Universalise secondary education:HRD to place a proposal

With the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) clearing the proposed Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) recently, the way is cleared for the launch of a mission-mode exercise to universalise secondary education.

The Union Human Resource Development Ministry will now place the proposal before the Cabinet. Designed along the lines of the ongoing Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) to universalise elementary education, the RMSA seeks to make secondary education “available, accessible and affordable” to all 15 and 16-year-olds by 2017.

Another target of the RMSA is to ensure universal retention by 2020.

The estimated cost of the RMSA has been fixed at INR 42,705 crore in the XI Five Year Plan. Of this, INR 34,164 crore will be the Centre's share. With the road map to universal retention being chalked out till 2020, the total spill-over beyond the current Plan will be in the range of INR 54,000 crore.

Under consideration for sometime now in the wake of an anticipated demand for secondary education as a result of SSA, the RMSA was conceived on the premise that eight years of schooling is insufficient. During the XI Plan, the proposal is to have a secondary school within five kilometres of every habitation. Through the RMSA, the government also plans to provide necessary infrastructure and resources to create higher capacity in secondary education; fill up the gaps in existing secondary schools; and give extra support for education of girls, rural children, Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, minorities and other weaker sections of society. As in the case with the SSA, the existing programmes for secondary education will be merged into the RMSA — “an umbrella scheme” — to create a holistic convergent framework for implementing various schemes. The additional teacher requirement is over two lakh. At present, there are around 10.82 lakh teachers in secondary schools with a Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) of 1:32. To fill the existing gap at a PTR of 1:30 — recommended by the Central Advisory Board of Education — 72,000 additional teachers will have to be recruited. This apart, 1.77 lakh more teachers will be needed to cater to the anticipated additional enrollment of 53.10 lakh.

At last count in 2005-06, the gross enrollment ratio for Classes IX and X — the target age-group of the RMSA — was 52.26 per cent. With the government's focus till date being on elementary education, 58.86 per cent of high schools are run by the private sector. Of these, 31.08 per cent are private unaided schools; thereby necessitating governmental intervention to increase capacity to broad-base secondary education.