Meet to consider fee hike, legislation for elementary education

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New Delhi, Sep 13 (UNI) The government is considering a 20 per cent fee hike in Central and State Universities and Colleges and enacting a Central legislation to declare the right to elementary education a fundamental right.

The two key issues will be taken up at a meeting of the Full Planning Commission slated for the evening. The meeting is to be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The meet has been called to give focused attention to the field of Education in the Eleventh Plan. Education is the only item on the agenda of the meet.

The other issues to be taken up by the Full Plan Panel include--- expanding Mid Day Meal Scheme to cover all elementary level children by 2008-09 as a result of which 50 million additional children will be brought under the ambit of the scheme; universal enrolment of 6-14 age group children by 2008; reducing elementary dropout rate from 51 per cent to 20 per cent by 2011-12 as also eliminating all gender, social and regional gaps in enrolment and dropouts by 2011-12.

In the area of secondary education, the Plan Panel meet will consider expanding intake capacity in 44,000 existing Secondary Schools; additional appointment of maths and science teachers, upgradation of 15,000 Upper Primary Schools to Secondary Schools; and recruitment of quality teachers through NET and SET.

On the issue of equity, the meet will work out means of giving special focus to girls education, including incentives and hostels; support to Madrasas for adoption of general curriculum of States, and also for teaching of Urdu language; and special remedial coaching within and outside schools.

An important item on the agenda of the meet is enactment of a Central legislation to give effect to the Fundamental Right to Free and Compulsory Quality Elementary Education to children of 6-14 years of age. It will make free elementary education a joint financial responsibility for the Centre and States.

Regarding the proposal for fee hike, Planning Commission sources say the idea is "revision of fees with affordability." The Commission's proposal is to suggest revising fees to cover up to 20 per cent of the operational costs gradually in all existing Central and State Universities and Colleges and immediately in new institutions.

The Commission believes that literacy can accelerate the process of eradicating poverty and reducing regional disparities, a key factor that impairs growth.

The meeting will also consider transformation of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) into a National Mission for Quality Elementary Education with specific monitorable targets.

The Commission has worked out an allocation of Rs 2,69,673 crore for the Eleventh Plan, of which new initiatives will involve an expenditure of Rs 84,743 crore.

The initiatives relate to higher education, skill development through Polytechnics, education mission through ICT, technical education, language development and scholarships and book promotion.

The Commission feels that SSA has increased access to elementary education, but is yet to ensure good quality education. Expansion has meant multi-grade teaching with many inadequate trained teachers resulting in poor learning levels. Dropout rates remain high--29 per cent at primary and 51 per cent at elementary level. There is acceptance that regional, gender and social disparities continue to persist.

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