No Girl Left Be­hind

India Today - - THE STATE OF THE STATES -

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

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