No Girl Left Behind
Not one among Haryana’s 46.28 lakh school-going children needs to travel more than a kilometre to reach class. The state has exceeded the norms established by the Right to Education Act, 2009, norms on providing access to schools and witnessed a substantial improvement in enrolment on the back of benefits such as free education for girls, free bicycles, textbooks, uniforms and liberal stipends for children from weaker sections.
“The idea is to get the maximum children into schools,” says Director General, Secondary Education, Vijayendra Kumar, who envisaged many of the schemes that catapulted the state to the top position. “And now the world is witnessing the change,” he says, citing the Annual Status of Education Report, 2010, prepared by Pratham, an NGO, which shows the proportion of “out of school” girls is less than half of what it was in 2006. Boys have shown a similar increase.
The initiatives, essentially centred around “child benefits”, are funded by a hugely augmented Rs 5,741.97 crore education budget since 201011, roughly thrice the amount of 2005-06. More than a tenth, Rs 603.2 crore, was spent on child benefits, which included monthly stipends, ranging from Rs 740 to Rs 1,250 for Scheduled Caste children. “What brought girls to classrooms were cash incentives since 2005 to children of weaker sections,” Kumar says.
The effort to raise education levels among girls was supported by special bus services for them in backward districts. Besides, 649 bachpanshalas or crèches were opened for over 17,000 infants to relieve older girls of responsibilities, leaving them free to go to school. Over 30,000 children of migratory labourers are enrolled at ‘worksite schools’.
But Haryana’s efforts to improve the quality of its human resources is not without its critics. “The government has focused on quantity and not quality,” says R.C. Goel, principal, Government College at Barwala. He says the only reason enrolment has grown is because “poor families are provided with an attractive alternative source of income”. He insists there is no change in learning levels.
Kumar points out that moves are under way to improve the standard of teachers. Haryana will soon introduce an integrated teacher training course. “We also carried out a complete overhaul of the teacher recruitment policy