Education for all a distant dream, admits government
New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) The government Tuesday admitted the country was still a long way from realising the goal of every child completing eight years of good quality education.
Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh made the admission here while inaugurating the two-day conference of state education ministers to discuss the human resource targets for the Eleventh Five Year Plan that started earlier this month.
He also admitted that recent "surveys of the attainment levels of our schoolchildren do not give much cause for satisfaction".
The meeting aims at exploring ways to optimise resources and improve implementation of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (universal education campaign) and the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme during the plan period.
Singh pointed out that "West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Orissa and Bihar still need to open large number of upper primary schools so as to provide adequate access".
The government, he said, has set a target of achieving 85 per cent literacy rate by the end of the plan period and in the process reducing the gender gap in literacy. This would imply trying to achieve 90 percent literacy for men and 80 percent for women. The 35 plus age group will be the focus of adult education activities in the plan period.
The minister also hoped that during the Eleventh Plan, the gross enrolment ratio for higher and technical education would go up from the existing figure of 10 percent of the total population of schoolgoing children to at least 15 percent by the end of the plan period.
Referring to the government's target of spending six percent of the GDP on education, Arjun Singh said, "We are still quite far from the goal of spending six percent of GDP on education, which has been reiterated in the approach paper."
"Steps should be taken to bridge the existing gap in the participation and achievement rates of disadvantaged groups, notably girls, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, minorities and the differently abled. During the next two days, we must, in my view, come up with some concrete steps," he said.
The promotion of minorities' education is also on the agenda and the minister asked the states to be far more proactive in seeking central assistance under schemes of madrassa modernisation and the appointment of Urdu language teachers.
He sought special efforts by the states to mobilise minorities so that they can avail themselves of the educational facilities. He also advised the state governments to encourage education of girls from the minority community by employing more women teachers, creating more hostel facilities for girls, more educational institutions in blocks with concentration of minorities and arranging for the teaching of modern subjects in Urdu.