Category Elementary Education

2 leading countries in the budget for education investment

The quality of education is one of the criteria that govern the progress of an individual, or a society, as well as the development of an entire nation.

Therefore, living in a country with a high investment rate in education will surely make a difference in the lives of any student.

Let’s take a look at the four countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) that currently have the largest level of investment in education in the world, to see the importance of this field to the development of every country.


Considered one of the most outstanding educational countries in the international academic community, the UK has always been a potential and favorite destination for international students.

According to the document “Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators” – published by OCED, the UK is ranked in the list of countries with the highest investment indicators for education in 2014 – with about 6.6% from GDP is set aside as an investment budget for all levels of education from primary to tertiary.

The UK is also known for investing millions of pounds in children’s education and promoting social mobility (- promoting the personal and social development of many communities, directly contributing to the community on improving population productivity and boosting the country’s economic growth.).

According to a document published by the British government’s official website in August 2018, the country is undertaking an initiative focused on supporting early childhood education and development. In addition, the report reveals that the government is investing a £30 million fund into a social action plan to create high-quality kindergartens for children’s education.


For this European nation, investment in education has become a machine for social, economic and human development.

According to data provided by the OECD in 2014, Denmark spent 6.5% of its GDP on the education sector, of which 4.5% was for primary and secondary education – this is considered the the highest investment in the region.

The Danish government considers investing in primary and secondary education the most important, as this is the necessary period to build and improve students’ awareness before going to university. These are also two compulsory levels for children from 6 to 17 years old.

Education in Denmark is almost entirely subsidized by the government. In addition, there are still training programs, private universities and fee collection.

For higher education, the monthly student support policy is a positive but controversial policy within the government. Despite the criticism, this policy is maintained by the success and international reputation that Danish education has gained over the years.

The success of educational management in this Nordic country is due to the cooperation between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. These are the two agencies that are jointly responsible for designing and planning the implementation of educational programs with the participation of teachers and students who directly influence the quality of the training and its quality.

Empowering poor children

The Right to Education Act, 2009, is a landmark Act, but certain crucial provisions of it for the empowerment of marginalised children have not been implemented ever for the session of 2012-‘13, three years after the Act was notified.  This is due to certain ambiguities, which could have been avoided with timely intervention and joint ownership of the revolutionary project by both Centre and States. Clearly, its execution still needs a great deal of detailed homework before we can claim its successful take-off at the ground level.

The point under examination is Section 12 of RTE Act, which mandates both public and private schools to reserve 25 per cent of their seats for children from backward backgrounds. Against this 25 per cent quota the private schools will be subsidised /reimbursed by the State at the rate of average per learner costs in the government schools. This 25 per cent reservation for underprivileged children takes into account both social and economic backwardness.

The Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutional validity of this Section which requires schools, both public and private, to give one quarter of their seats to low-income, socially underprivileged children. Two judges of the three-Bench panel ruled that the law does not violate the constitutional rights of those running private schools. The Bench however did make an exemption for private ‘minority’ institutions, saying that the Act ‘infringes on the fundamental freedom’ of such schools.

One of the arguments being offered by private schools against the implementation of the 25 per cent compulsory pro-poor quota is that children from disadvantaged groups and economically-weaker sections will face serious adjustment challenges in an elite setting. However, it is not hard to find instances of unaided private schools that have successfully addressed this problem of social integration within the classrooms. Nevertheless, the deeper-latent concerns of these private schools over economic implications as well as other ambiguities cannot be written off.

The Act is a central one, but for its success an important pre-requisite is that it is combined with empowering ‘Model Rules’, the formulation and promulgation of which is the state’s jurisdiction and responsibility.

While the unceasing debate over the 65:35 finance sharing between the Centre and the States towards the implementation of the Act still forms a bone of contention, the modality for the economic reimbursements to private schools due from state governments against the 25 per cent quota has still not been worked out for many states.

For the purpose of truly implementing this 25 per cent quota the model rules of the state government needs to ponder over certain very important questions that if not dealt with now, may prove to be serious impediment for the future. Questions like, will the State contribute towards other peripheral costs like commuting expenses? Will the State share the burden of remedial classes and counselling that might be a necessity given the fact that underprivileged children will start to school straight form Class I along with other economically better-off students who may already have attended 2-3 years of schooling? Will these underprivileged kids be deprived of other benefits/assistance that a State/Centre chooses to provide socially and economically backward children enrolled in government schools like scholarships, free uniforms, free textbooks, free schoolbags, writing materials, etc? How will the government ensure that these children going to private schools under the 25 per cent quota are not left out of the ambit of the mid-day meal that acts not only as an important motivation for school-coming for these poor children, but is also an important intervention tool for fighting hunger and ensuring the nutritional needs of these needy children?

So far, the experience with the state governments has not been very forth-coming. To take the example of a few economically well-off states: Andhra Pradesh has put the onus of non-implementation of this 25 per cent quota for the year 2012-’13 on the Centre, saying that it has no funds to reimburse fees for students. As per media reports, the Andhra government estimates that nearly Rs 90 crore is needed to admit the 25 per cent quota students in Class I in private schools this year, which will increase by Rs 100 crore every year in the next eight years, as the RTE promises free education till Class VIII. Therefore citing financial crunch as the reason, the Andhra government has exempted certain elite schools that are affiliated to the state board but collect high fees.

In Gujarat private schools are reportedly not admitting under-privileged children under the 25 per cent quota for 2012-’13. The State says that it is waiting for a response from the Centre regarding the required funds.

More draconian are the frequent cases of targeted social ostracisation of the children from underprivileged backgrounds who sometimes make it to private schools. As per a news report, in one of the private schools of Karnataka, four children were forced to attend school in humiliation after the private institution allegedly cut off tufts of hair on top of their heads. This was reportedly done to distinguish these children, admitted under RTE quota, from other students.

If the idea of the 25 per cent quota for children from under-privileged background in public and private schools is to further empower this section with choices of better opportunity, then it should not be at the cost of the of other benefits that they are entitled to by the government, like the mid-day meal. The states need to be more motivated to take-up the ownership of this Act only then the real spirit with which this Act was conceived will be kept alive. The long-term implementation of this Act at the ground level through the dynamic involvement of local bodies cannot be ensured without the proactive initiative and participation of the state governments.

(This article was published in the New Indian Express on 30th November, 2012)

School results are in…

The preamble to the historic ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009’ (RTE) reads ‘… An Act to provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years.’ So how realistic is the target set-out by this Act?

Since the very inception of our Constitution in 1950, Right to Education was kept under the category of Directive Principles of State Policy. These Directive Principles act as important guidelines towards making laws to establish a just society in the country. But unlike Fundamental Rights, these are non-justiciable rights of the people.

In 2009 the historic legislation of the ‘Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education Act’ was enacted, and thus moving it to the Article 21 of the Chapter III of the Constitution. With the RTE Act (RTE) coming to force on the 1st of April 2010, India has joined the league of over 130 countries all over the world which have legal guarantees to provide free and compulsory education to children.

In April 2011, we are going to complete one full year since RTE Act came into force. Thus as would be expected, various credible institutions have come out with analytical reports on the performance of the RTE Act in the year 2009-2010. ASER the research division of the NGO Pratham working primarily in the sector of promoting elementary education, has come out with the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2010. This report evaluates the execution of the RTE Act on various parameters like pupil to teacher ratio, teacher to classroom ratio, school facilities, student-teacher attendance etc. Based on thirteen such parameters picked up from the RTE Act when various states were ranked for their compliance with the RTE norms, this report revealed that Puducherry, Kerala, Daman & Diu, Gujarat and Punjab complied the highest as of now with the various RTE norms; whereas the seven North-Eastern states ranked the lowest. But one of the main criticism of the RTE that comes out through this report is that the Act does not account for the outcome achieved and end-result aimed to be achieved through this legislation, which is of qualitative rise in the learning level of the targeted children.

Yet another important report of 2011 which provides a quality peep into the execution of RTE Act is the District Information System for Education (DISE) flash statistics on the progress of the universalisation of elementary education in India for the year 2009-2010. As far as the DISE reports are concerned, it analyzes the implementation of the RTE Act across all the states of India taking into account various components like access, infrastructure, teachers and outcomes. States were ranked in order of their compliance to these components by DISE, Puducherry, Karnataka, Kerala, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Tamil Nadu ranked the highest, whereas Bihar, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh ranked the lowest. The points of concern that got highlighted through this report are that since 2005 many important indicators of universalisation of elementary education have stagnated. The National Apparent Survival Rate and the Retention Rate at primary level has been stagnant at 70-78% since 2005; Transition Rate from primary to upper primary has also come to a stand-still at 83-84% since 2005. Moreover the discrepancy in the performance between the better performing states and the not so-well performing states on the above mentioned parameters is quite large.
The Public Interest Foundation filed applications under the Right to Information Act, 2005 to all the 28 states seeking information on the level of execution of the RTE Act within the states. Some the states that wrote back informing on the status of its implementation were Delhi, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand. An analysis of the data provided by these above mentioned states shows that in none of the above states the ‘state advisory council’ has been constituted as yet; data mapping exercise for the neighbourhood schools has only just started in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, whereas others states have not even begun with this basic exercise; even on the front of preparation of financial estimates within the states required towards the provision of the fundamentals of this RTE Act have not been prepared by Jharkhand. This goes on to suggest that little has been achieved in terms of concrete steps towards adoption and implementation of the RTE Act at the level of state governments.

Further, closely following the trail from the above reports another alarming pattern that calls for urgent attention and re-addressal within the RTE Act is that besides having parameters to measure the inputs made available to ensure the universalisation of elementary education, there is an unequivocal requirement for ensuring the quality of the outcomes achieved through this Act.  Quality of outcomes refers specifically to the learning levels of the kids, the difference which has come about in retention and survival rate of kids, and whether or not the coming about of this act has had any positive impact on the transition rate of kids from primary to the upper primary levels. That is to say that a direct co-relation needs to be established and strictly monitored periodically as to how does input in terms of infrastructural guarantees, accessibility to neighbourhood schools, availability of qualified teachers assures that the certificate issued on the finishing of eight years of free and compulsory education actually reflects on enhanced reading and writing skills of the children between the age of 6 to 14 years.

Another point of caution in relation to this Act is that these parameters of retention, survival and transition of school children need greater monitoring and improvisation in regards to government managed schools rather than private schools. Private schools already have an established way of operating which is performance and efficiency oriented, along with a defined group of end-users who are more or less satisfied by its demand-supply mode of operation. RTE Act as a tool for quality intervention should focus more on the defined area of government schools because this is where more of enrolments are happening in the not so-well performing states in terms of literacy rates like Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. A focussed target based approach towards working efficiently to address these problems of survival, transition and retention of children in government schools will not only help in improving the national literacy rate but will also go a long way in bridging up this huge gap which exists in the performance between the well performing states and the not so well performing states in terms of the parameters used to check the implementation status of the RTE Act.

Thus the assessment of the year ‘one’ clearly shows the huge gap that still needs to be covered if we are to translate the historic vision of this Act of elementary education to all children between 6 to 14 years, into ground reality. First and foremost there is an urgent need to expedite the execution of the provisions of this act, which is primarily the responsibility of the central government and the state governments working alongside the local authorities. Secondly, there needs to be an in-built mechanism to ensure that the adoption of the provisions of the act is done with reference to a concrete end-goal. And the concrete end goal needs to be ascertained in terms of the minimum learning level that we aim to achieve for the targeted children at the end of the eight years of elementary education; the rise in the survival & the retention rate of the children at the primary and the upper primary level that we are targeting towards through this Act; the increase in the national transition rate of the children from the primary to the upper primary level which can realistically be achieved through the inputs being fed into the system by the means of the RTE Act.

(This article was published in Financial Express on 18th March, 2011)

We Want Good Grades

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 became effective from April 1, 2010. It is one of the most ambitious and commendable pieces of legislation piloted by the present Government.  The Act promises free and compulsory education to children from the age of 6 to 14 years.  As Dr. Amartya Sen has observed that the imposing tower of misery which rests in the heart of India has its sole foundation in the absence of education.

Caste conflicts, religious tensions, lack of work culture and precarious economic conditions, all centre on this simple fact. According to the Nobel Laureate, the ‘ Right to Education’ offers a much awaited social recognition of the centrality of literacy as a basic human capability.

India fares poorly in the basic human capability index.  A quarter of our people are illiterate.  There is a disturbing gap between the literacy of men (75%) and women (54%).  No industrialized country has a literacy level below 80%.  China has more than 90% literacy rate.  There is an important link between healthy human capital and rapid economic development as evident from the empirical results on comparative growth of East Asian, South Asian and African economies.  The right to education is a significant first step in our country.  It commits to provide elementary education to every child.

Often our good policy, projects and programmes suffer from tardy implementation. We need to guard against this noble vision meeting the same fate.  It is with this commitment that the Public Interest Foundation has decided to adopt this programme as part of its work agenda.  The Act emphasizes that the local government should monitor the enrolment and compulsion of elementary education to all.  The Act has dealt, in great details, with the normative standards for a school and also the upgraded skills for teachers.  It envisions inclusive education through special provisions for children belonging to the weaker sections, disadvantage groups and also physically challenged children.

The challenges of implementation are many.  There are numerous players identified in the Act for effective delivery.  The role of the local governments is crucial to the success of the programme.  More than identifying financial resources the delivery mechanism of reaching out to the children and their parents is a gigantic task.  The capacity of the State Government to mobilize resources before qualifying for central assistance will depend on political commitment.

The Public Interest Foundation has evolved a framework that will identify critical measurable milestones at the kick off stage. The mammoth task has been broken into specific steps for effective measurement and analysis. The objective is to appreciate the intermediate steps for the successful launching of the programme. In our view there are critical issues relating to governance, finance, technology, database lining and infrastructure for the take off.

The Act envisages the constitution of a ‘National Advisory Council,’ to oversee the implementation. The union government has already announced the composition of the Council. A similar body is envisaged under section 34 of the Act at the state government level.Only few state governments have taken this important first step towards the implementation of the Act.

The mobilization of the programme to some extent has been possible as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has been subsumed in this large national goal. As per theAct,the estimates of the capital and recurring expenditure would be prepared under the overall guidance of the union government. The contribution from the state governments is through consensus building. Further, section 7(3) stipulates that funds should be released to state governments as grants-in-aid in consultation with state governments. There is a better estimation at the central level regarding the requirement of the funds. The Finance Minister recently   announced that the Government would allocate Rs. 231,000 crores over the next three years for the implementation of the act. However, there seems to be a lack of progress in consulting with the state governments, agreeing on a mutual acceptable formula for providing central support and a time table for the release of funds. We already hear dissenting comments from the state governments regarding funding the implementation of the act; for example, the recent comments by the minister from U. P.  So this area clearly requires a push from both, the central and the state governments.

The local governments are to monitor admission and imparting of elementary education. They are expected to maintain the record of children from birth till the age of 14 for free and compulsory education. This data is to be annually updated and kept in the public domain.  This record is the basis to establish the outcome of the act. While statistics are available from the supply side i.e. how many schools, the number of children attending such schools etc, this record from the demand side, i.e. the number of children in different neighborhoods and their status vis-a-vis their attendance at school, is not uniformly available.  To set up a mechanism to gather this data, publish it in the public domain and update it regularly, is a major challenge for the local and state governments. Given the level of competence and the inadequate staff support of the local bodies, there are serious concerns about the delivery.  This also throws up an opportunity to leverage the technology to set up a database nationally and monitor the status of the school attendance transparently and in a timely manner.It may become feasible with the support of appropriate technology and infrastructure.

Section 23(1) of the Act stipulates that the state government would appoint teachers only with the minimum qualification as established by the academic authority, to be appointed by the central government. This has multiple layers, with some relaxations for the existing teachers to be trained. The State governments need to estimate the number of teachers required and the central government may relax this requirement if there is a shortage of teachers. However, the objective of the section is to ensure qualified teachers. Given that the quality of teachers is the single most important variable in determining the quality of education; this is an important step. It requires the correct standards to be set up atthe national level, implementation of the policy at the state level and the establishment of a teacher training infrastructure to train the existing teachers.

The Foundation is committed to co-operate and contribute, so as to convert the noble objective into reality. The metrics developed by the Foundation would greatly rely on the monitoring infrastructure system of the union and the state governments. While it is not necessarily the most comprehensive chronicle of all steps, it certainly offers a beginning and can be leveraged for gauging delivery. PIF proposes to bring out the assessment of progress in the public domain so as to effect mid-term correction incase required.