'Govt made substantial progress in strengthening education'



New Delhi: The government on Sunday said it has made substantial progress in strengthening the country's education system and bringing down the number of school dropouts significantly.

In his 'Report to the People', Prime Minister Manmohan Singh underlined that one of his government's thrust areas had been the "expansion and strengthening" of the country's eduction system at all levels -- elementary, secondary and higher.

"There has been significant reduction in the number of out of school children at the elementary level. More than 11 crore children are now provided hot cooked meals under the Mid Day Meal Programme," he said.

The number of out-of-school children has come down from 134.6 lakh in 2005 to 81.5 lakh in 2009, the annual report card of UPA-II said, citing a study by the Social Rural Research Institute -- International Marketing Research Bureau (SRIIMRB).

It also stated that attention is being given for universal access, including special training, to mainstream out-of-school children in age appropriate classes in regular schools.

Under the Mid-day Meal Programme, the report stated that 11.36 crore children were provided hot cooked meals in 12.66 lakh schools in the country.

By now, 11.25 lakh schools have been provided with kitchenwares and 26 lakh cook-cum-helpers have been appointed to provide mid-day meals to the school children.

Similarly, 4.66 lakh kitchen-cum-stores have been constructed to ensure safety of foodgrains and serving of hygienic meals to the children, the report stated.

In 2010-11, according to the report, 5,658 new primary schools and 3,870 new upper primary schools were opened across the country.

While 1,41,102 additional classrooms built, 83,038 teachers are appointed in the past one year, it said.

Taking pride for the passage of historic Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, the government said that "elementary education has now become a fundamental right" for all children in the 6-14 age group.

"In secondary education, significant progress was made in 2010-2011 in the schemes for establishment and management of girls' hostels and ICT in schools," the Prime Minister said.

"In higher education, we moved forward in strengthening the legislative framework by finalising or introducing in Parliament a number of bills," he said in the report.

He also noted that three new Indian Institutes of Managements (IIMs) -- at Rohatak, Ranchi and Raipur -- commenced their academic sessions in 2010-11, while the IIM at Tiruchirapalli was operationalised with executive programmes.

All the new National Institutes of Technology also started functioning from July 2010, the Prime Minister said.

PTI