THE Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)4.1 strives to improve the quality of school education to “ensure that (by 2030) all boys and girls complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes”. Moreover, SDG 4.5 endeavours to “eliminate (by 2030) gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations”.
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 envisages gender inclusive and equitable holistic education steeped in the idea that no child is left behind in terms of educational opportunity because of family background and socio-cultural identities. It takes into account the legitimate concerns of socioeconomically disadvantaged groups (SEDGs) including female and transgender individuals, Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Castes (OBCs), minorities and others for bridging social gaps in access, participation, and learning outcomes.
Samagra Shiksha Scheme
The Ministry of Education is implementing Samagra Shiksha (Integrated Education) Scheme extending from pre-school to class XII. The scheme is aligned with the recommendations of NEP 2020 to ensure that all children have access to quality education with an equitable and inclusive classroom environment that takes care of their diverse backgrounds, multilingual needs, and different academic abilities and makes them active participants in the learning process. It reaches out to girlsand to children belonging to SC, ST, OBCs, minorities, children with special needs (CWSN) and transgenders.
Financial assistance is provided to States and UTs to reduce number of out-of- school children(OoSC) by opening or strengthening new schools upto senior secondary level, constructing school buildings and additional classrooms, setting up or upgradingKasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, opening Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Aavasiya Vidyalayas, free uniforms and textbooks, transport allowance and enrolment and retention drives.
Special training for age-appropriate admission of OoSC and residential and non-residential training for older children, seasonal hostels, residential camps, special training centres at worksites, transport and escort facility are also provided to bring in OoSC to the formal schooling system.
Scholarships are awarded under National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme to meritorious students of economically weaker sections to arrest their drop out at class VIII and encourage them to continue the study at secondary stage.
The NEP 2020 also identifies transgender children as SEDGs and makes provisionsforequitable quality education for them. Samagra Shiksha scheme assists transgender children in gaining access to education and supports communitybased interventions that address local context-specific barriers to their access to and participation in education. Thus it works to eliminate residual disparities in access to education, including vocational education for children from any gender or other SEDGs. As per UDISE+ data, over 61,000 transgender children are enrolled in schools.
Other aspects related to genderinclusive holistic education are covered through age-appropriate integration in different textual materials in school curriculum and in training and resource materials on health and wellness of school-going children under the aegis of School Health Programme under Ayushman Bharat. Under NISHTHA (National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement), an integrated teacher training programme has been launched with focus on foundational literacy and numeracy comprising 12 modules including toy-based pedagogy.
Teachers are trained for relevance of gender dimensions in teaching & learning processes which help them to use and adopt learning activities that foster gender sensitive classroom environment.
GPI values improve
As a result of these initiatives, Gender Parity Index (GPI) values at all levels of school education improved to 1:0 or above, implying more participation of girls. Over 12.3 crore girls enrolled in schools in 2021-22, an increase of 8.2 lakh over 2020-21. Total SC, ST, OBC and CWSN enrolments have also increased.
Moreover, the National Council of Educational Research & Training (NCERT) is implementing the Adolescence Education Programme as part of the National Population Education Project with the objective of making learners aware about the concerns of adolescence, HIV/ AIDS etc. Further, under the student oriented component of Samagra Shiksha, financial assistance is provided for identification and assessment of CWSN, aids and appliances, braille kits and books, appropriate teaching learning materials and stipend to girl students with disability etc.