A paradigm shift from Primary to Secondary Education
“Educate and raise the masses and thus alone a nation is possible.” This quote of Swami Vivekananda highlights the necessity of education as a vital force for achieving full human potential and developing a just and equitable society along with promoting national development. Today, India has an advantageous demographic dividend with the highest population of children and young people. Hence it becomes paramount to provide high-quality educational opportunities to the students which will determine the future of our country.
I believe that the children of today are the future of tomorrow and schools are the first stepping stone in the lives of our children. India has one of the largest, most diverse and extensive school education systems in the world with 15 lakh schools, 25 crore students, and 89 lakh teachers. Our government has always been an ardent supporter of improving the education landscape in our country and providing learning opportunities for children. It was the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ji’s era that revolutionized school education in 2000-2001. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme launched by the Vajpayee Ji’s NDA government pushed elementary education in India and became the tool for the implementation of the Right to Education Act. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan had a spectacular success with significant progress in terms of improved infrastructure of schools, the addition of new schools & classrooms and the addition of teachers.The Gross Access Ratio for primary and upper primary level has reached more than 97%, which means that more than 97% habitations have access to primary and upper primary education schools within a distance of 1km/3km. With this the Gross enrolment ratio, at primary level has reached 100%, while that at upper primary level improved from 75.8% in 2009-10 to 87.7% in 2018-19. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan due to its strict norms and a diligent monitoring process achieved success in providing elementary education to our children.
India has made significant progress in elementary education. However, since independence our focus has been on achieving the goal of universal elementary education. Today the time has come to treat school education in continuum and give greater focus on secondary and senior secondary education in school education. Secondary education is important for every child, as it opens the gateway for a successful professional life and prepares them for a gainful and fulfilling employment. It is imperative to expand the components of secondary education, as it is the bridge between the general formation of the mind and the higher education learning provided in colleges and universities. The students enrolling in higher education depend upon the attainment and completion of secondary and senior secondary education. The Gross Enrollment Ratio data of both school and higher education supports the above-mentioned fact. According to the GER 2017-2018 of secondary and senior secondary was 76.46 and 48.13% respectively. This increased to 76.90% and 50.14% in 2018-19 respectively. Further, according to the GER in higher education 2017-18 increased from 25.8% to 26.3% in 2018-2019. Hence, this implies that higher enrollment in secondary education will directly impact the enrollment ratio in higher education and lower levels of secondary education completion will reduce the pool of students available for higher education.
Secondary education is an important aspect as it raises an individual’s economic status and help boost economies and bring populations out of poverty. I want to highlight a UNESCO report which states that in developing and low-income countries every additional year of education can raise an individual’s income by 10 percent. Hence, a country’s economic productivity increases as the number of educated workers increases since skilled workers can perform task more efficiently. According to an OECD report, more than half of the GDP growth is directly related to labor 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 a senior secondary education.
Our government under the astute leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is diligently working towards improving the quality of secondary education in school education. We are taking forward the legacy of Vajpayee Ji’s efforts of pushing elementary education in India and moving towards providing learning opportunities to our children in secondary education. The NEP 2020 which aims to transform the education structure of our country, encourages holistic development of our children not only at primary and upper primary stages but also at the secondary levels of school education. NEP aims to achieve 100% GER in pre-school to secondary level by 2030. To increase the access at the secondary level, the Samagra Shiksha scheme was launched in 2018-19 under the visionary leadership of our Prime Minister, Sh Narendra Modi which extended the objective of attaining universalization of access to education to pre- primary and senior secondary levels. Provision has been made for the first time for setting up/upgradation and strengthening schools upto senior secondary level in the uncovered areas.
Now, Under the Samagra Shiksha scheme, we endeavor to provide access to education to every child and hence it is proposed to extend transport facility from elementary to secondary classes upto an average cost @Rs 6000 per child per annum for areas where schools are not available. Along with this, we have started identification of out of school children in the16 to 19 years age group and we are providing support up to Rs. 2000/- per child per grade for them to complete their secondary/senior secondary levels through NIOS/SOS. The support will be given for SEDG children for accessing course materials and certification.
Along with this, it has been decided to launch NISHTHA phase 2 at the secondary level to provide capacity building training opportunities to the teachers for improving the quality of education at secondary level.. Apart from this, provision of separate stipend for CWSN girls @ Rs. 200 per month for 10 months is pre-primary to senior secondary level is also available, leaving the entire sum of Rs 3500 per student for other Student Oriented Component for providing inclusive education to children with special needs. In addition to this, we aim to provide 100% ICT coverage at secondary and sr secondary level and upgradation of all KGBVs up to class 12 to provide a continued education of girls from weaker sections of the society in educationally backward blocks . To enhance the employment and entrepreneurial abilities of the students we aim to provide vocational education in 15000 schools and further integrate skill-based education with general academic education. For the holistic development of our children enrolled at the secondary level, we have increased flexibility and choice of subjects to read. This new distinguishing feature of secondary school education will enable the students to choose from varied subjects ranging from physical education, vocational skills or art and culture etc. The four years of secondary education will enable the students to gain greater depth, greater critical thinking and allow them to design their own paths of study and life plans.
Hence, we are upgrading our existing education policies which will incorporate the local and global needs of our country and enable our students to develop holistically and further prepare them for gainful and fulfilling employment. Undoubtedly, the time has come to invest our resources in secondary and sr secondary education and hence enabling students to enroll in higher education and gain skilled jobs. I am of the firm belief, that our education system will empower the children of India to contribute in nation building and to transform Bharat into a global knowledge superpower and eventually become a vishvaguru.
(The writer is Union Education Minister, Government of India)