Thursday, April 12, 2012

$500 million World Bank fund for universal secondary education

After chipping in with the flagship elementary education scheme Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the World Bank is now helping the government with a $ 500 million loan to support its scheme for universalising secondary education, the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA). The scheme which is targeted at taking children from elementary school level to secondary level (classes IX and X), started off in 2010 and is estimated to benefit approximately 35 million students annually by 2015.

RMSA will be aided by the World Bank for a five year period from 2012 to 2017. The RMSA was conceptualised with the aim of meeting the increased demand for secondary education as larger numbers started moving up from class VIII (elementary education) due to the impetus given by SSA. In the past, the World Bank has chipped in with $ 1.5 billion, and prior to that $ 1.1 billion loans to support the elementary education scheme SSA. The new loan of $ 500 million for RMSA will be disbursed over a five year period; $ 50 million in 2012-13, followed by $ 125 million in next three years culminating in $ 75 million in 2016-17.

This secondary education scheme aims to provide a secondary school within 5 km of every habitation. Just as in the elementary education scheme, this scheme too intends to not just enable access (proximity) for children especially for girls and those from the poor and marginalised sections to schools but is also intended and to improve the quality and management of secondary education throughout the country. A crucial step to retaining more girls in school is building separate toilets for girls and boys.

Toby Linden, Lead Education Specialist, World Bank speaking to Business Standard said, “The World Bank supports the whole RMSA programme. One new element that will come in, is innovation fund for schools, districts, NGOs and others to generate new ideas to improve quality, equity and access. Learning from these ideas, new approaches will enhance the whole RMSA Programme.”

This centrally-sponsored scheme, covering government and government aided schools is implemented in collaboration with the state governments. While the funding pattern between the Centre and the states in the XI th Five year plan was in the ratio of 75:25, this will be reviewed for the XIIth Five Year Plan. For the North Eastern States however 90:10 sharing ratio will apply for the XI and XII th Five Year Plans.

Liden says, that the allocation of funds is demand-driven, based on the needs and approved requests from states. Therefore, utilisation of the allocation will be dependent on the requirements of a particular state. Funds will be used under several heads including for setting up new secondary schools, upgrade existing upper primary schools and repair and renovate existing secondary schools.

Learning from the lacunae in implementing the elementary education scheme SSA, right from the beginning emphasis in the RMSA will also be on providing quality education. This will be through filling up vacancies for teachers, upgrading teacher skills through refurbished teacher training programmes and improving the curriculum in lines with the new National Curriculum Framework.

With the expertise of the World Bank, the RMSA will be giving greater emphasis on monitoring of the programme and tracking the funds which will inject accountability into the system. A welcome step in the scheme will be the provision for an “innovation fund” to encourage all stakeholders to generate new ideas and means for betterment of the scheme.

The government expenditure on education is still woefully inadequate, at less than 4 per cent of the GDP. While elementary education accounted for 1.7 percent of GDP, secondary education (lower as well as higher secondary education sectors) which accounted for 0.9 per cent of GDP. In this year’s budget 2012- 13, the government has allocated Rs 3214 crore for RMSA, a 20 per cent increase over last year.

Despite the increased financial assistance through agencies like the World Bank, a section of education experts believe that dropouts being a major problem plaguing secondary education both among boys and girls; vocational or employment oriented education should be an integral part of this scheme. If the RMSA indeed performs the manner in which it has been envisaged, then the country’s demographic dividend can be successfully harnessed to provide the world economy the largest pool of trained and skilled labour.

Source: Business Standard, April 12, 2012

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