The World Bank today approved a US$500 million credit to the Secondary Education Project to finance the Government of India’s efforts to make good quality education available, accessible and affordable to all young persons at the secondary level (grades IX and X).
The Project will support all activities as envisioned in the US$12.9 billion Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) program, a flagship Government of India program for gradual universalization of secondary education.
The government has made great strides in the area of elementary education over the past ten years. Net elementary enrollment rate stands at 96 percent and girls are almost equally represented in elementary education as boys. Attention is now needed for secondary education where the gross enrollment rate stands at about 50 percent and quality of education is very low. Access is also unequal and many poor households cannot afford the direct and opportunity costs of secondary education, particularly in rural areas.
This Project is designed to meet critical needs in secondary education. First, to make sure that secondary education expands in such a way that quality and equity are enhanced at the same time; second, to develop and evaluate innovative approaches to secondary education; and, third, to leverage World Bank resources to help the Government address systemic issues in the sector.
“The Government of India (GOI) has been investing in primary education for more than a decade and a half. These investments have resulted in more elementary graduates whose demand for secondary education has gone up tremendously, especially in the last five years. Also, the skills and knowledge requirements of the labor force in a globalized economy requires high quality secondary graduates. This necessitates revamping the secondary education system in India,” said Mr. Venu Rajamony, Joint Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
“It is in response to this surging demand that the GOI has launched another centrally-sponsored scheme, on the lines of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), known as the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan or RMSA. This World Bank Project will support the objectives and activities of RMSA. It will facilitate a whole set of mechanisms built around identifying what is needed to improve the quality of secondary education. The RMSA Program has also established a monitoring system, which will be further enhanced through this Project, including a forthcoming new grade ten national assessment. Teachers will be appointed and trained using the new pedagogical techniques set out in the National Curriculum Framework 2005. Provisions will be made for setting up libraries, science and computer laboratories.”
Today, most of the economic and employment growth in India is taking place in skilled services like information technology, financial services, telecommunications and skill-intensive manufacturing, all of which require, at a minimum, a secondary education degree. Surveys show there has been a steady rise in the rates of return to secondary education, which indicates that demand for the types of knowledge and skills gained, is rising faster than supply.
“A major concern in India today is the issue of quality education. Mere improvement in access, if it is of differential quality, may not be conducive for inclusive growth. Recent international research confirms that improved quality – measured by cognitive skills – is important in determining future income and contribution to economic growth. Hence the country needs all their young people to get good quality secondary education,” said Mr. Roberto Zagha, World Bank Country Director for India. “RMSA is a young program which is expected to grow rapidly and hence it is an opportunity for the World Bank to support the Government of India in building effective systems as the Program expands while improving quality.”
The Project also recognizes that teachers are vital to the success of the RMSA Program. “Efforts to improve quality will not succeed unless there are sufficient and capable teachers in all classrooms supported by the Program. The Program will also encourage and provide resources for innovations, which will spark new solutions for quality, equity and access, said Toby Linden, the Project’s Task Team Leader and Lead Education Specialist, World Bank.
In addition, expansion, repair and renovation will take place in some 60,000 existing government secondary schools; some 44,000 upper primary schools will be upgraded into secondary schools; and about 11,000 new secondary and senior secondary schools will come up mainly in underserved areas. Efforts will also be made to strengthen the role of local bodies in school management, which can, over time, lead to greater accountability and improved outcomes.
The Project will be financed by a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm – which provides interest-free loans with 25 years to maturity and a grace period of five years.