(i) A programme with a clear time frame for universal elementary education;
(ii) An opportunity for promoting social justice through basic education;
(iii) A response to the demand for quality basic education all over the country;
(iv)An expression of political will for universal elementary education across the country;
(v) An effort for effectively involving the Panchayati Raj Institutions, School Management Committees, Village and Urban Slum-level Education Committees, Parents’ Teachers’ Associations, Mother Teacher Association, Tribal Autonomous Councils and other grass-root level structures in the management of elementary schools;
(vi) An opportunity for states to develop their own vision of elementary education.
(vii) A partnership between the central, state and the local government.
The aim of the SIRVA Shiksha Abhiyan is to provide useful and relevant elementary education to all children in the 6 to 14 years age group by 2010. Another goal is to bridge social, regional and gender gaps, with the active participation of the community in the management of schools.
The aim is also to allow children to learn about and master their natural environment in a manner that allows the fullest harnessing of their human potential, both spiritually and materially. This quest must also be a process of value-based learning that allows children an opportunity to work for each other’s well-being rather than to permit mere selfish pursuits. The objectives of the scheme are:
(i) All children in school, Education Guarantee Centre, Alternate School, ‘Back-to-School’ camp.
(ii) All children complete eight years of elementary schooling by 2010.
(iii) All children complete five years of primary schooling by 2007.
(iv) Universal retention by 2010.
(v) Bridge all gender and social category gaps at primary stage by 2007 and at elementary education level by 2010.
(vi) Focus on elementary education of satisfactory quality with emphasis on education for life.
The objectives are expressed nationally though it is expected that various districts and states are likely to achieve universalisation in their own respective contexts and in their own time frame. The year 2010 is the outer limit for such achievements.
The emphasis is on mainstreaming out-of-school children through diverse strategies, as far as possible, and on providing eight years of schooling for all children in 6 to 14 years age group. The emphasis is on bridging of gender and social gaps and a total retention of all children in schools. Within this framework it is expected that the education system will be made relevant so that children and parents find the schooling system useful and absorbing, according to their natural and social environment.
As part of the SSA, the central and the state governments undertook reforms in order to improve efficiency of the delivery system. The states have made an objective assessment of their prevalent education’ system including educational administration, achievement levels in schools, financial issues, decentralisation and community ownership, review of State Education Act, rationalisation of teacher deployment and recruitment of teachers, monitoring and evaluation, status of education of girls, SC/ST and disadvantaged groups, policy regarding private schools. Many states have effected several changes to improve the delivery system for elementary education.
The premise of SSA is that financing of elementary education interventions have to be sustainable.
The programme envisages community ownership of school- based interventions through effective decentralisation. This was augmented by involvement of women’s groups, and members of Panchayati Raj Institutions.
The SSA works on a community-based approach to planning with habitation as a unit of planning. Habitation plans are the basis for formulating district plans.
It envisages cooperation between teachers and parents as well as accountability and transparency to the community.
The SSA conceives a major capacity-building role for national, state and district level institutions like NIEPA/NCERT/ NCTE/SCERT/SIEMAT/DIET. Improvement in quality requires a sustainable support system of resource persons and institutions. It calls for improvement of mainstream educational administration by institutional development, infusion of new approaches and by adoption of cost-effective and efficient methods.
Education of girls, especially those belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes and minorities, is one of the principal concerns in SIRVA Shiksha Abhiyan. The focus is on the inclusion and participation of children from SC/ST, minority groups, urban deprived children, disadvantaged groups and the children with special needs, in the educational process.
The programme has a community-based monitoring system. The Educational Management Information System (EMIS) correlates school level data with community-based information from micro-planning and surveys. Besides this, every school is encouraged to share all information with the community, including grants received.
SSA commenced throughout the country with a well-planned pre-project phase that provided for a large number of interventions for capacity development to improve the delivery and monitoring system. These included provision for household surveys, community-based micro-planning and school mapping, training of community leaders, school level activities, support for setting up information system, office equipment diagnostic studies, etc.
It laid a special thrust on making education useful at the elementary level and relevant for children by improving the curriculum, child-centered activities and effective teaching learning strategies.
As per the SSA framework, each district had to prepare a District Elementary Education Plan reflecting all the investments being made and required in the elementary education sector, with a holistic and convergent approach. There was also a Perspective Plan to give a framework of activities over a longer time frame to achieve UEE.
There was also an Annual Work Plan and Budget to list the prioritised activities to be carried out in that year. The Perspective Plan had to be a dynamic document subject to constant improvement in the course of Programme Implementation.
SSA recognises the critical and central role of teachers and advocates a focus on their development needs. Setting up of Block Resource Centres/Cluster Resource Centres, recruitment of qualified teachers, opportunities for teachers development through participation in curriculum-related material development, focus on classroom process and exposure visits for teachers are all designed to develop the human resource among teachers.
SIRVA Shiksha Abhiyan takes note of the fact that provision of elementary education is largely made by the government and government-aided schools. There are also private unaided schools in many parts of the country that provide elementary education.
Poor families are not able to afford the fees charged in private schools in many parts of the country. There are also private schools that charge relatively modest fees and where poor children also attend. Some of these schools are marked by poor infrastructure and low paid teachers. While encouraging efforts at equity and ‘access to all’ in well-endowed private unaided schools, strivings areas of public-private partnership were also made. Government, local bodies, and government-aided schools were covered under the SIRVA Shiksha Abhiyan.
Schools churned out more than 17 million students eligible for higher education in 2008-09, three times the number five years ago. Similarly, 14.2 million children joined schools in 2008-09, increasing the enrollment to over 206 million, about 96.4 per cent of the child population. A 15 per cent increase over enrolment percentage of 80, when the programme started in 2001.
More than 34,000 schools were added over the last five years-almost 30 per cent of the 1.2 million schools in India.
World Bank has called the SSA, “world’s most successful programme”. Over 200 million children now go to school, double the number a decade ago. The programme has made the Millennium Development Goal of ensuring that every child goes to school by 2015 look achievable.
While elementary education in India has received a shot in the arm through SSA, there are not enough institutions, to meet the demand for higher education and vocational training. The target for gross enrolment ratio has been set by the University Grants Commission (UGC) at 15 per cent by 2012. There is a need to create a programme similar to SSA for higher education in the country.