Chapter 1


1.1.1 The National Policy of Education, 1986 (as updated in 1992) and the Programme of Action, 1992 (POA) reaffirm the national commitment to Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE). Para 5.12 of NPE resolves that free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality should be provided to all children up to 14 years of age before we enter the 21st century. The NPE also specifies in Para 5.5 that UEE has three aspects:

(i) universal access and enrolment;
(ii) universal retention of children up to 14 years of age; and

(iii) a substantial improvement in quality of education to enable all children to achieve essential levels of learning.

1.1.2 Right from independence India has persevered with the goal of UEE; even though substantial progress has been achieved, the goal still remains elusive. The additional participation in elementary education has to come from social strata and regions which are more difficult to reach. Therefore, the path that lies ahead in the march to UEE is more arduous; the journey ahead is a marathon calling for a higher intensity of effort and more systematic planning and implementation.

1.1.3 National experience with the pursuit of UEE had established the following:

(i) UEE is contextual. The contextuality varies widely across the country. Even in states like Kerala where participation is near-universal much requires to be done in respect of quality and achievement. In such States the pursuit of UEE would be mainly in the areas of quality, facilities and achievement. In other States participation and demand aspects need more attention.

(ii) Contextuality entails local area-planning with disaggregated targets and decentralized planning and management. Planning for UEE had hitherto been mainly at the national and state-level. Barring some States and Union Territories, these entities are too large and heterogeneous for effective planning; they cannot provide contextuality. Ideally the planning should be from below, right from the village upwards but given the objective conditions, a beginning has to be made with district as the unit of planning. The district plans are to be prepared through an intensive process of interaction with the local bodies, teachers and NGOs so that it is “owned” by all who are to be associated in implementation and it reflects the ground-level realities.

(iii) Resources are an important but not sufficient condition for achieving UEE. A host of measures both financial and non-financial, both on the supply side and on the demand side, need to complement higher allocation of resources.

(iv) The strategies for UEE have hitherto emphasized, mainly access in terms of construction of class rooms and appointment of teachers. This has been inadequate and needs to be augmented by:

(a) a holistic planning and management approach which goes beyond implementation of a disjointed set of individual schemes, perceives the task of UEE in its totality, integrates all the measures needed to achieving UEE in the specific context of the district;

(b) this holistic planning should incorporate a gender perspective in all aspects of the planning and implementation process and be an integral part of all measures needed to achieve UEE.

(c) addressing the more difficult aspects of access, particularly access to girls, disadvantaged groups and out of school children;

(d) improving school effectiveness;

(e) strengthening the alternatives to schooling, particularly the non-formal education system;

(f) stressing the participative processes whereby the local community facilitates participation, achievement and school effectiveness;

(g) toning up teacher competence, training and motivation;

(h) stressing learning competence and achievement;

(i) stressing need for improved teaching/learning materials;

(j) streamlining of planning and management in respect of both routine and innovative areas; and

(k) Convergence between elementary education and related services like ECCE and school health.

1.1.4 The District Primary Education Programme (hereafter referred to as the Programme) is based on the above national experience and seeks to operationalise para 7.4.6 of the POA, 1992 which reads as follows:

“Further efforts would be made to develop district specific projects, with specific activities, clearly defined responsibilities, definite time-schedule and specific targets. Each district project will be prepared within the major strategy framework and will be tailored to the specific needs and possibilities in the district. Apart from effective UEE, the goals of each project will include the reduction if existing disparities in educational access, the provision of alternative systems of comparable standards to the disadvantaged groups, a substantial improvement in the quality of schooling facilities, obtaining a genuine community involvement in the running of schools, and building up local level capacity to ensure effective decentralization of educational planing. That is to say, the overall goal of the project would be reconstruction of primary education as a whole in selected districts instead of a piecemeal implementation of schemes. An integrated approach is more likely to achieve synergies among different programme components.”

1.1.5 The Programme also builds upon the experience gained in

(i) the implementation of the Bihar Education Project (with UNICEF assistance ) and the Lok Jumbish Project (with SIDA assistance);

(ii) the planning of basic education project in Uttar Pradesh (with IDA assistance);

(iii) the implementation of the Andhra Pradesh Primary Education Project (with ODA assistance), Shiksha Karmi Project (with SIDA assistance) and Mahila Samkhya (with Dutch assistance).

In BEP and UP projects too, investment is concentrated in the chosen districts and district specific investment is complemented by a few State level interventions such as strengthening of State level institutions. Where the Programme goes beyond the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar projects, is in

(i) the emphasis of local area planning with the district plans being formulated in their own right rather than being derived from a state plan project document.

(ii) Greater rigour and infusion of professional inputs in planning and appraisal.

(iii) More focussed targeting in that the districts selected would be:

(a) educationally ward districts with female literacy below the national average; and

(b) Districts where TLCs have been successful leading to enhanced demand for elementary education.

(iv) More focussed coverage in that the Programme would focus on primary stage (Classes I-V and its NFE equivalent), with stress on education for girls, and for socially disadvantaged groups. In States where enrolment and retention is near universal in the primary stage, support can be considered for the upper primary stage.

1.1.6 The District Primary Education Programme has been approved as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Government of India for primary education development. As of now the process of planning has been completed for 42 districts in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Ten districts in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have initiated the project planning process recently. The objective of the programme is to gradually extend the coverage to all the districts which satisfy one of the twin criteria referred to in para 1.5(iii). The pace of expansion would depend upon the availability of resources and in states where the Programme is now being started on the pace and quality of implementation in the districts now chosen. The attempt would be to start the Programme in at least 10 districts in the Eighth Five Year Plan with an estimated outlay of Rs. 1950 crores ( 10 million = 1 crore) of which Rs. 1720 crores are proposed to be drawn from external sources.

1.1.7 The Programme would develop and implement in the districts selected a replicable, sustainable and cost-effective programme:

(i) to reduce differences in enrolment, dropout and learning achievement among gender and social groups to less than five per cent.

(ii) to reduce overall primary dropout rates for all students to less than 10 per cent.

(iii) to raise average achievement levels by at least 25 per cent over measured baseline levels and ensuring achievement of basic literacy and numeracy competencies and a minimum of 40 per cent achievement levels in other competencies, by all primary school children.

(iv) to provide, according to national norms, access for all children, to primary education classes (I-V), i.e. primary schooling wherever possible, or its equivalent non-formal education.

The programme would also strengthen the capacity of national, state and district institutions and organizations for the planning, management evaluation of primary education.

1.1.8 The Programme would be implemented in a mission mode through registered state level autonomous societies. Each society would have two organs:

(i) a General Council with Chief Minister as ex-officio president; and

(ii) Executive Committee under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary/Education Secretary of the State.

The executive responsibility will vest with the State Programme Director being the Member-secretary of the Executive Committee and the Council. Government of India would be represented in the General Council and the Executive Committee. The plans would be formulated and implemented with the active association of the community, NGOs, teachers and educationists. Therefore, all these groups would have to be provided adequate representation and voice in the management of the project at all levels; state, district, block and village. The Memorandum of Association and bye-laws of Association of UP would serve as a model; however, district and sub-district structures would have to be developed by states to suit their administrative patterns and ethos.

1.1.9 The district plan would be rigorously appraised and their implementation systematically monitored.

1.1.10 Funds would be released from the Government of India to the State-level societies. GOI contribution is expected to be of the order of 85 per cent and is likely to follow the existing pattern for releases to IDA projects.

1.1.11 States would need to at least maintain the 1991-1992 expenditure levels on elementary education in real terms, excluding funds earmarked for DPEP as State share.

1.1.12 While the quantum of funding would depend upon the district plan and its appraisal, the over-all investment per district is expected to be within a ceiling of 30-40 crores per district. This is only a normative figure and the requirement of each district will vary. It must be borne in mind that DPEP is not a finance driven programme but seeks to build systems that are cost-effective, replicable and sustainable. The construction component would be limited to 24% and management cost to 6%. The recurring liabilities at the end of the Programme would be the exclusive responsibility of the State Government.

1.1.13 Appraisal would be with reference to the criteria of equity, participative processes, feasibility, sustainability and replicability. Details are spelt out in Table I.

Programme Criteria and Evidence

Criteria and Evidence

Equity focus

Focus on districts with low female literacy rates
Baseline beneficiary studies
Specific strategies for girls, SC/ST students.


Decentralization Action plans and budgets developed at the district level
Investment in district-level institutional capacity

Participatory Planning Technical Feasibility

Village leadership, NGOs, District, Block and School level personnel involved in programme planning through consultations and workshops.

Strategies are based on empirical evidence or experience, preferably in India.

Managerial Feasibility

Implementation by a registered society empowered to make financial, staffing and project design decisions

Plan for MIS development that meets GOI requirements

Acceptable plans for development of enhanced State capacity for textbook development, teacher training, management training, student learning assessment, and programme evaluation.

Financial Feasibility

States would need to at least maintain the 1991-92 expenditure levels on elementary education in real terms, excluding funds earmarked for DPEP as State share.

State share of annual programme costs are included in annual State budgets.

Annual recurrent costs of the investment are shown to be sustainable on State Non-Plan budgets at the end of the project.



Census 2001 State-wise Data - Literacy Rates, 2001 District-wise Population, 2001 Analysis of Census 2001 Data Rural-Urban Literacy Rates: District-specific - Rural-Urban Distribution of Population: District-specific Data About Indian Economy - Human Development Index, 2002: India - Site Map


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