Magazine 2015
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Geeta Menezes  
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is Government of India’s flagship elementary education programme launched  
in 2001to provide universal primary education to children between the ages of 6 and 14 years. SSA is now  
the primary vehicle for implementing the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE).This study  
attempts to review the performance of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and highlights some of the long standing  
issues in its implementation; and also analyses inter-State variations in educational development. The study  
is a descriptive one, based on secondary data drawn from The District Information System for Education  
(DISE) and The Accountability Initiative. The results indicate that the implementation of SSA since its inception  
has made significant achievements in the field of education. SSA has recorded remarkable progress in  
terms of new schools, total enrollment, and improved school infrastructure. However, a large number of out  
of school children, teacher related issues like vacancies, absenteeism and inefficient training, poor classroom  
transactions, inadequate teaching-learning resources, low community participation and quality education  
are the main areas of concern of SSA that should be addressed through specific measures. Moreover, its  
progress has varied across States. The top five States with higher Educational Development Index (EDI)  
values are Puducherry, Lakshadweep, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka and the bottom five States  
with lower EDI values are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.SSA guidelines  
should be revised by setting disaggregated targets for every State, wherein programmes and timelines  
could be designed according to the needs of individual States.  
Key Words- Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Schools, Educational Development Index.  
Origin of the Research problem :  
Provision of elementary education has been India’s constitutional commitment. While adopting the Indian  
Constitution in 1950, Article 45 of the Directive Principles of State Policy gave a policy directive to all  
States to provide free and compulsory education to all children until the age of 14 years within ten years.  
The 86 Constitutional Amendment makes free and compulsory elementary education a fundamental  
right for children. The Right to Education Act, 2009 acknowledges basic education as a legal entitlement  
and lays down the minimum parameters of quality education for all children. The Right to Education Act,  
2009 (RTE Act) puts a legal obligation on the Central and State governments to implement this fundamental  
right. Currently, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the main vehicle for implementing RTE Act, 2009 and  
achieving Millennium Development Goal of education for all.  
SSA is the world’s largest and India’s most ambitious education programme meant to achieve  
universalization of elementary education. It was launched in 2001 and is Government of India’s flagship  
programme for achievement of universalization of elementary education in a time bound manner. It 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. As far as goals are concerned, the main focus of  
SSA is on (i) providing universal access to elementary schooling by 2015; (ii) enhancing the learning  
levels of children; (iii) bridging all gender and social category gaps in education; and (iv) universal  
retention by 2015. These goals are achieved through a variety of interventions like (i) opening of new  
schools and alternative schooling facilities; (ii) construction of schools and additional classrooms; (iii)  
provision of school infrastructure; and (iv) support for teaching and learning resources. The SSA approach  
focuses on community ownership and the village education plans proposed in construction with Panchayati  
Raj Institutions (PRIs) form the basis of District Elementary Education Plans (DEEPs). SSA cost is shared  
between the Centre and States in the ratio 65:35. Government of India’s allocations for SSA are primarily  
funded by 2 percent education cess,called the Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh (PSK). PSK is a tax-on-tax paid  
by the public.  
Statement of the Research Problem :  
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) forms the cornerstone of government interventions in basic education for  
all children. The programme covers the entire country with a special focus on educational needs of girls,  
scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and other children in difficult circumstances. SSA is Government  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
of India’s flagship elementary education programme. Launched in 2001, it aims to provide universal  
primary education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14 years. SSA is now the primary vehicle for  
implementing the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. After fourteen years of  
implementation of this programme, it is time to undertake an appraisal of the performance of this  
programme in the realisation of its objectives and study inter-State variations in educational development.  
Review of Literature :  
Kainth (2006), while assessing the performance of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, observed that the implementation  
of SSA since its inception has made significant achievements in the field of education. Special emphasis  
was laid to ensure inclusion of all out-of-school children in the field of education. The focus has been on  
improving the existing infrastructure of regular schools as well as on alternate strategies for mainstreaming  
children who have been left out of the schooling process due to various reasons. As a result, the number  
of out-of-school children declined from 320 lakh in 2001 to 95 lakh as on October 2005. Towards the  
objectives of improving infrastructure, 1,17,677 new schools have been opened against the approval of  
,22,661 schools. Likewise, 3,86,458 teachers have been appointed till March 31, 2005, against the  
sanctioned limit of 5,96,245 teachers to ensure proper pupil-teacher ratios. More than 21,79,366 primary  
teachers are also receiving an annual round of in-service training of 10 to 20 days duration in a year. More  
than 60,000 academic resource centres have been established at the block and cluster levels to provide  
academic support to primary and upper primary teachers and students as a follow-up to teacher training  
programmes (TTPs). During 2005-06, SSA recorded remarkable progress in terms of new schools, additional  
classrooms and additional teachers. However, its progress has varied across States and the objective of  
ensuring gender parity remains elusive, especially for the more backward States. Monitoring of SSA  
funds can be assured by setting disaggregated targets for every State, wherein programmes and timelines  
could be designed according to the needs of individual States.  
Das (2007), while undertaking a realistic assessment of the achievements of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan,  
found that official statistics reveal a promising reduction in dropout rates especially for girls; however, the  
quality of infrastructure and teaching standards in government schools leaves much to be desired. Over  
the years, since 1960-61 the dropout rates at the three levels have come down. However, the rates still  
remain unduly high. In 2003-04 the dropout rate at the secondary level was around 63 per cent. It implies  
that out of 100 children enrolled in class one, only around 37 students could reach class X. Out of these  
3 dropouts around 31 students leave the school before they reach class five. Another 21 students stop  
education well beforereaching class VIII. Further analysis of the dropout rates on the basis of gender  
reveals that in 2003-04 although the dropout rate of girls was lower than of boys at the primary level, it  
was higher at the middle and secondary schools stages. The figures on the percentage of schools with a  
proper school-building give a very disturbing picture. In States like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh,  
Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, large numbers of students at the lower primary level are enrolled in  
schools, which do not have adequate, building facilities.The proportion of schools, which are in urgent  
need of major repairs, is particularly high in Assam (40.8 per cent), Bihar (19.3 per cent), Jharkhand (18.7  
per cent), Orissa (17.7 per cent) and West Bengal (31.3 per cent).Another indicator of the status of  
infrastructural facilities is the availability of toilets and latrines in the campus. The States in which less than  
0 per cent of schools have common toilets are Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.  
Only in a handful of States like Karnataka, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal have more than 80 per  
cent of schools reported having common toilet facilities for students on the campus. Separate toilet  
facilities for girls do not exist in most States. Kerala has separate toilet for girls in 81 per cent of the  
schools (primary and upper primary). In States like Assam, Bihar and Orissa, less than 20 per cent of  
schools have a separate toilet for girls. In Jharkhand, 20.1 per cent schools have this facility.In providing  
drinking water, most States show a satisfactory performance. For enhancing the quality of education and  
increasing the retention rate, the employment of adequate numbers of teachers is essential. Nevertheless,  
a number of States lag far behind.  
Rao, N. (2009) analysed structural constraints in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan schools in Sahibganj district of  
Jharkhand and revealed that SSA, despite its emphasis on decentralisation and inbuilt flexibilities, is not  
making much headway in a socially and economically differentiated setting. This reflects a perception of  
poor quality of the SSA and also a lack of understanding by the programme of social relations and  
structural constraints.Jharkhand exemplifies a State, where SSA is still to overcome structural constraints  
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in order to meet its goals of providing quality education to children in the remotest hamlets of the  
country. Segregating even the state school system into government primary schools and new primary  
schools is hardly helpful. While students in the former are entitled to receive scholarships and have  
regular teachers, students in the latter have neither. If one goes by the very logic of the new primary  
schools, set up in remote areas with poor access to government schools in the first place, they are likely  
to cater to the poorest, most marginalised and least educated sections of the society. Yet, they are the  
ones who will continue to be denied benefits, both monetary and in terms of teacher quality. If India  
hopes to truly provide quality education for all, these structural constraints need to be urgently addressed.  
Rao, V. (2009) tracked the impact of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in terms of community participation in the  
scheduled tribe (ST) Rampachodavaram agency area in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, during  
first phase of its implementation and found that community participation in improving education was  
negligible and that members of the School Education Management Committees (SEMCs) have limited  
awareness of the SSA. On the whole 45% of the respondents from all the categories said that they do not  
know what SSA meant. Among the respondents who said that they do not know, parents constitute the  
largest number. It was also found that nearly 23% of the respondents reported that SSA meant only  
provision of a mid-day meal programme. The respondents were asked whether there was any committee  
in the village to deal with issues related to education. Nearly 50% (63 out of 125) of the respondents said  
that there was no such committee in their villages. It is hard to escape theirony that half of the members  
in the SEMC themselves did not know that they were members of the committee. In the case of  
schoolteachers/headmasters, 25 (more than 53%) out of 47 were unaware that they were the conveners in  
SEMC. Among the teachers, those who knew that they were members, expressed the view that the  
schoolteachers wrote minutes of the SEMC meetings without conducting formal meetings and took  
signatures from the members. They also pointed that they signed them because they trusted the school  
teachers. In the course of the fieldwork and in discussion with the respondents, the community members  
revealed that they were not aware of the financial resources that the school receives. They also pointed  
out that “the teachers do not disclose the financial resources and its expenditure”. As a result, they  
believe that the schoolteachers have a greater say in decision- making over the financial resources. It is  
felt by the respondents that teachers spent the grants on their own without discussing these issues with  
them. The respondents also indicated that even they were not aware that these issues were to be discussed  
in the meetings. All this reveals that the government initiative to create awareness among these tribal  
groups for their greater participation in school-related activities through various education programmes  
such as the SSA are being poorly implemented.  
Banerjee (2014) through a two-way process comprising text analysis of the policy framework of the Sarva  
Shiksha Abhiyan programme and analysis of empirical data collected through interaction with policy  
implementers, teachers, students, experts, etc, has argued that urban education system has failed partly  
because of the inability of the implementers to plan, manage and facilitate the programme.The SSA is a  
ûagship programme for promoting universal primary education, regarding the urban poor as a “special  
focused group”. However, within its Framework for Implementation (2008) it prescribes norms for both  
rural and urban areas on almost similar lines, not giving any weightage to the fact that the sociopolitical  
context of an urban area differs greatly from that of a rural area.Education-related problems of urbandeprived  
children are diverse and range from difûculty of access to schools, attitude problem of teachers, and low  
quality of schooling, to congested living conditions and lack of support at home. Apart from this, there  
are also problems of constant threats of demolition and resettlement, harassment from police and other  
authorities, and constant danger of exploitation and abuse. Thus, any policy, which is concerned with  
the education of the urban deprived, must look into these problems in order to ensure that its guidelines  
and strategies reûect the situation of these children. The SSA framework fails to take this context of the  
urban-deprived into consideration. However, what is worth appreciating is the fact that the SSA programme  
has acknowledged the need for separate planning for urban areas to tackle the educational needs of its  
deprived and neglected groups. With the Right to Education Act in place, in years to come, one may  
see more speciûc strategy-based interventions, like the 25% reservation for urban poor children in elite  
private schools, for tackling the educational concerns of the urban poor.  
Objectives of the Study :  
This study is an attempt to (i) review the performance of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and highlight some  
of the long standing issues in its implementation; and (ii) analyse inter-State variations in educational  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Research Methodology :  
The study is a descriptive one, based on secondary data drawn from NUEPA and Accountability Initiative.An  
attempt is made in this article, using data published by The National University of Educational Planning  
and Administration, New Delhi, as on 30 September 2013, to carry out a supply-side analysis of the  
elementary education scenario in India. The National University of Educational Planning and Administration  
(NUEPA) has created a comprehensive computer based system,known as District Information System for  
Education (DISE), that provides researchers and policy planners the tools required to evaluate all aspects  
of elementary education in India.  
Results and Discussion :  
The performance of SSA can be judged on the basis of certain outcome indicators for SSA: (i) SSA Funds  
Allocation and Utilisation; (ii) Number of Schools providing Elementary Education; (iii) Number of School  
Children; (iv) Gross Enrollment; (v) Gender Gap in Enrollment; (vi) SC and ST Enrollment; (vii) Student  
Absenteeism; (viii) School Infrastructure; (ix) Number of Teachers Appointed and Pupil-Teacher Ratio; (x)  
Teacher Absenteeism.  
SSA Funds Allocation and Utilisation-With the launch of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education  
RTE), the total SSA budget including Government of India and States shares increased over two-fold  
from Rs. 27,552 crores in financial year 2009-10 to Rs. 69,937 crores in financial year 2012-13.  
Consequently, per-student allocations also increased from Rs. 2,110 in 2009-10 to Rs. 5,592 in 2012-13.  
The last two years however, have seen significant budget cuts. In financial year 2013-14, total SSA  
allocations decreased by 32% to Rs. 47,753 crores. SSA expenditures have failed to keep pace with the  
increase in allocations, as depicted in Figure 1. In financial year 2009-10, 77 percent of total allocations  
were spent. This dropped to 63 percent in financial year 2012-13. One of the reasons is delay in the  
release of funds. As of November 2013, 50 percent of total SSA allocations had been spent.A majority of  
the expenditure under SSA is incurred in the second half of the financial year. Over the last few years,  
there have been some improvements. In financial year 2009-10, 65 percent of the total expenditure was  
incurred in the last two quarters of the year. In financial year 2012-13, 54 percent was spent in the last two  
Figure 1: SSA Funds Allocations and Utilisation  
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School Coverage-With SSA, the number of schools/sections imparting elementary education have  
increased many-fold. From 8,53,601 schools in 2002-03, their number has increased to 11,96,663 schools  
in 2006-07, to 12,50,775 in 2007-08, 12,85,576 in 2008-09, 13,03,812 in 2009-10, 13,62,324 in 2010-11,  
4,12,178 in 2011-12, 14,31,702 in 2012-13 and to 14,48,712 in 2013-14, shown in Figure 2. Of the total  
schools, about 85.68 percent schools are located in the rural areas. Number of primary schools increased  
from 8, 53,870 in 2012-13 to 8, 58,916 in 2013-14. Category-wise distribution of schools reveals that  
majority of the schools (59.29 percent) are independent primary schools. The increase in the number of  
schools is also reflected in the ratio of primary to upper primary schools/section which clearly shows the  
impact of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan under which a large number of schools have been opened in the recent  
past. This ratio for the year 2013-14 is one upper primary school/section for every 2.04 primary schools/  
sections. When this figure is compared over time, one can notice a steady decline in the ratio of primary  
to upper primaryschools/sections. The ratio stood at 2.41 in 2007-08, 2.45 in 2006-07, 2.27 in 2008-09,  
.23 in 2009-10, 2.12 in 201011 and 2.07 in 2011-12 and 2.06 in 2012-13. The data also suggests that in  
about 17 States, the ratio of primary to upper primary schools/sections is better than the national average  
of 2.04. Many of the States have the ratio equivalent to almost two, all of which suggests that by and  
large schooling facilities have been created and are available across the country. States like Chandigarh  
1.03), Daman & Diu (1.34), Delhi (1.73), Gujarat (1.34), Haryana (1.38), Karnataka (1.74), Kerala (1.70),  
Lakshadweep (1.35), Maharashtra (1.93), Mizoram (1.33), Nagaland (1.69), Odisha (1.80), Puducherry  
1.45), Punjab (1.57), Rajasthan (1.67) and Uttar Pradesh (1.93) have a ratio of below 2. Despite significant  
improvement, there are a fewStates, such as Assam (3.14), Goa(2.66), Meghalaya (2.51) and West Bengal  
4.40) where the ratio still needs to be further improved.The percentage of government and government  
aided schools is as high as 80.20 which show that eight out of every ten schools imparting elementary  
education in the country is funded by the government.  
Figure 2: SSA School Coverage  
Source: DISE, 2013-14.  
School Enrollment-There has been a continuous increase in the total enrollment at both primary and  
upper primary levels of schools. The total enrollment stands at 198.9 million, as shown in Figure 3. The  
enrolment in primary classes increased from 101.16 million in 2002-03 to 131.85 million in 2006-07 and  
further to 133.41 million in 2009-10, 135.21 million in 2010-11 and 137.10 million in 2011-12 and thereafter  
it is showing a decreasing trend. It decreased to 134.78 million in 2012-13 and to 132.43 million in 2013-  
4.The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) and Net Enrollment Ratio (NER) are 101.36 and 88.08 for primary  
levels and 89.33 and 70.20 for upper primary levels of education. GER of SC at primary level and upper  
primary level are 113.03 and 98.27 respectively. The same for ST are 113.18 and 91.33 respectively.At the  
primary level, the share of SC and ST enrolment with respect to total enrolment in 2013-14 works out to  
9.88 and 11.09 percent respectively. At the upper primary level, it was 19.41 percent and 9.73 percent  
respectively, shown in Figure 4. Notably, at all levels, government schools are the main providers of  
educational needs of both SC and ST children. SC and ST enrolment together had a share of 37.36 and  
5.36 percent respectively of the total enrolment in government run primary and upper primary schools.  
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The share of OBC enrolment in the primary and upper primary classes in schools across the country was  
4.10 and 44.44 percent respectively.  
Figure 3 : School Enrollment under SSA  
Source: DISE,2013-14.  
Figure 4: Participation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under SSA  
Source: DISE, 2013-14.  
Under SSA, gender gap in school enrollment has reduced. The ratio of girls to boys enrollment was 0.93  
for primary level during 2013-14 and has increased from 0.87 in 2006-07 to 0.95 in 2013-14 for upper  
primary level of education.One of the essential requirements to achieve universal elementary education  
is to retain students in the education system. The ratio of Grade V to Grade I improved to 93 percent in  
013-14 compared to 88 percent in 2012-13. This is also reflected in the retention rate at primary level  
which is estimated to be 82percent.One of the other important indicators that are essential to achieve  
universal elementary education is a high transition from primary level to upper primary level of education.  
It has improved significantly from 64.48 percent in 2002-03 to 89.58 percent in 2013-14. Both boys and  
girls have a transition rate of about 89 and 90 percent respectively.