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New Delhi: The central government will merge several schemes under one umbrella programme to improve the quality and accessibility of secondary education after failing to achieve several targets during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-12).

According to the plan, the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) will be converted into an umbrella programme by merging several others, including the vocational education scheme and the information, communication and technology (ICT) in schools scheme, a government official said, requesting anonymity.

The consolidation effort is expected to help the government focus on providing access to quality, allow monitoring and getting the desired outcome in the 12th plan period (2012-17), said the official cited above.

The decision comes after the government managed to build only 9,636 schools in the 11th Plan period that ended on 31 March, compared with a target of 11,188, according to official statistics.

Poor infrastructure, bottlenecks during implementation and a high drop-out rate have contributed to the poor performance in secondary education, according to government officials with knowledge of the issue and documents reviewed by Mint. In comparison, enrolment in elementary school (Class I-VIII) reached at least 96% of target following the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. RTE aims to achieve 100% access and enrolment by 2014.

The government expects to achieve 90% gross enrolment ratio in secondary education by 2017 and reduce the student drop out rate to 25% from nearly 50%.

During the 12th Plan, the government plans to ensure quality secondary education with relevant skills, including basic competence in science, mathematics and languages, besides promoting ICT, said the draft 12th Plan document.

The universalization of secondary education with a quality focus is still a long way away, said G. Balasubramanian, a former director at the Central Board of Secondary Education.

“The change happening in government schools is too slow and the accountability mechanism needs to be strengthened," he said. “While upgrading competency of teachers is a key issue, private-public partnership needs to be fostered in the secondary level."

There are at least nine centrally sponsored schemes for secondary education.

“For convergence and improved efficiency, the smaller schemes shall be merged into RMSA without losing focus on the objective," the plan document said. “In following the example of RTE, RMSA shall develop or adopt national norms of secondary schooling."

While there were plans to add 3,500 model schools in educationally backward blocks, the government has managed to open only 1,940. It has opened only 958 girls hostels, considered critical to improve female enrolment, compared with a target of 3,479, the data showed.

Consequently, India added only 2.4 million students to secondary schools in the 11th Plan period instead of the 3.2 million it had targeted. Currently, there are more than 46 million students pursuing education in Class IX-XII.

“There is a renewed focus on secondary education in the country as it is the base for the bulk of the industrial workforce," said the official cited above. “The merging of vocational education with RMSA will help the cause. Besides, there are discussions to keep the central funding unchanged at 75% during the 12th plan."

The states pay only 25% of the RMSA expenditure and there are plans to increase this to 50% in the 12th Plan period. Since the launch of RMSA in 2009-10, the central government has spent more than 4,530 crore on the programme.

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