Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is Government of India’s flagship programme for achievement of Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound manner, as mandated by 86th amendment to the Constitution of India making free and compulsory education to the children of 6-14 years age group, a Fundamental Right. SSA is being implemented in partnership with State Governments to cover the entire country and address the needs of 192 million children in 1.1 million habitations.
Under the programme, new schools are being opened in those habitations which do not have schooling facilities and existing school infrastructure is being strengthened through provision of additional class rooms, toilets, drinking water, maintenance grant and school improvement grants. Additional teachers are being provided to existing schools with inadequate teacher strength. The capacity of existing teachers is being strengthened by extensive training, grants for developing teaching- learning materials and strengthening of the academic support structure at a cluster, block and district level.
The SSA programme is an attempt to provide an opportunity for improving human capabilities to all children, through provision of community-owned quality education in a mission mode. It seeks to provide quality elementary education including life skills. It has a special focus on girl’s education and children with special needs. The programme also seeks to provide computer education to bridge the digital divide. Some of the major norms of intervention by SSA are at least one teacher for every 40 children in primary and upper primary schools, at least two teachers in a primary school, and at least one teacher for every class in the upper primary. Similarly, the norms for schooling facility are a school within one kilometer of every habitation.
SSA effectively involves the Panchayati Raj Institutions, School Management Committees, Village and Urban Slum level Education Committees, Parents’ Teachers’ Associations, Mother Teacher Associations, Tribal Autonomous Councils and other grass root level structures in the management of elementary schools. Though the programme is a partnership between the Central, State and the local governments, it provides an opportunity for States to develop their own vision of elementary education.
The aim of the SSA is to provide useful and relevant elementary education for all children in the 6 to 14 age group by 2010. SSA’s another goal to bridge social, regional and gender gaps, with the active participation of the community in the management of schools. Its aim is to allow children to learn about and master their natural environment in a manner that allows the fullest harnessing of their human potential both spiritually and materially. The programme focuses on elementary education of satisfactory quality with emphasis on education for life.
Clear-cut time-frame objectives were set out for the programme with 2003 being the year to achieve ‘All children in school’, Education Guarantee Centre, Alternate School, and ‘Back-to-School’ camp. The other objectives were: all children complete five years of primary schooling by 2007; all children complete eight years of elementary schooling by 2010; bridge all gender and social category gaps at primary stage by 2007 and at elementary education level by 2010; and universal retention by 2010.
The two aspects of SSA are that it provides a wide convergent framework for implementation of Elementary Education schemes, and it is also a programme with budget provision for strengthening vital areas to achieve universalisation of elementary education. The SSA programme had a framework for implementation to allow states to formulate context specific guidelines within the overall framework, to encourage districts in States and UTs to reflect local specificity, to promote local need based planning based on broad National Policy norms, and to make planning a realistic exercise by adopting broad national norms.
The objectives of the SSA are expressed nationally though it is expected that various districts and States are likely to achieve universalisation in their own respective contexts and in their own time frame. 2010 is the outer limit for such achievements. The emphasis is on mainstreaming out-of-school children through diverse strategies, as far as possible, and on providing eight years of schooling for all children in 6-14 age group. The thrust is on bridging of gender and social gaps and a total retention of all children in schools. Within this framework it is expected that the education system will be made relevant so that children and parents find the schooling system useful and absorbing, according to their natural and social environment.
Under the SSA programme, the states were to make an objective assessment of their prevalent education system including educational administration, achievement levels in schools, financial issues, decentralization and community ownership, review of State Education Act, rationalization of teacher deployment and recruitment of teachers, monitoring and evaluation, status of education of girls, SC/ST and disadvantaged groups, policy regarding private schools and ECCE. Many States have already carried out several changes to improve the delivery system for elementary education.
The SSA programme is based on the premise that financing of elementary education interventions has to be sustainable. This calls for a long -term perspective on financial partnership between the Central and the State governments. The programme calls for community ownership of school-based interventions through effective decentralization, augmented by involvement of women’s groups, VEC members and members of Panchayati Raj institutions.
The SSA conceives a major capacity building role for national, state and district level institutions like NIEPA, NCERT, NCTE, SCERT, SIEMAT, and DIET. It calls for improvement of mainstream educational administration by institutional development, infusion of new approaches and by adoption of cost effective and efficient methods. The programme has a community based monitoring system. The Educational Management Information System (EMIS) correlates school level data with community- based information from micro planning and surveys. Besides this, every school is encouraged to share all information with the community, including grants received.
The SSA works on a community based approach to planning with habitation as a unit of planning. Habitation plans form the basis for formulating district plans. Further, SSA lays a special thrust on making education at the elementary level useful and relevant for children by improving the curriculum, child-centered activities and effective teaching learning strategies. SSA recognizes the critical and central role of teachers and advocates a focus on their development needs. Setting up of Block Resource Centers/Cluster Resource Centers, recruitment of qualified teachers, opportunities for teacher development through participation in curriculum-related material development, focus on classroom process and exposure visits for teachers are all designed to develop the human resource among teachers.