Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan: Lapses galore, but audit also shows state’s positive trajectory

Population projections show a decreasing trend among Karnataka’s 0-18 yrs age group. Hence priority should be better implementation of the RMSA scheme.

BBMP has spent over 100 crores on fixing, remodelling, and maintaining drains in just one ward – HSR Layout. Their Stormwater Drain Department does not maintain records like work registers or the progress reports of works. BBMP has been indicted for ineffective and inefficient collection of waste, non-compliance with waste management rules, and lack of scientific processing facilities at landfill sites.

These are just three instances of impropriety and poor performance in local government bodies.

All these are issues that citizens should demand accountability from their elected reps and officials. One easy way to be aware of such issues is to track the audit reports from agencies like the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). Speaking at the first Audit Diwas, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out, “We will find the solutions only when we recognise the problems.”

This article is the third of a series by experts from Indian Accounts and Audit Service, with focus on Karnataka’s implementation of the centre’s Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) launched in 2009

Madhyamik Shiksha i.e the education that occurs in the secondary and higher secondary stages (age group 9-12 and 14-18) is the “Make or Break” phase in a child’s education. Ensuring retention of children in this phase has multiple long-term benefits such as employment opportunities, vocational skills, better health outcomes etc.

It is also the phase which, for students of socially and economically disadvantaged parents, is crucial for shedding the shackles they are born with.

It is at this stage that children form opinions about the world and themselves, become less dependent on parents and form aspirations for their future.

Identifying the importance of this education phase, the union government launched the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) in 2009 with focus on Access, Quality, and Equity.

The vision of the RMSA was to provide a secondary school within a reasonable distance, achieve a Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) of 100% by 2017, universal retention by 2020, and provide access to secondary education with special reference to economically weaker, educationally backward, girls and differently-abled children.

Happiness Curriculum
Government School activities. Pic credit: Kriti Gupta

Read more: How citizens can use audit reports to be effective watchdogs

A performance audit of this scheme covering 2013-14 to 2017-18 was conducted by the Office of Principal Accountant General (Audit 1), Karnataka.

Access delayed is an opportunity denied. Though RMSA envisaged secondary schools within 5kms and higher secondary schools within 7-10kms of a given habitation, the Karnataka government stated that 4,361 habitations did not have access to secondary/higher secondary education within the stipulated distance at the end of March 2018.

This claim could not be verified however since the authorities had neither maintained the list of all habitations in the state nor details of habitations with secondary/higher secondary schools. As per Jal Jeevan Mission, as on April, 1st 2021, there are 58,249 habitations in Karnataka.

(Going by the census definition, a habitation is declared urban (excluding a municipality, corporation, cantonment board and a notified town area committee) if it has a minimum population of 5,000; at least 75% of the male working population is engaged in non-agricultural pursuits; and the population density is at least 400 people per sq km. Such habitations are also called the Census Towns.)

Efforts should have been made and regularly updated by the state education department to map the habitations with schools in their areas to identify shortcomings and ensure 100% access.

Also, though the RMSA further envisaged transport arrangements or residential schooling in hilly regions/remote areas, no steps were taken in Karnataka to operationalise these facilities.

Children from Kabanahalli, Khanapura Taluk habitation of Belagavi district, and nine habitations of Chamrajnagara District had to walk a minimum of six kilometres through the forest area to their school since no transport facilities were available.

Quality, in terms of safety and infrastructure ,is essential to attract and retain children in schools.

  • Karnataka’s Perspective Plan envisaged upgradation of 2,000 upper primary schools to secondary schools by 2012. However, only 254 (12.7%) schools were taken up for physical upgradation as of March 2018. Funds amounting to Rs 124 cr sanctioned by the centre for upgradation had to be surrendered.
  • Works are to be inspected after completion in order to notify the contractor of any defects before the end of the defect liability period of 12 months. This was done only in Davanagere district. The consulting engineers reported that building quality was not satisfactory in 45 out of the 48 buildings inspected. But no remedial action was taken.
  • Though 1,367 schools required major repairs and 1,494 schools required minor repairs, major repairs were not undertaken during 2013-14 to 2017-18.
  • The overall classroom ratio (number of students per classroom), as well as district-wise classroom ratio of secondary schools, was found to be within the norm of 1:40 indicating that the classrooms were sufficient to accommodate enrolment. However, the school-wise analysis indicated a different scenario. In 58% of government schools, the ratio was greater than 1:40. In 8% of schools, the ratio was in the range 1:61-69.
  • The Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) envisaged was 30:1. Though the state achieved a PTR of 16.5:1 which is commendable, school-wise analysis shows that 18% of schools exceeded the ratio. In 33 schools, the PTR was in the range of 100-226:1. Or over two teachers per student.
  • In 342 test-checked schools, 19% didn’t have science laboratories, 30% didn’t have computer labs and 26% didn’t possess even half the lab items specified for secondary schools. Further, 65% of science teachers were not aware of laboratory safety measures.
  • Safety features are essential in schools. The audit noticed that structural safety audits of buildings were not conducted in 43% of the schools. Further, 83% of schools did not have a documented disaster management plan and fire safety installations were either not available or not functional in 63% of private aided/unaided schools. There was no compound wall in 27% of the schools.
children in a classroom
A one-room government school in Mysuru. Pic credit: File pic

Read more: When an ambulance driver stopped for dinner and never reached the patient, who died later

Equity is better practised than taught.

Schools offer an incredible opportunity to inculcate the values of equity in young impressionable minds through studying and growing up together. In order to provide equity in education, the RMSA gives special focus to groups that are traditionally at a disadvantage viz., girls, scheduled caste (SC) and tribal (ST) children, children from educational backward minority communities and differently abled children.

Equity can be measured in terms of Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) i.e the number of students enrolled in a given level of education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the overall school-age population corresponding to the same level of education. While Karnatakae as a whole achieved a GER of 82% against the target of 100%, the GER in respect of specific groups i.e girls, boys, SC and ST was 83%, 81.5%, 79% and 73% respectively.

The audit also observed that GER for differently abled children was not even computed. The RMSA provided for identifying every child with disabilities at the secondary level and assessing his/her educational needs. The students were to be provided with support services like special educators. However, funds amounting to Rs 21.20 crore released for Special Teachers was not utilised during the period 2013-14 to 2017-18 as appointments were not made.

In Belagavi District, 232 children were identified for provision of aids and appliances and 21 children were identified for corrective surgeries during 2016-18. However, only 88 children were provided with aids and assistance and corrective surgeries were not conducted for any of the 21 identified children.

While the audit revealed various lapses in the implementation of the RMSA scheme, it needs to be acknowledged that the state’s achievements are on a positive trajectory as indicated in the table below:

The Population Projection Report by the National Commission for Population projects a decreasing trend among the 0-18 years’ age group in Karnataka for the next 15 years. Since this implies a reduction in the need for additional physical infrastructure creation, better implementation of the scheme needs to be prioritised.

We hope that future audits on secondary education will show significant improvements than what was achieved in 2018.

The full Report was presented to state legislature on October 10th, 2019 and can be accessed here. (English and Kannada versions)

[The authors are from the Indian Audit & Accounts Service. Views expressed are personal]

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