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HRD minister Smriti Irani. Photo: Hindustan Times
HRD minister Smriti Irani. Photo: Hindustan Times

Human resources development ministry calls meet on outcomes

HRD ministry officials led by minister Smriti Irani to meet state education secretaries to review outcome of right to education Act, mid-day meal scheme, efforts to improve female literacy

New Delhi: Union human resources ministry officials led by minister Smriti Irani will meet state education secretaries on Tuesday to review the outcome of the right to education (RTE) act, the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme and efforts to improve female literacy, as the new government nears its 100th day in office.

The meeting aims to craft an “outcome strategy" for the school sector that gets around three-fourth of the budgetary allocation for education, at least two government officials said. This is also first time the National Democratic Alliance government is taking a holistic view of India’s school system of over 230 million students.

The Union budget has allocated 51,828 crore for schools, out of the total 68,728 crore for education sector. Of this, implementing RTE that mandates compulsory schooling for all children aged 6-14 through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, has got 28,635 crore, while the MDM scheme got 13,215 crore.

“Right to education can be a game changer for India, but its outcome in terms of quality education has not been satisfactory over the last four years. The new government would like to take a view on what exactly are the weak points and difficulties for states," said one of the officials.

“Since the (Narendra) Modi government wants to make education outcome-based, it’s important to take note of the ground situations from state secretaries who are implementing it," said the official, adding the budget has proposed a school assessment programme.

“Many people who are sending their feedback to the government on education through the mygov.in website are extremely unhappy that schools do not have to go through quality check...and want a proper mechanism to supervise quality of teaching," said the official. Though the government schemes bring more children to schools, many are not learning the basics, several studies have pointed out.

“The HRD ministry is planning to bring in a comprehensive ranking system to better the implementation of the programme. A group of experts are working on the competitiveness parameters and it could be discussed with the state secretaries. States will be asked to learn from best practices of each other to have a holistic impact," the second official said. Authorities said female literacy and sanitation will be two other key items of discussion at the meeting.

Though the Sakshar Bharat programme works to improve the literacy rate in 410 districts, there are 90-odd districts where the female literacy is below 50% and around 20 districts with a female literacy rate under 40%, much below the national female literacy average of 65.46%. Most of these are in tribal or naxal belts. “States will be asked to give special focus on these 90-odd districts so that most disadvantaged women can be mainstreamed faster," said the first official.

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