Universalisation of Elementary Education Education is important not only for the full development of one’s personality, but also for the sustained growth of the nation. Elementary education in India, therefore, is the foundation on which the development of every citizen and the nation as a whole hinges. But making primary education available for all in India has also been one of the major challenges for the government. Moreover, the quality of elementary education in India has also been a major cause of worry for the government.
In fact, making elementary education in India accessible, universal and relevant has been a goal since the eighth five-year plan. Elementary education in India means eight years of schooling from the age of six. The government has made elementary education compulsory and free. But, the goal of universal elementary education in India has been very difficult to achieve till now. Therefore it has introduced innovative ways of universalizing elementary education in India. After the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) of 1994, the govt. as now launched the “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan” or SSA. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was launched in 2001 to universalize and improve the quality of elementary education in India through community ownership of elementary education. In order to effectively decentralize the management, it has involved Panchayati Raj institutions, School Management Committees, Village and Urban Slum Level Education Committees, Parents’ Teachers’ Associations, Mother Teacher Associations, Tribal Autonomous Councils and other grassroots level structures.
SSA, apart from being a programme with clear time frame for Elementary Education, also offers opportunities to the states to develop their own vision of elementary education. It has set 2007 as the deadline for providing primary education in India and 2010 as the deadline for providing useful and relevant elementary education to all children in the 6 to 14 age group. In order to improve the quality of elementary education in India, the SSA has emphasized on improving the student teacher ratio, teachers training, academic support, facilitating development of teaching earning material and providing textbooks to children from special focus groups etc. Despite all the efforts of the government of India, universalization of elementary education in India remains a distant dream. This is because of the persistent poverty and various prejudices prevailing in the Indian society. While the growth in female literacy is increasing at a faster rate than male literacy, the gap in the male female literacy has been a major hindrance in the universalization of elementary education in India. While the total literacy rate is 65. 8% according to 2001 census, the female literacy rate is only 54. 16%. Another area of concern is to reduce the gap between the rural and urban literacy rate. While 80. 3% urban people are literate, only 59. 4% of the rural population is literate according to 2001 census data. Thus reduction in poverty, promotion of female education, emphasis on rural education, providing incentives for retaining the children from weaker sections of the society would have to go together so that it can achieve the goal set by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and also the Millennium Development goal by 2015 set by the UNESCO.