Concept of School Mapping & Micro Planning





(July 29-30, 1997)
            COPY Right: NIEPA, New Delhi – 110016 (INDIA)






            Primary education in India is predominantly funded and managed by the government.  Therefore, investment decisions by the Government  determine the pattern of expansion of education­al facilities.  Over a period of time it is noticed that certain areas are more endowed with school facilities than other areas.  School mapping is an essential planning tool to overcome possi­bilities of regional inequities arising from the investment policies of the public authorities.


            School mapping incorporates spatial and demographic dimen­sions into the educational planning process.  The major question answered by the school mapping exercise is where to locate educational facilities.  Location of educational facilities depends on the norms and standards developed by the public authorities.  Even within the norms and standards, many geographical areas may be eligible for opening of new schools.  School mapping technique helps us to identify the most appropriate location of schools or their alternatives so that more number of children can be benefited from the same level of investment. The major objective of school mapping is to create equality of educational opportunities by leveling off of the existing disparities in the distribution of educational facilities.  This technique is useful to plan all levels of education.  However, it is more widely used for planning for facilities at the compulsory levels of education.  School mapping is not confined to locating formal schools; location of alternatives to formal schools is a  part of the school mapping exercise.


            The methodology of school mapping envisages specification of norms, diagnosis of the existing educational facilities, projection of future population, deciding the location of schools, estimates of facilities required in all the (existing and new) educational  institutions and estimation of financial resources required.    One of the first steps in school mapping is to select a unit for the exercise.  The school mapping exercises help identifying the most ideal locations to open schools.  Given this primary purpose school mapping exercises can not be undertaken for one village  or habitation.  A cluster of villages or a block can be an ideal unit for school mapping activities. The next step involved is to diagnose or assess the educational development in the selected area.  The effort is to analyse the present status of education in an area/region to identify strength and weakness of the system and to understand the geographical distribution of educational facilities in the selected locality.


            For diagnosing the educational situation it is better to collect data on the selected items during the previous 4 - 5 years or a decade.  We may require data on population, literacy enrollment, teachers, building, flow rates of students, infrastructure etc.  The population data are very important in school mapping exercises.  Data on total population by sex, caste and age group for atleast two points of time are minimum requirements.  We may also need to have data on popula­tion of age groups 6-11 and 11-14.  For diagnosing educational situation data on important indicators like literacy rate, enrollment ratios, retention rates  and dropout rates are required.  The present status of teachers position is important and in this respect data on number of teachers by qualification, experience, training and sex are required.  Similarly, teacher-pupil ratio is also important to assess the present situation.  Another set of information re­quired is on buildings and infrastructure facilities. Information on the condition of building, number of rooms, type of building and on other facilities in schools like blackboard, water, toi­let, electricity, playground, etc. are useful to prepare school specific plans.


            The next step in school mapping exercise is to assess the number of children to be enrolled.  This estimate is to be made on the basis of catchment area of school and it requires projection of total and school age specific population.  There are various methods of population projection.  Method of popula­tion projections are classified into three categories namely Mathematical, Economic and Component methods.  Keeping in view scant demographic data at the block and district level, it is not possible to undertake detailed population projection exercise.  Therefore, growth rates and ratio methods of population projection are more commonly used at this level.  Enrolment projections are important to decide on the opening of new schools, up-gradation of existing schools and to estimate the number of teachers required.  The techniques of enrolment projections can broadly be classified into two-mathematical and analytical methods.  Mathematical methods require aggregate enrolment data at least for five to ten years, and only total enrolment can be projected.  On the other hand, analytical meth­ods require promotion, drop-out, repetition and apparent entry rates.  There are three simple methods of enrolment projections, namely, rate of growth, enrolment ratio and grade-transition methods.  The application of a particular method depends upon the requirements and the availability of data.  At the lowest level, cohort method for grade-wise enrolment projections are more desirable.  However, at the local level many information required to make reliable projections are not available.  Therefore, one may have to depend on the most probable approximations.  For example, the projection method used to derive school age-group children in this exercise is based on the assumption of a fixed proportion of the total population.


            The next step in the exercise is to specify norms, standards and catchment area.   Opening of new schools or their alterna­tives are based on the norms regarding threshold population, which indirectly defines the potential number of children to be en­rolled in a given locality.  In India the norm that is followed is to open a primary school in areas which have a population of 300 and above in plain areas and 250 or above in the remote or tribal areas.  Similarly, after the 1986 policy, the norm adopted for the number of teachers is a minimum of two teachers in all the primary schools irrespective of the size of  enrollment.  The other important norm is regarding the maximum permissi­ble distance a child has to travel from home to school.  This in the school mapping terminology means definition of catchment area of a school.  The catchment area of a school is the geo­graphical area served by a school.  It is defined as the maximum acceptable distance a child can travel from home to school.  Normally catchment area is measured in terms of area of a circle or Hexagon.  In India, especially in the remote areas, the set­tlement is in habitations.  One may frequently come across situations in remote areas in India where one may not find any house­hold for  long distances.  And where habitations are located, it may have a cluster of households.  Given this pattern of population settlement in India, we have not adopted the traditional catchment area concept.  What we have adopted alternatively is a distance matrix method whereby the distances between habitations are measured.  Therefore, number of habitations and their dis­tances from the school are considered to decide the catchment area of the school.  It is easy to develop distance matrix.  The only information required to develop such a matrix is the distances between habitations or villages.  The distances are to be measured from the locations within villages or habitation where households are concentrated.  These details can be obtained through a survey.


            It is easy to locate schools based on the distance matrix method.  As mentioned earlier, location of schools is based on the norms and resources available.  If the public authorities have resources to open schools wherever they are required, then prioritization is a less meaningful technique.  However, schools are opened only in some selected locations.  The norms form the basis to prioritise such decisions.  Based on the distance norms and the resources available, decisions regarding opening of new schools, if any required, can be arrived at. As part of the school mapping exercise, one may have to assess the requirements of facilities in schools.  While the facilities to be provided in the new school can be easily as­sessed, the same in the existing schools need to be based on an assessment of the existing facilities in these schools.  Based on the population growth and potential growth in enrollment, additional infrastructural facilities may be required in the existing schools.  It may be important to incorporate not only the infrastructural facilities but also other requirements of teaching learning materials to be purchased in the school.  Based on these requirements cost estimates can be made and proposals can be prepared for funding.




            Planning at the lowest spatial unit can be termed as micro level planning.  In the Indian context micro level planning can mean planning carried out at the village level or even at the habitation level. While selecting a unit for micro planning one has to consider the availability of educational facilities like a school or a non-formal education center.  In other words, while we try to develop micro level planning in education we may have to select a unit centering around an educational institution.  This may be a school or its alternative which is already existing or planning to be opened. The objectives of the micro level planning are: i) to mobi­lize local community to prepare village level plans; ii) to provide a support system to the schools and teachers so that schools become more functional; and iii) to ensure that all eligible children from the locality attend the schools.  The major objective of the micro planning exercise is not on issues pertaining to allocation of resources but on issues pertaining to better and efficient use of resources which are already allocated to a particular locality, area or school.


            Micro planning should not be seen as a one shot exercise.  It is a continuous process and it unfolds itself in the process of implementing and operationalising plans prepared either at the local level or at the higher levels.  Micro planning focusses more on the operational details of achieving a specified plan target.  Micro planning exercise can be undertaken by local people.  In fact the object and subject of micro planning is local people.  How to make schools community based?  How do we ensure accountabilities of the school to the community it serves?  What is the mechanism to channelise social forces towards education?  These are important questions in micro planning exercise.


            Micro planning exercise involves less of technical skills and more of social skills.  How to interact with the community for a common cause?  How to bring them together on a common platform?  How are we going to deal with the existing social hierarchy in a given locality?  These are the issues which make a micro planning exercise successful or failure.  How to organize  micro planning exercises in  villages can not be based on a single model.  Each locality may have some characteristics which may make micro planning exercise different across localities. 


            The steps involved in operationalising or developing a micro planning exercise are as follows:


i)          Understanding the Village: This may be a first step to identify the problems faced by the village so that  basic intervention strategies can be clearly under­stood.


ii)         Preparation of a Village Map: A village may be having many facilities and educational facilities may be one among such facilities.  It may be better if these facilities are plotted on a map so that people of the locality will be able to visually observe their village and allocation of the facilities in their village.  A discussion based on such a map may be a meaningful exercise.


iii)         Identification of Non-enrolled and Dropout Children: Normally household survey becomes a part of micro planning exercise.  Household survey provides details about the children to be enrolled, retained in the school or dropped out from the school.  This will be a very useful information to initiate activities under the micro planning efforts.


iv)        Village Education Register:  Based on the household surveys, one can develop a village education register clearly indicating the households which are not sending children to the schools.  This will help us to adopt corrective measures to encourage the parents of these households to send their children to schools.


v)         The village may have a school.   If the village has a school then one has to relate the efforts made during the micro planning exercises with the facilities avail­able at the school level.


vi)        Preparation of a Village Education Plan : Once the community inputs and the school inputs are identified then it is possible to prepare a village education plan focussing on the specific educational problems faced at the household level and at the school level.  Preparation of such plans and monitoring of activities thus identified in a village plan make micro planning  exercise an effective tool in making the best use of the resources available at the local level.


            One of the major questions in micro-planning is: who will initiate a micro-planning exercise?  Unfortunately, there cannot be a single answer to this question.  The pattern may be varying in different localities, given their specific feature.  The co-operation from the elected representatives, functionaries and people at large are essential.  Therefore the organizational arrangement need to evolve locally, rather than super-imposed from outside the village.  A common pattern found in areas where micro planning exercises are seriously initiated is to form a core group consisting of different segments of population of the village, orient them to the idea and help them in the initial stages, to organize some of the activities under the micro planning exercises.


            Finally it is important to distinguish school mapping from micro-planning although they are exercises complementary to each other.