The background to this post comes in the realisation that though the government has launched big ticket “social-welfare” schemes in the last decade or so, the government should not merely be throwing money at problems existing in our society. Social welfare schemes should have well-designed, well-formulated structures which can maximise benefits to the poor or the underprivileged.
The Planning Commission has put up a number of evaluation studies on its website. Starting today, I will be summarising their evaluation reports of some key schemes which are touted as evidence of the government’s concern for the common man. The first summary is on the national literacy scheme now named the ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan‘.
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is a programme of the government of India aimed at achieving universal elementary education.
- All children in school, Education Guarantee Centre, Alternate School, ‘Back-to-School’ camp by 2003; extended to 2005.
- Bridge all gender and social category gaps at primary stage by 2007 and at elementary education level by 2010.
- Universal retention by 2010.
- Focus on elementary education of satisfactory quality with emphasis on education for life.
The study of the Planning Commission focussed on (a) the extent to which the approach adopted under the SSA have been successful, (b) to identify the main bottlenecks in the implementation of the program, and (c) to suggest the appropriate course for the future.
Some of the negative findings in the report are:
- Universal access has not been achieved due to formation of new habitations over time, non availability of land (forest areas), delays in construction, procedural delays and lack of community involvement.
- There is no uniformity in the classification of primary schools and upper primary schools as classes I-V are categorized as primary schools in some states and class V as upper primary in other states.
- 70% of the out of school children in the villages and 84% in the urban slums were willing to attend schools. Their expectations were free uniforms, free textbooks, scholarships and no punishment. Gender bias exists as 55% of the dropouts were girls. In urban areas too, the share of girls in out of school children was 58%.
- Though infrastructural facilities have improved in the schools, some states continued to have infrastructural deficits. All schools have blackboards (except a few schools in Himachal Pradesh), 88% are in pucca (all weather) buildings and 90% of the schools provide drinking water(except few schools in Rajasthan). Though common toilets were available in 82% of the schools, only 50% of the schools had separate toilets for girls.
- Lack of electricity in 60% of rural schools and non availability of trained teachers for computer education deters computer aided learning methods. Only 11% of the schools were provided with computers. Urban slum schools were better placed with 86% having electricity and 62% schools equipped with computers.
- In seven states, state level monitoring committees have not been constituted. District level teams were functioning in all the selected districts but the norms governing the composition, functions and frequency of visits were not clear.
- Teacher shortages and single teacher schools have severely undermined the achievement of quality education in most states. The onus of involving teachers in non teaching activities such as census survey, election duties, household surveys, supervision of midday meals has been a demotivating factor as more than half of the teachers expressed disinterest in such activities.
The most interesting aspect of the findings/ issues raised in the report according to me, is that of the multitude of tasks given to teachers to perform. The teacher’s job is to teach, and one assumes they would be most highly motivated towards teaching students, rather than other jobs.
If most of their time is spent on doing jobs which they are not competent to do, are we not diluting the quality of education being supplied to students? Are we reducing the time a teacher might have to think of new and innovative methods of teaching by requiring them to do all sorts of sundry jobs? Education is a serious profession, enough to merit huge investment by the government. Then why leave make teachers run around doing all sorts of other jobs while the challenge of educating India’s young population looms large in front of us?