The national income outlay on education has gone up to 3.8 per cent of the national income although the policy recommended the gradual increase in investment in education to reach a level of 6 per cent of the national income.
In 1947, it was less than half a per cent of the national income of undivided India i.e., including those for the areas now included in Pakistan and Bangladesh but excluding those of the erstwhile princely states.
It is of paramount importance to note that in pursuit of attaining higher ranks in terms of Human Development Index and considering that in the wake of the globalized scenario, the Union Governments in power, in recent years, have been according highest priority to education, in order to transform our country’s population into a knowledge-based society, with a view to achieving higher and consistent economic growth.
The National Policy on Education:
The National Policy on Education, which was approved by the Parliament in 1986, envisaged a national system of education, based on a national curricular framework containing a common core, other components being flexible.
Promotion of national integration being its goal, the common core curriculum includes the history of India’s freedom movement, our constitutional obligations, cultural value system, national heritage, inculcation of scientific temper, observance of small family norms, secularism, democracy and socialism and other valuable inputs from all regions of the country and contribution from states in full measure.
The new education policy has, therefore, highlighted the growing concern over the erosion of essential values. It aims at making education a forceful tool for the cultivation of social and moral values. The National System of Education envisages a common educational structure of 10 + 2 + 3.
Of the first twelve years, efforts are being made to move towards an elementary system of seven years of primary education, three years of upper primary education and finally two years of high school. Accordingly, a scheme was formulated to set up coeducational residential schools called Navodaya Vidyalayas, on an average one in each district, during the Seventh Plan.
Its purpose is also to remove prejudices and complexes transmitted through the social environment. Adequate provisions have been made in the Policy for the education of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, minorities, handicapped and Other educationally backward sections.
The idea is to bring them at par with the national mainstream. Navodaya schools were conceived by late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and aimed at extending quality education to the rural areas.
They are primarily residential co-educational institutions for the rural areas. The Navodayas aim at providing free education up to +2 levels to the talented children to develop their full potential and to promote national integration.
The new education policy accorded priority in solving the attendant problems of school drop-outs. This effort is to be fully coordinated with the network of non-formal education. It is to ensure that all children who reach the age of about 11 years will have had five years of schooling or its equivalent through the non- formal starry.
All children are to be provided free and compulsory education up to 14 years of age. There are at present 161,000 such centres (with 21,000 centres exclusively for girls) functioning with an involvement of 35 lakh teachers in nine educationally backward states including Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
India’s first Open School was established in 1979 by the Central Board of Secondary Education. Offering coaching through correspondence lessons, it provides access to educational opportunities without interrupting the learner’s employment pursuits.
An open school differs from the conventional school in certain ways. A learner may join and leave the course at any time, need not stick to the rigidly prescribed combination of subjects, and will accumulate his credits earned at different periods.
One of the premier institutions for open schools is the Indira Gandhi National Open University established in September 1985 by an Act of the Parliament. The concept of Open University first originated in the UK.
National Literacy Mission:
For eradication of illiteracy in the country a massive programme called National Literacy Mission has been implemented. Post-literacy programmes and continuing education has been ensured through “Jan Shikshan Nilayams”.
The scheme of “Shramik Vidyapeeths” has also been reviewed. The mass programme of Rural Functional Literacy Programmes (RFLP) was launched with the participation of about five lakh adult learners on a voluntary basis; programmes for women have also been given priority.
Since this was a part of the new 20-point programme, it had to be implemented in a time-bound schedule. This is in addition to the programmes of the state governments under the State Plan.
The new education policy envisages that education will be used as an agent of enhancement in the status of women. In order to neutralise the handicaps women suffered in the past, the educational curriculum and its functioning will impart a well-conceived edge in favour of women.
The problem of large-scale illiteracy in India can be traced to female illiteracy. This has obstructed the realisation of the constitutional commitment regarding reaching of social justice to all sections of society.
It is also a serious hurdle for limiting the rate of growth of population which is so closely linked with female illiteracy. The problem, therefore, has to be tackled both as a short-term and a long-term programme.
Passing of the Bill of Technical Education in December 1987 was a major development. It vests the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) with statutory powers. With the passing of this bill, the mushroom growth of technical institutes and growth of institutes taking capitation fee will be substantially checked.
States have also been advised to remove obsolescence in machinery and equipment from the engineering and technological institutions. The Supreme Court, in a landmark Judgement in 1993, made certain important adjustments and modifications in the demand of capitation fees by the professional colleges run by private institutions, reinforced in a Judgement in mid-2003 (unfortunately AICTE is hub of corruption).
Literacy Drive (Operation Blackboard):
The drive aims at improving the basic infrastructure of primary schools. A National Literacy Authority was established in 1988 to achieve 80% literacy by 1995 in the 15-35 age group.
There was a provision for opening residential schools in each district for talented students, named Navodaya Vidyalayas. 389 such schools had been set up all over the country (the goal is to set up one school in each district of the country).
These co-educational residential schools are primarily meant for children from rural areas. One-third seats are reserved for girls. Education in these schools is free.