Secondary Education plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of children in a country. It is the gateway for prosperity, for transforming the economy and establishing social justice in any country. It opens the world of work to the youth of the country and contributes to socio economic development of the community. It is a crucial stage in the educational hierarchy as it prepares the students for higher education and also the world of work. With the liberalization and globalization, the rapid changes have been witnessed in scientific and technological world and its impact on Secondary Education as well.
Government of India launched Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) in 2009 with the objective of Universalization of Secondary Education and Keeping the objectives in view, schemes such as [email protected] School, Integrated Education of the Disabled at Secondary Stage (IEDSS), Construction and running of Girl’s Hostel (GH) and Vocationalisation of Higher Secondary Education (VE) have been converged to ensure administrative efficiency and optimal utilization of resources and to avoid hurdles in holistic planning and implementation of the schemes.
Secondary Education in India constitutes Classes IX and X , whereas classes XI and XII are designated as the higher (senior) secondary stage. The normal age group of the children in secondary classes is 14-16 whereas it is 16-18 for higher secondary classes.
The population of the age group 14-18 was 9.6 crore in 2011 as per census data.Total Number of Government secondary schools were 73825 in 2013-14 whereas number of government elementary schools are 1093969 . Thus ratio of elementary and secondary schools is 15:1 at national level. After five years of RMSA scheme of GOI access to secondary education remains a serious concern.
The onus of providing education largely rests with government whereas share of government schools at elementary and secondary level (Including aided schools) is 75% and 63% respectively. This itself indicates the pathetic condition. RMSA project approval board granted permission to upgrade about 10400 schools till 2013-14, which is cumin in camel’s mouth. This also reflects the improvidence and lackadaisical approach of MHRD officials which is unfair with poor and needy children. MHRD need to hone their officers working in this multi crore scheme.
Universalisation of elementary education has become a Constitutional mandate. Children passing out class VIII are looking for secondary schools for continuing their studies but in absence of secondary schools transition from elementary to secondary reported to JRM is 91% which needs to be revisited because it should match with the GER at Elementary and Secondary level which is 89 and 65 respectively.
Gross Enrolment ratio, one of the goals of RMSA, reported in 2009-10, the beginning year of RMSA was 58.5 (60 for boys and 57 for girls) has shown marginal increase to 65 (Boys 66 and Girls 62) reported by Joint Review Mission held in 2013.
There are significant gaps between the proposals states make to the PAB and the approvals, and states frequently do not understand why proposals were rejected since the reasons for such rejection were not always recorded in the Minutes. Bias for one reason or the other with some states may not be ruled out.
With the advent of RMSA in March 2009, following promises have been made by the government to achieve USE:
- To ensure that all secondary schools have physical facilities, staffs and supplies at least according to the prescribed standards through financial support in case of Government/ Local Body and Government aided schools, and appropriate regulatory mechanism in the case of other schools.
- To improve access to secondary schooling to all young persons according to norms – through proximate location (say, Secondary Schools within 5 kms, and Higher Secondary Schools within 7-10 kms) / efficient and safe transport arrangements/residential facilities, depending on local circumstances including open schooling. However in hilly and difficult areas, these norms can be relaxed. Preferably residential schools may be set up in such areas.
- To ensure that no child is deprived of secondary education of satisfactory quality due to gender, socio-economic, disability and other barriers.
- To improve quality of secondary education resulting in enhanced intellectual, social and cultural learning.
- To ensure that all students pursuing secondary education receive education of good quality
Achievement of the above objectives would also, inter-alia, signify substantial progress in the direction of the Common School System. A well-conceived and properly planned programme can succeed only if it can be well implemented; and that is possible only when all the implementers are in place. Significant vacancy of staff exists at state and district level draws attention to the fact that unless it is filled up, desired accomplishment of USE will be a distant dream
There is emphasis on infrastructure (especially civil works) and Norms and standards have been prescribed but in absence of a clear guideline, slow progress in infrastructure development is obvious. Only 25% of the schools sanctioned so far under the scheme are completed where quality of the building seems to be compromised.
Teacher Recruitment is of pivotal importance in secondary education. To appoint qualified and trained subject specific teachers there is urgent need to strengthen teacher management planning which is absent across the states and UTs except in Kerala where there is a teachers pool to fill up vacancies without any delay. There are large number of teachers position vacant in states/UTs besides the above vacancies.
Limited connection between Teacher professional development and teachers need is a matter of concern. There is dearth of teacher training institutions which is reflected by poor performance in In-service teachers training that has been imparted to 53% of the teachers in 2012-13 which is the highest in previous four years. These trainings have been limited to rituals.and customary practices.
Limited endeavour by GoI and state governments to remove bottlenecks to accomplish the goals is represented by the overall fund utilisation which is around 50 percent. Kerala and Orissa are the top performers in this category followed by Punjab with 92 percent fund utilisation, Maharashtra with 89 percent and Madhya Pradesh with 85 percent respectively. The other States/UTs that have utilised funds up to 50 percent against the outlay are Andaman & Nicobar, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. This is an area of challenge for a large portion of participating States/UTs.
MHRD integrated the segregated schemes but in practice convergence within the departments is not visible. In such a case talking convergence with other Ministries and schemes will be an exaggeration.
Census 2011 reports that Nearly four crore adolescents or 15% of the 10-19 age group are already working but there is no serious mechanism in the scheme to bring those out of school children into the mainstream of society where they can enjoy their childhood and lead a life of dignity.
There are plethora of schools which confuses the children and society at large. Average per child cost in these schools varies for Government schools, government aided schools, Model Schools Kendriya Vidyalayas and with variety of teachers, adverse pupil-teacher ratio, limited ICT usage, are governed by various board rules and standards. How these schools will work as pace-setting institutions and support system to other secondary schools in that area.
It’s a complete nose dive of RMSA Scheme.
(Writer is Former Chief Consultant, MHRD, GOI. )