New Delhi: In an effort to improve the reach and quality of secondary education in a country where almost one in two children never sets foot inside a secondary school—a ratio that is even worse among girls — the government could announce a special scheme in the coming Union Budget.
Ride to education: RMSA, details of which were earlier spelt out by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Independence Day in 2007, plans to set up a secondary school within 5km of where students live.
“It (the scheme) may be christened Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and may be in line with the 11th Plan (2007-12) objective of improving gross enrolment ratio and also to reduce inequalities. A tentative allocation of Rs500 crore for preparation work for the scheme is being worked out to be announced in the Union Budget of 2008-09,” said a senior government official, who did not wish to be identified.
India’s broad economic and development goals are laid out in five-year plans prepared by the Planning Commission, the country’s apex planning body.
Mint couldn’t independently ascertain whether the finance ministry would announce such a scheme in the Budget.
Currently, the government runs a programme called Sarva Shikha Abhiyan (SSA), which primarily focuses on providing elementary education to all children.
RMSA, details of which were earlier spelt out by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Independence Day in 2007, seeks to provide quality education to students in the age group of 15-16 (classes X and XI) by 2015 and provide a secondary school within 5km of where they live.
The scheme also envisages a higher secondary school (class XII) within 7km to help students complete their entire education cycle close to their homes.
The gross enrolment ratio in secondary education was 52% in 2004-05, the most recent year for which data is available. The government plans to raise this to 75% by 2012.
RMSA is expected to focus on setting up infrastructure, which will encourage education of girls, scheduled castes and tribes, and other minority and weaker sections.
The Centre plans to implement RMSA by upgrading the so-called upper primary schools (classes VI to VIII) and also existing secondary schools. It proposes to create infrastructure such as more classrooms, computer labs, and separate toilets for girls and boys. It also plans to train teachers.
The Centre plans to spend Rs35,567 crore on improving secondary education in the 11th Plan and will contribute 75% of the total funds required for the programme, with the states putting up the rest. In the 12th Plan, this ratio is expected to be 50:50.
R.S. Srivastava, a professor at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the programme would help use up the education cess corpus that the government had announced in Budget 2007-08.
“Now that the government has collected some money through the cess, it is in a position to announce a Centrally sponsored scheme to improve secondary education. As of now, it seems this will be largely a restructuring exercise for secondary education and will not require any major funding,” he said. Srivastava is also a member of National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector, an advisory body.
Srivastava added that the real test of the programme would be the change it brings about in secondary education and its ability to attract private participation in the process.