The time now coincides with the Global Action week on Education; the campaign trying to raise awareness of the importance of Education for All. In the 2001-2002 school year, some 115 million children of primary-school age were not in school. According to current estimates, 77 million eligible children are not enrolled in school and many of those enrolled do not attend. UNICEF, through this campaign, urges governments and other stakeholders to keep their commitment towards the goal of universal primary education by 2015.
Back home, in India, a joint effort by UNICEF, Ministry of Human Resources Development and National University of Educational Planning and Administration, throws up several interesting facts about the school enrolments and retentions of 1.12 million Primary and Upper Primary schools in the project report of District Information System of Education (DISE). The enrolment of students in classes 1 to 8 in 2005-06 was 168.29 million, a figure showing an increase of 12.28 million from the previous year, but 180 of the 581 districts still show a decline in primary enrolment. DISE has also presented an education development index placing Kerala as the top ranking state and Bihar at the end.
True, there are wide state-wise variations with some regions of the country performing badly on almost all fronts, while others seem to be hitting the target with greater ease. It has often been thought that reinforcing preschool education could address this issue to some extent, not much have been done on this too. The DISE 2005-06 too underlines the need to sit up and plan for pre-school education.
While the government tries to reorganise its efforts, the NASSCOM report on Corporate Social Responsibility indicates that corporates invest the most in education and are engaged in diverse programmes that supplement the efforts of the government be it in education for out of school students to capacity building through ICT or supplementing the Midday Meal programme.
In our cover feature this month, we focus on the learning levels of the children under six, as the country is approaching the timeline of the Universal Elementary Education and the universal retention target of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan by 2010. In this issue, we also cover how the Government of India is trying to reconsider the policy issues of keeping ‘all’ in the education sphere, thinking beyond the primary level, bringing in more empowering tools like information and communication technologies (ICTs) and taking all sectors to a new high, all as part of its preparations for the Eleventh Plan period 2007-2012). These steps does indicate that fundamental right to primary education is a right of the have-nots, and a concern and attempt that is never-too-late.