UNIVERSALISATION OF ELEMENTARY EDUCATION IN UTTAR PRADESH

 

Nidhi Bala

Suniti Rani Bora

 

INTRODUCTION

Recent giant leap towards achieving quality education in the State of Uttar Pradesh was the launch of the centrally sponsored programme –‘Sarva Shiksha Abiyaan’ (SSA) in 2001 covering all 70 districts of Uttar Pradesh aiming at all children of 6-11 years to complete 5 years of schooling by 2007 and all children of 11-14 years to complete 8 years of elementary schooling by 2010.

 

MANAGEMENT

U.P. Education for All Project Board (UPEFAPB) has evolved a management structure with a high degree of flexibility in administrative functioning. In a vast state like Uttar Pradesh with regional variations, the emphasis has been on conceptuality, local needs and decentralized planning. For the effective implementation of the programme, UPEFA also works in convergence and collaboration with other departments. As per the report of Overall Implementation Report, January, 2007 during 2005-2006, the total available fund with the state for SSA was Rs. 2484.88cr, out of which Rs. 2233.74cr was spent till March 2006.

 

Expanding Access 

In order to make schools accessible and within the reach of children, the State revised the previous norms and reduced the distance to 1 km for primary and 3 km for upper primary schools to be opened. In addition to this, an initiative was also undertaken in 1997-98 to evolve the cost-effective and environmentally sensitive designs of primary school buildings. Consequently, five new designs of primary school buildings-New Prototype Design, Bhorsi, Roshan Pura Design, Railway Ganj Design, Asigaon Design, and Bhamma Purva Design developed from ‘School Construction Innovation Fund’ have been provided under DPEP-II.

 

INCREASE IN ENROLMENT

According to the provincial data available under District Information System for Education, in Uttar Pradesh, the Gross Enrolment Ratio at primary level for boys and girls was 107.85% and 106.66% in 2005-06. The Net Enrolment Ratio for boys and girls was 98.29% and 97.17%.

 

Mid-Day Meal

The State Government launched cooked mid-day meal programme for nourishment of children in primary schools aims to provide minimum 300 calories and 8-12 gram protein to each child for at least 200 days in a year. The programme is administered by Mid-Day Meal (MDM) cells set up at State, Commissionary, and District levels and Village Education Committee (VEC) at village level. Task force, constituted at district and block levels, visits at least 5 schools every month for effective monitoring and supervision of the programme. The implementation of the Mid-Day Meal has ensured the increased in enrolment and retention of children.

 

Village Education Committee

For one of the major components of SSA is promoting the retention of children in the school, the emphasis has been on giving pre-eminence to people’s involvement, including association of non-governmental agencies and voluntary efforts, inducting more women in the planning and management of education. VECs play a major role in bringing the positive attitudinal change in people towards education and in mobilizing the community and motivating parents/ guardians to send their children to schools, especially girls and children from disadvantaged groups. They are also responsible for school construction and maintenance, purchase of materials, school mapping and micro- planning exercise, preparation of Village Education Plan and school management as well as teacher performance.

 

Promoting Girls’ Education

National Programme of Education for Girls at Elementary Level (NPEGEL) launched in 2003, initiated the opening of Child Care Center to relieve girls from sibling care and distribution of free uniforms to girls. Libraries have been set up in these schools in collaboration with National Book Trust.  Mahila Samakhya, also supporting cause, is working in 11 blocks in 11 districts in UP, as a movement for women rights with girls’ education as its main tool. Another innovative step Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhalaya (KGBV) Scheme launched in 2004 aims to deal with issues relating to gender gaps, regular attendance of girls and transition to upper primary stage. This initiative seems to be very effective as girls who could not be sent to formal schools in the same village due to socio-economic reasons; their parents now willingly send their girls to KGVBs.   Another excellent initiative to promote the confidence of girls and give them life skill education is Meena Manch. These Manchs have a range of art and craft activities for skill development like stitching, making soft toys etc. which could make them stand in long stead for income generation as well. These life skill camps also familiarize the adolescents with issues related to family, health care, including reproductive health; safe motherhood, AIDS etc.

 

Strategy for bringing out - of- school children

With the annual growth in the school - age population, the ever increasing number of ‘out of school children’ within the formal education fold and lack of available places to keep pace, demands flexibility in school timings to adjust to the needs of such children who can not attend formal schools. Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) is one such scheme which envisages opening of centers for class 1 and 2 in habitations, with no primary school within a radius of 1 km and 30 children in the age group of 6 to 11 yrs. To foster ‘ownership’ of the scheme, the community has been assigned the responsibility to provide the space and accommodation for the center. Formal curriculum and textbooks are used in these centers. Each EGS center has an Acharyaji, a local candidate with minimum High School qualification, selected by VECs to teach children of class 1 and 2 with monthly honorarium of Rs.1000. In 2006-07, out of 5693 sanctioned EGS, 4985 sites have been selected and 4554 centers are operational.

 

Education of Children with special needs (CWSN)

The National commitment of providing free education to all children of the age group of 6-14 years will remain a distant dream unless children with special needs are included into the umbrella of education. Estimates indicate that 5-10% of children in the State either do not enroll in primary school or dropout due to a variety of physical or learning related disabilities.

For this, early detection and integration of such children, medical and functional assessment, supply of aids and appliances, special-teacher training programmes etc are conducted in collaboration with various NGOs and Handicapped Welfare Department. When the academic session starts, the identification and classification of CWSN is generally done by non-medico persons like class teacher, resource persons and iterant teachers, which is not very medically accurate. When such children are examined by the doctors at the later stage, the classification done by the non- medico persons often gets reshuffled. Therefore there is difference between the number of identified CWSN and the number of integrated children. For the first time. appointment of 171 single disability special educators at districts level as resource persons and 924 itinerant teachers at cluster level with the aim to provide support to CWSN in schools has been initiated. SSA has also adopted a zero rejection policy which means that no child having special needs should be deprived of the right to education. A three month Residential Bridge Course has been introduced for severely disabled children. The objective of the programme is to prepare children with visual and hearing impairments for school through a readiness programme. Contents of these bridge courses are mobility training, Braille reading and writing, social integration, speech therapy, language development, lip reading, etc. These children are prepared for class 1-5 depending on their learning levels. An impressive initiative has been the conversion of all primary textbooks into Braille script making learning process according to the needs of CWSN. Conversion of upper primary textbooks is under process. Another step has been the making of barrier free school buildings for physically handicapped children with the aim to provide ramps in all primary schools. Also Rs.3.5crore has been released to Handicapped Welfare Department for strengthening of 12 special schools, seven workshops and establishment of Nursery schools for CWSN.  Five nursery schools have been started in- Agra, Allahabad, Lucknow, Saharanpur and Varanasi.226 children have been enrolled in these schools. These children are provided vocational training for computer training, candle making, English speaking course, tailoring, mobile repairing, typing.

 

QUALITY IMPROVEMENT

Improving the quality of elementary education is central to the SSA and teacher pupil ratio has a significant bearing on quality of education. To bring the State teacher pupil ratio of 1:49 to that of National level of 1:40, recruitment of teachers is being done in the State. For class 1 and 2, during 2001-2002 to 2005-2006; 1, 49, 868 para-teachers (shiksha mitras) and in 2006-07, 801 para-teachers were selected and have been placed in primary schools. The recruitment of para-teachers has reduced single teacher schools from 17% to 4%.

 

TEACHER TRAINING PROGRAMMES

Empowerment and capacity building of teachers lie at the core of all the quality programmes. Teachers are regularly given various in-service and refresher course trainings focusing various pedagogical areas. The modules  developed for the purpose are: 1. ‘Shikshakodaya’ module focusing on motivating the teachers and improving their self image; 2. ‘Sabal’ emphasizing on developing the content knowledge of primary teachers and equipping them to use the new textbooks for Maths (class 2-3) in the classroom effectively; 3.Saadhan’ on effective use of textbooks in the classroom, up gradation of content knowledge of teachers, use of new transitional methodologies, handling multi-grade and multi-level teaching and preparation of content specific teaching learning materials;  4.’Samridhha’ focusing Block and Cluster Resource coordinators to carry out their responsibilities effectively at upper primary level; 5. ‘Sankalp’ comprehensively talks about the leadership qualities and roles and responsibilities of head master as the leader of the school; 6. ‘Effective School Library’ focusing on how to inculcate reading habits among children through school library; and 7. ‘Pathan Kshamta Vikas’ to make teachers oriented towards techniques of reading skill-pronunciation, modulation. The introduction of new text books generated a demand to orient teachers towards new textbooks and upgrade their teaching skills especially in English and Sanskrit subjects at primary level. Therefore, one teacher from each primary school is trained  on these subjects. Master trainers in each subject for upper primary teachers have been trained by institutes like- State Institute of Education (SIE) Allahabad on social studies, English Language Training Institute (ELTI) Allahabad on English subject, State Institute of  Science ( SISE), Allahabad on science subject and  Hindi Sansthan, Varanasi on Hindi subject. With the help of Pratham, an NGO, all para-teachers are being trained to teach Hindi and Mathematics with the help of specially designed and developed teaching learning materials for classes 1 and 2.

 

Textbooks and Teacher Guides

The next important step is improvement in classroom transactions and ensuring quality in children’s learning. Child friendly textbooks developed both for primary and upper primary grades are being used. Teacher guides based on these new textbooks have also been prepared to reinforce the child centered pedagogy. Teacher guides from class 1-5 on all subjects have been developed and distributed in all primary schools. Teacher guides of class 6 to 8 on six subjects (Hindi, English, Maths, Science, Social studies and Sanskrit) have been developed and distributed in all upper primary schools. All teacher guides have been translated into Urdu language to expand their reach to minorities’ schools. Attractive workbooks for grade 1 and 2 have also been developed with UNICEF assistance which would certainly improve learning opportunities of children.

 

Grading of Schools

School grading earlier was being done in the districts on the basis of parameters, which did not give priority to learners’ achievement levels. The aim of school grading was to create competitive spirit among the schools and direct action to be taken to improve the quality of education of the target school under grade 'C' and 'D'. School grading is based on learning level for which 55% marks have been provided. Three session exams have to be organized before grading, which are to be held in the month of Sept, Nov. and Feb. Grading to be done in the month of October, January and March on the basis of three session exams. 100 marks have been kept for grading. The provision of addition of 25% marks from 3 session exams with half yearly and yearly exam has been given in G.O. to maintain the importance of session exams.

 

Other strategies

*No detention policy is followed in class 1 and 2.

*Teaching of English as a subject from class 3 onwards.

*Free text books to all children.

*An annual grant of Rs. 2000/- to each primary school of the district for improving school environment by purchase of required materials.

* Repair and maintenance grant @ 5000 per school to schools of 70 districts.

*Annual grant of Rs. 500/- per teacher for development of locally suitable teaching learning materials.

*Remedial teaching course are conducted during summer vacation.

*Inclusion of one period for remedial teaching in regular time table of the schools.

 

CONCLUSION

While there is no doubt that the programme is making strides towards its super goals, there are certain concerns which need to be addressed in order to ensure maximum attainment of SSA goals. While the programme has demonstrated a fair degree of progress with regard to universalizing enrolment, teacher trainings, textbook development, improvement in infrastructure facilities in schools, time has come now to make a clear shift in focus towards addressing the other more critical parameters such as retention/ dropout, attendance, transition and learning levels. There is need to widen and deepen the range of investigations to include empirical studies, analysis of available data, assessment of impact of programme interventions and factors influencing the achievement of programme objectives.