students, irrespective of caste, creed, location or sex, have access to education of a comparative quality”
  • Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) “both as a feeder and a strengthening factor for primary education and for human resource development in general”
  • Focus on universal access and enrolment, universal retention of children up to 14 years of age; and a substantial improvement in the quality of education to enable all children achieve essential levels of learning;
  • Emphasis “on the removal of disparities and to equalize educational opportunity by attending to the specific needs of those who have been denied equality”
  • Widening of access to secondary education with emphasis on enrolment of girls, Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), particularly in science, commerce and vocational streams;
  • Education for women’s equality, with special emphasis on the removal of women’s illiteracy and obstacles inhibiting their access to, and retention in, elementary education;
  • The introduction of systematic, well-planned and rigorously implemented Programmes of vocational education aimed at developing a healthy attitude amongst students towards work and life, enhancing individual employability, reducing the mismatch between the demand and supply of skilled manpower, and providing an alternative to those intending to pursue higher education without particular interest or purpose;
  • Making adult education Programmes a mass movement involving literacy campaigns and comprehensive Programmes of post-literacy and continuing education for neo-literates and youth who have received primary education with a view to enabling them to retain and upgrade their literacy skills, and to harness it for the improvement of their living and working condition;
  • Overhauling of the system of teacher education with emphasis on continuing professional development of teachers, establishment of District Institutes of Education and Training (DIET) with the capability to organize pre-service and in-service training of elementary school teachers, and upgradation of selected secondary teacher training colleges.

National Policy on Early Childhood Care and Education (2013)

  • A National Policy on Early Childhood Care and Education was adopted in September 2013. The Policy envisages promotion of inclusive, equitable and contextualized opportunities for promoting optimal development and active learning capacity of all children below six years of age.
  • The policy lays down the way forward for a comprehensive approach towards ensuring a sound foundation for survival, growth and development with focus on care and early learning for every child.
  • The key goals of the policy include: Universal access with equity and inclusion; Quality in ECCE; and Strengthening capacity, monitoring and supervision, advocacy, research and review.

National Youth Policy (NYP):

  • The National Youth Policy, 2003 reiterated the country’s commitment to the composite and all-round development of the youth and adolescents of India.
  • The objectives of the National Youth Policy 2003 included providing the youth with proper educational and training opportunities and facilitating access to information in respect of employment opportunities and to other services, including entrepreneurial guidance and financial credit.
  • The National Youth Policy, 2014 policy seeks to empower youth of the country to achieve their full potential.
  • The priority areas of NYP 2014 include: education, employment and skill development, entrepreneurship, health and healthy lifestyles, sports, promotion of social values, community engagement, participation in politics and governance, youth engagement, inclusion and social justice.
  • In the National Youth Policy, 2014 document, the youth age-group is defined as 15-29 years.

Right to Education Act

  • In 2010, the country achieved a historic milestone when Article 21-A and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 became operative on 1st April 2010.
  • The enforcement of Article 21-A and the RTE Act represented a momentous step forward in our country’s struggle for universalising elementary education.
  • The RTE Act is anchored in the belief that the values of equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society can be achieved only through provision of inclusive elementary education to all.
  • The Right to Free & Compulsory Education Act 2009 provides a justiciable legal framework that entitles all children between the ages of 6-14 years free and compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education.
  • ‘Free education’ means that no child, other than a child who has been admitted by his or her parents to a school which is not supported by the appropriate Government, shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.
  • ‘Compulsory education’ casts an obligation on the appropriate Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group.
  • It provides for children’s right to an education of equitable quality, based on principles of equity and non-discrimination.
  • Most importantly, it provides for children’s right to an education that is free from fear, stress and anxiety.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan

  • The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is being implemented as India’s main programme for universalising elementary education.
  • Its overall goals include universal access and retention, bridging of gender and social category gaps in education and enhancement of learning levels of children.
  • SSA has been operational since 2000-2001 to provide for a variety of interventions for universal access and retention, bridging of gender and social category gaps in elementary education and improving the quality of learning.
  • SSA interventions include inter alia, opening of new schools and alternate schooling facilities, construction of schools and additional classrooms, toilets and drinking water, provisioning for teachers, regular teacher in service training and academic resource support, free textbooks & uniforms and support for improving learning achievement levels / outcome.
  • With the passage of the RTE Act, changes have been incorporated into the SSA approach, strategies and norms.
  • During the period 2000-01 to 2013-14, the number of primary schools (schools with only primary section) has increased from 638,738 to 858,916 schools while the number of schools imparting upper primary education increased from 206,269 to 589,796.
  • Nationally, about 98 per cent of the rural habitations have a primary school within a distance of 1 km.
  • The enrolment in primary education during the period 2000-01 to 2013-14 has increased by 18.6 million (from 113.8 million to 132.4 million).

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) services under the Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS)

  • The ICDS Scheme is one of the world’s largest programmes for early childhood development. This has a component aimed at pre-school education for children of age 3-5+ years.
  • All services under ICDS converge at the Anganwadi – a village courtyard – which is the main platform for delivering these services.
  • The ICDS Scheme covers all the States and Union Territories in the country.
  • The expansion of ICDS contributed significantly to the increased coverage of ECCE services.
  • The number of projects under the ICDS scheme has increased from 4,068 to 7,025 projects during the period 2001-02 to 2012-13.
  • The number of Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) increased by 145% (from 545,714 to 1,338,732 centres) during the period 2001-2002 to 2012-13.
  • The total number of children of age 3-5+ years, who received pre-school education in Anganwadi Centres increased by 112% (from 16.7 million to 35.3 million) during the period 2001-02 to 2012-13.
  • Girls constituted 49% (17.3 million) of the total number of children who received pre-school education during the year 2012-13.

Mid-Day Meal Scheme

  • With a view to enhancing enrolment, retention and attendance and simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children, the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) was launched as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme on 15th August 1995.
  • In 2001, MDMS became a cooked Mid-Day Meal Scheme under which every child in every Government and Government aided primary school was to be served a prepared Mid-Day Meal with a minimum content of 300 calories of energy and 8-12-gram protein per day for a minimum of 200 days.
  • The Scheme was further extended in 2002 to cover not only children studying in Government, Government aided and local body schools, but also children studying in Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) and Alternative & Innovative Education (AIE) centres.
  • In September 2004, the Scheme was revised to provide for Central Assistance for Cooking cost @ Re 1 per child per school day to cover cost of pulses, vegetables cooking oil, condiments, fuel and wages and remuneration payable to personnel or amount payable to agency responsible for cooking.
  • Transport subsidy was also raised from the earlier maximum of Rs 50 per quintal to Rs. 100 per quintal for special category states and Rs 75 per quintal for other states.
  • Central assistance was provided for the first time for management, monitoring and evaluation of the scheme @ 2% of the cost of food grains, transport subsidy and cooking assistance.
  • A provision for serving mid-day meal during summer vacation in drought affected areas was also made.
  • In July 2006, the Scheme was further revised to enhance the cooking cost to Rs 1.80 per child/school day for States in the North-Eastern Region and Rs 1.50 per child / school day for other States and UTs.
  • The nutritional norm was revised to 450 Calories and 12 gram of protein. In order to facilitate construction of kitchen-cum-store and procurement of kitchen devices in schools provision for Central assistance @ Rs. 60,000 per unit and @ Rs. 5,000 per school in phased manner were made.
  • In October 2007, the Scheme was extended to cover children of upper primary classes (i.e. class VI to VIII) studying in 3,479 Educationally Backwards Blocks (EBBs) and the name of the Scheme was changed from ‘National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education’ to ‘National Programme of Mid-Day Meal in Schools’.
  • The nutritional norm for upper primary stage was fixed at 700 Calories and 20 grams of protein. The Scheme was extended to all areas across the country from 1.4.2008.
  • The Scheme was further revised in April 2008 to extend the scheme to recognized as well as unrecognized Madrasas / Maqtabs supported under SSA.
  • During 2009-10, 8.41 cr in Primary and 3.36 cr Upper Primary children i.e a total of 11.77 cr children were estimated to be benefited from MDM Scheme.
  • During 2010-11, 11.36 Cr children i.e 7.97 Cr. children in primary and 3.39 Cr. children in upper primary had been covered in 12.63 lakhs institutions.
  • During 2011-12 total coverage of children against enrolment was 10.52 Crore (i.e. Prymary-7.71 crore and Upper Primary 3.36 crore children).
  • During 2012-13, 10.68 Cr. children (Elementary level) had been covered in 12.12 lakh Schools. 10.45 Cr. children were covered in 11.58 lakh Schools during 2013-14.
Himanshu Arora
Doctoral Scholar in Economics & Senior Research Fellow, CDS, Jawaharlal Nehru University
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