Social Scientist. v 17, no. 196-97 (Sept-Oct 1989) p. 74.

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The New Dispensation and School Education—the Limits of Development without Democratisation

Universalisation of education was the slogan with which we started after Independence. It is now more than four decades and elementary education has not reached more than 50 per cent of our children.

The National Policy on Education 1986 (NPE) not only scales down the demands placed in this respect but also pushes further away the deadline for achieving these goals. Taking a more practical view of the matter NPE limits itself to proposing that all children by time they attain the age of 11 years will have had five years of schooling, or its equivalent through the non-formal stream, and likewise it will be ensured that free and compulsory education upto 14 years of age is provided to all children by 1995. . . for some years to come we should have no objection so long as children complete 5 years of education... by the time they complete about 14 years' (Programme of Action, pp. 10-13).

What is more, the government abdicates its responsibility for achieving universalisation of elementary education. The government concedes that it cannot ensure schooling for the vast mass of children forced to work to augment family income. This abdication of responsibility is camouflaged by loud pronouncements about non-formal education (NFE). NFE is now expected to do what formal school system has failed to do. 'Now faced with other constraints NFE is being assigned a very large responsibility. It is expected that of the additional 64 million children coming up for elementary education, nearly 39 million will be educated entirely through this system.' (Challenge of Education, p. 40). 'It has been assumed in the policy that a large number of out of school children are unable to avail themselves of the benefits of schooling because they have to work. NPE proposes taking up of a large and systematic programme of nonformal education for these children '(Programme of Action, p. 9-10).

It is rather difficult to believe that the framers of this policy are not aware of the reality of the NFE programme: the dismal performance is too glaring for that. Vast majority of the nonformal

* Ekalavya, Hoshangabad.

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