India’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is a key programme for achieving the objective of universal elementary education. IndiaSpend’s Danielle Collaco does a dipstick survey of the scheme’s progress and finds that the achievements in education infrastructure have not been matched by progress in actual learning and, more importantly, actual attendance in schools.

The SSA has been operational since 2000-01 and has to provide free and compulsory education to children within the age group of 6 to 14 years. It is implemented in partnership of the State Governments.

The Government spent Rs 19,103.22 crore on the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) up till January 2012, during the financial year 2011-12. The States share in the SSA has been Rs 8,499.89 crore up till December 2011 during the same time period.

In his latest Budget speech, Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee allotted Rs 25,555 crore as the Centres share for this mammoth education programme.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 became operational from April 2010. This act made elementary education a fundamental right of all children in the 6-14 age groups. Since the RTE Act and the SSA were basically similar in their ultimate goal, the Government revised the SSA norms and framework to align it with the provisions of the RTE Act.

The goals of the SSA were to

  1. Open new schools in areas which do not have them (within a period of 3 years from the implementation of the act) and to expand existing school infrastructure (additional class rooms, toilets, drinking water facilities) and provide maintenance grants and school improvement grants.
  2. Address the inadequate teacher numbers and provide extensive training and grants for development for teacher-learning materials and strengthening the academic support structure.
  3. Provide quality elementary education including life skills with a special focus on the education of girls and children with special needs as well as computer education to bridge the digital divide.

SSA Fund Sharing Pattern

The fund sharing pattern between the Centre and the States for the SSA were also changed. Earlier, in the 11th Plan (2007-12) the government had set a sliding scale ratio funding pattern for the SSA. The Centre-State sharing ratio was 65:35 for the first two years; i.e. 2007-08, 2008-09. For the third year it was 60:40, for the fourth year it was supposed to be 55:45 and 50:50 from then on. The NER States had a fund sharing pattern of 90:10.

However, as we mentioned earlier, things changed with the oncoming of the RTE Act. The Government changed the fund sharing pattern from a sliding scale ratio to a fixed share of 65:35 with effect from 2010-11. The sharing pattern for the NER States remained unchanged at 90:10.

RTE-SSA Financials

The Government approved an outlay of Rs 71,000 crore for SSA in the 11th Plan (2007-12). However, keeping in mind the increased requirements the implementation of the RTE Act would bring, the Government approved an outlay Rs 2,31,233 crore for the combined RTE-SSA programme.

This increased outlay was for a five year period from 2010-11 to 2014-15 and it would be shared between the Centre and the State on a 65:35 ratio (90:10 for NER States). This outlay of Rs 2,31,233 crore is supported by a Grant-in-Aid of Rs 24,068 crore awarded by the 13th Finance Commission to the States during the 5-year period 2010-11 to 2014-15.

As we mentioned, the Finance Minister allotted Rs 25,555 crore for the RTE-SSA programme for 2012-13. The table below shows the financials of the SSA from 2010-11 till 2012-13.

BE 2010-11 (Central Share) (in Rs cr)Expenditure Incurred Central Share and State share during 2010-11 (in Rs cr)BE 2011-12 (Central Share) (in Rs cr)Expenditure Incurred Central Share and State share during 2011-12 (in Rs cr)BE 2012-13 (Central Share) (in Rs cr)
Centre Share15,00019,636.9021,00019,103.22*25,555
State Share4,000 (supplementary demands)11,716.918,499.89#

*upto January 2012 #upto December 2011

Source: Outcome Budget 2012-13 for Flagship Schemes

During 2012-13, the Government plans to build 5,000 new primary schools and 10,000 new upper primary schools under the RTE-SSA. About 1 lakh teachers will also be recruited and about 1 lakh additional classrooms will be constructed.

By fulfilling these objectives, the Government hopes to improve access to girls, SC, ST, OBC and minorities. These measures might also bring about a 5 percentage fall in primary drop-out rates from the current levels of 28.9%. The Government also expects these measures to lead to a 5 percent increase in Upper Primary GER from the current level of 81.2%.

Performance of RTE-SSA

Now let’s take a look at what the performance of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. The table below shows the Cumulative achievements of the programme.

ItemsStatusCumulative Achievement up to 30.09.2011
Opening of SchoolsOpened3,33,458
Construction of School buildingsCompleted and in progress2,67,209
Construction of additional classroomsCompleted and in progress14,10,937
Drinking Water facilitiesCompleted and in progress2,12,233
Construction of ToiletsCompleted and in progress4,77,263
Supply of free textbooksSupplied8.77 crore
Teacher appointmentCompleted12.24 lakh
Teacher Training (20 days)Completed19.23 lakh

Source: Outcome Budget 2012-13 for Flagship Schemes

As the table says, 3,33,458 schools have been opened so far. The cumulative target was 3,88,157, so that means about 54,699 schools are still to be opened.

Till September 2011, about 2,67,209 school buildings had been constructed against a cumulative target of 2,99,808. About 32,599 school buildings need to be constructed to meet the target.

Drinking water facilities have been provided in 2,12,233 schools against a cumulative target of 2,20,953. This means that there are still 8,720 schools out there that do not have proper drinking water facilities.

Though these figures might seem high, the current numbers are better than what they were before. In fact, the cumulative performance has been more than 85% in the opening of schools, schools infrastructure and drinking water facilities.

In respect of teachers’ recruitment, some 3.28 lakh posts of teachers were sanctioned up to October, 2010 and 1.75 lakh in 2011-12 only. These are however anticipated by the Government to be filled up shortly.

RTE-SSA: Positive Results

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2011 had the following positive impacts of the RTE-SSA mentioned.

Enrollment: In 2011, about 96.7% of all 6-14 year olds in rural India were enrolled in schools. This number has been stable since 2010. States that had a high proportion of 11-14 year old girls out of school in 2006 have made quite a recovery. In Bihar, the out-of-school numbers have dropped from 17.6% in 2006 to 4.3% in 2011.

Rajasthan shows a decline from 18.9% in 206 o 8.9% in 2011. Uttar Pradesh however has shown the least progress with 11.1% in 2006 and 9.7% in 2011. However, it must also be noted that private school enrolment is also on the rise. Nationally, private enrollment for the 6-14 age group has increased from 18.7% in 2006 to 25.6% in 2011.

Better Provision for Girls Toilets: In 2010 about 31.2% of the schools had no separate girls’ toilet; this figure has declined in 2011 to 22.6%. There has also been quite an improvement in the number of schools that have separate girls’ toilets that are useable. In 2010, 32.9% of the schools had useable girls’ toilets; this figure has almost increased by 10% in 2011, with about 43.8% of the schools having useable girls’ toilets.

RTE-SSA Negatives

Here are some shortcomings of the programme in the ASER 2011 report:

Decline in basic reading levels: In 2010, the All India figure for the percentage of Std V students who were able to read Std 2 level text was 53.7%. In 2011, this figure has dropped to 48.2%. The decline in reading levels is more prominent in Northern India; however, the performance of some states has improved; Gujarat, Punjab and Tamil Nadu have better figures for 2011 than they had during 2010.

Arithmetic levels go down: Basic arithmetic levels are declining. Nationally, the proportion of Std III children able to solve a 2-digit subtraction problem with borrowing has dropped from 36.3 per cent in 2010 to 29.9 per cent in 2011. Among Std V children, the ability to do similar subtraction problems has dropped from 70.9 per cent in 2010 to 61.0 per cent in 2011. The decline is visible in almost every state. There has been no change in arithmetic levels in Gujarat.

Children’s Attendance Declined: Attendance levels have shown a decline from 73.4% in 2007 to 70.9% in 2011 in rural primary schools. In some states, the decline in children’s attendance has been quite sharp. In primary schools in Bihar, the average attendance of children was 59% in 2007; it’s decreased to 50% in 2011. In Madhya Pradesh it’s fallen from 67% in 2007 to 54.5% in 2011 and in Uttar Pradesh it has fallen from 64.4% in 2007 to 57.3% in 2011.

Multi-grade Classes: More than half of all Std 2 and Std 4 classes sit together with another class. At an all India Level, Std 2 children were sitting with one or more other classes in 58.3% of Std 2 classes in primary schools. This figure was 53% for Std 4.

In conclusion, achieving the Millennium Development Goal of attaining universal primary education might not be that distant a dream. However, we are still behind when it comes to quality of education.