New Delhi: The government plans to set up a Rs700 crore National Innovation Fund (NIF) to encourage ideas to improve enrolment levels and the quality of secondary education in government-run and government-aided schools.
The human resource development (HRD) ministry will roll out the plan in association with institutions such as the World Bank and the UK government’s department for international development (DFID), among others, ministry officials said.
Secondary schools cover classes IX through XII. The fund will support the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (National Secondary Education Campaign), or RMSA, which aims to enhance the quality of education in government-run secondary schools.
“The NIF’s overall objective is to support innovative ideas and approaches that contribute to RMSA’s goal of providing universal access to quality secondary education,” an HRD ministry official said. The official requested anonymity because he isn’t authorized to speak to the media.
“The fund will provide grants to states, districts and sub-district level structure of state governments to support activities in schools that help increase access, equity, quality and improve management at the high school level,” the official added.
Innovative ideas for community participation in secondary schools, career counselling, agricultural education and special incentives to retain girl students from underprivileged sections and backward districts could be implemented through the fund.
The ideas will first be tested out locally; if successful, the NIF will scale them up.
Nearly 40 million students are currently pursuing secondary education, but nearly half of them are expected drop out before college.
India’s gross enrolment ratio in secondary school is 40%, compared with 70% in East Asia and 82% in Latin America, according to a World Bank report published last year.
On 25-26 May, the HRD ministry held a meeting of several state government representatives and members of development partners such as the World Bank, DFID, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), ICICI Foundation and Bharti Foundation, among others, to discuss the proposal, another ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
Under RMSA, the government aims to build new secondary and higher secondary schools, recruit thousands of teachers and use information and communication technologies to improve the quality of education. The Centre has already given Rs560 crore to states under the scheme.
The NIF will be governed by a national steering committee under the HRD ministry, which will be empowered to take decisions independent of RMSA—allowing it to support government-aided schools as well.
The panel will meet at least twice a year to review the progress of the fund and the projects it would be supporting.