India has about 15 lakh schools, 25 crore students and 89 lakh teachers. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme launched by the Atal Bihari Vajpayeeled government in 2001 pushed elementary education, and became the tool for the implementation of the Right to Education Act. SSA improved infrastructure of schools, added new schools and classrooms as well as teachers.
The gross access ratio for primary- and upper primary-level education — access to primary and upper primary schools within a distance of 1-3 km — has now reached more than 97% habitations. With this, the gross enrolment ratio at the primary level has reached 100%, while at the upper primary level, it has improved from 75.8% in 2009-10 to 87.7% in 2018-19.
Secondary education opens the gateway for a successful professional life. It is imperative to expand its components. The 2017-18 gross enrolment ratio (GER) data of secondary and senior secondary schools were 76.46 and 48.13% respectively. This increased to 76.90% and 50.14% in 2018-19. Further, GER in higher education increased from 25.8% in 2017-18 to 26.3% in 2018-19. This implies that higher enrolment in secondary education will directly impact the enrolment ratio in higher education, and lower levels of secondary education completion will reduce the pool of students available for higher education.
According to Unesco, every additional year of education can raise an individual’s income by 10% in developing and low-income countries. Hence, a country’s economic productivity increases as the number of educated workers increases. According to OECD, more than half of GDP growth is directly related to labour income growth among secondary and higher educated individuals. Employers pay almost twice as much for a 45-54-year-old worker with senior secondary and higher education than for someone without. GoI is taking SSA’s legacy forward by pushing elementary education and moving towards providing learning opportunities in secondary education. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 encourages holistic development not only at primary and upper primary stages, but also at the secondary levels. NEP aims to achieve 100% GER in pre-school to secondary level by 2030. To increase access at the secondary level, the Samagra Shiksha (SS) scheme was launched in 2018-19. This extends the objective of attaining universal access to education to pre-primary and senior secondary levels. Provision has been made for the first time for setting up and upgrading schools up to the senior secondary level in uncovered areas.
Under SS, transport facilities from elementary to secondary classes up to an average cost `6,000 per child a year for areas where schools are not available have been proposed. Along with this, GoI has started identification of out-of-school children in the 16-19 age group, with support of up to `2,000 per child per grade for them to complete their secondary and senior secondary levels through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and State Open School (SOS). The support will be given for socially and economically disadvantaged groups (SEDG) children for accessing course materials and certification.
It has also been decided to launch the second phase of National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA) at the secondary level to provide capacity-building training opportunities to teachers for improving the quality of education. The provision of a separate stipend for girls with special needs (CWSN) at `200 a month for 10 months for pre-primary to senior secondary level education is also available. This leaves the entire sum of `3,500 per student for other studentoriented components provided to children with special needs.
In addition, GoI aims to provide 100% information and communication technology (ICT) coverage at secondary and senior secondary levels, and upgradation of all Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) up to Class 12. To enhance the employment and entrepreneurial abilities of students, GoI aims to provide vocational education in 15,000 schools and further integrate skill-based education with general academic education.
For the holistic development of secondary-level students, flexibility and choice of subjects to study have been increased. This will enable students to choose from subjects ranging from physical education, vocational skills to art and culture. The four years of secondary education will enable students to gain greater depth and critical thinking, and allow them to design their own life plans.