All is Well with Indian Secondary Education?
November 2010

All is Well with Indian Secondary Education?

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Outlook of the Indian middle school education scheme, the Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan

By Yukti Pahwa

The Union Government launched Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan (RMSA), a programme for 'Universalisation of Access to and Improvement of Quality of Education at Secondary Stage (SUCCESS)', which is a centrally sponsored scheme that envisages to provide free secondary education to students in the age group of 14 to 18 years.

The objective of the scheme is to improve the middle level school education in terms of quality, access, infrastructure, educational aids, quality teaching, teacher training, etc. Elaborating on certain features the government described that the scheme entails supporting high capacity in secondary schools across country through provision of infrastructure and resources; filling missing gaps in secondary education; and removing disparities through emphasis on support of education of girls, rural children and the children belonging to weaker section of the society for supporting quality teaching-learning process in schools.

This government initiative was thought of as an extension of another national level programme for elementary education, commonly known as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). SSA was launched in 2006-07. Both the programmes have common target of providing universal access and quality education to school age children, respectively. One of the important features of RMSA is creation of a Secondary Education Management Information System (SEMIS). A total amount of  `20,120 crore (for all states) has been allocated for this scheme under 11th Five Year Plan for implementation of RMSA. As per the provision of the scheme, the Centre shall bear 75% of the project expenditure during the 11th five-year plan while states' share will be the remaining 25%. Sharing pattern will be 50:50 for the 12th five-year plan. For both the 11th and 12th five-year plans, funding pattern will be 90:10 for North Eastern States.


The objective of the scheme is to achieve a General Enrolment Ratio (GER) of 75% for classes IX-X within five years by providing a secondary school within a reasonable distance of every habitation, to improve quality of education imparted at secondary level through making all secondary schools conform to prescribed norms, to remove gender, socio-economic and disability barriers, universal access to secondary level education by 2017 and universal retention by 2020.


RMSA in Action

There was a huge recruitment drive under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, under which applications were invited. For instance in Punjab, during January the RMSA authority advertised for 70 posts for experts in the fields of Mathematics, Hindi, Physical Education and so on. At Bapupara, Imphal, in Manipur, a building was made for RMSA exclusively by the State Education Minister, L Jayentakumar, which was constructed at an estimated cost of `35 lakh. One of the foremost localised challenges at this RMSA centre was to adept teachers in the region, with training, to match the global standards on teaching. RMSA's main focus is government schools. However, due to low number of schools in West Bengal, Ministry of Human Resource and Development decided to adjust the scheme accordingly. The exception in rules was brought only for the state of Bengal it has the lowest percentage of secondary schools in the government sector. According to the change in the “abhiyan rules”, the government is to fund not only the government schools that are less than 5% in number in the state but also some selected private schools. In Tamil Nadu the first major activity that preceded the implementation of the scheme, took place in Tiruchi with an orientation on computer literacy for 65 District Educational Officers and 325 computer science teachers.

In Nagaland, RMSA has been rolled out with 90:10 Central-Sate sharing pattern scheme, having an approval of `85 crores in the 2nd phase of the implementation of the initiative. Alongside with this scheme in order to make education of good quality available, accessible and affordable for all the young children of Nagaland, holistic Perspective Plans for Model Schools, Girls Hostels and Mahila Samakhya have also been formulated and accepted in principle by the MHRD.

Technology@RMSA

RMSA as a scheme is being implemented in line with other programmes such as ICT mission of the government, whereby government is facilitating quality education with inculcation of technology across aspects such as content development and management, teacher training, infrastructure and equipment, administration, and so on. The idea is to supplement teachers increase effectiveness and efficiency, and not replace them. Amit Kaushik while agreeing with the above says, “ICT can play a very important part in implementing RMSA.  For instance, India is the only country in the world that has an education satellite, EDUSAT. Use of technology like this to deliver parts of the curriculum can be a very effective tool in the classroom.  However it must always be remembered that ICT is no substitute for good, trained teachers; ICT can supplement but never supplant their efforts.”

The Challenges

RMSA presents as many challenges, as the number of opportunities. It aims to provide a platform for mass education aiming to enhance the GER from 52% at present to 75% by 2014. It aims to facilitate improvement in secondary education through the funding that it provides to schools, from the central government. These funds are being used for expansion of infrastructure, improvement of classrooms and assisting states in publicity drives for education. The other interventions that would be supported by the RMSA scheme would be providing for infrastructure in schools such as new classrooms with furniture, library, science laboratory, computer room and disabled-friendly provisions and help in recruitment of more teacher, provision of in-service training along with teaching aids such as ICT, and special focus would be given to girls belonging to SC,ST and minorities.

Lack of liberal use of funds, opening of desired number of government schools in the country, lack of quality teaching and teachers, and so on are some of the leading challenges. Amit Kaushik, CEO, Pratham Education Foundation says, “RMSA is a natural and much needed response to the impact of the government's flagship programme for universalising elementary education, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).  After nearly ten years of the programme, about 94% children in the 6-14 year age group today are enrolled in elementary school; it is inevitable that a significant proportion of this number will wish to transition to secondary education. Today, only about one-third of all children remain in the system till the secondary stage, and RMSA will help to address issues of access and improvement of quality at the secondary level.”

The Private sector role

Private schools and corporates are being encouraged to participate in the RMSA drive. Availability of funds, quality infrastructure, self-sufficiency and profit-based institutions are some of the factors which are mostly present in a private school set-up. If private institutions and corporates agree to aid the cause of RMSA, some factors such as disparity in education can be brought down significantly, if not completely. However, inclusion is a factor that needs attention not only at school level but also at pre-school level. Corporates can especially come forward to enhance quality and reach. According to Amit Kaushik, “I believe that it is high time we re-examine our attitude towards private investment in schools. 

After the Supreme Court judgment in the TMA Pai case, it has been held that profit making has no place in education; the fact however is that several private players are already in the market and they operate by bending, if not breaking, these rules. Others who could bring significant resources to this sector prefer to stay out because they do not wish to break the law.  In the long term, expecting the private sector to invest in education from purely philanthropic motives is not sustainable, and unless we are prepare to legally allow a reasonable rate of return on capital invested, it will be difficult to attract capital.  If we are able to amend our laws suitably, the private sector can actually support schemes like RMSA a great deal, bringing about transparency, more efficiency and improvement in quality.”

Government say on RMSA and Role of Technology

Shri SC Khuntia
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development

In order to support RMSA, we have other schemes that are to help us to support ICT in schools. Started in 2004, the scheme has been revamped 2010 to make it more ambitious. Three years from now every higher secondary and secondary school in the country must be ICT enabled, which would imply to 1,60,000 secondary and higher secondary schools in the country out of which 1,08,000 schools are with government or government aided and remaining are private/unaided schools.

We are ushering a system for all schools to have certain basic ICT infrastructure and related activities

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