Education is the most important tool for social, economic and political transformation and a key instrument for building an equitable society. A well-educated population, equipped with the relevant knowledge, attitudes and skills is essential for economic and social development in the twenty-first century. Education also acts as an integrative force in society. Imparting values that foster social cohesion and national identity. Before 1976, education was the exclusive responsibility of the States. The Constitutional Amendment of 1976 included education in the Concurrent List. While the role and responsibility of the States in education remained largely unchanged, the Union Government accepted a larger responsibility of reinforcing the national and integrated character of education, maintaining quality and standards including those of the teaching profession at all levels, and the study and monitoring of the educational requirements of the country.
With the formulation of National Policy on Education, 1986 India initiated a wide range of programmes for achieving the goal of Universalisation of Elementary Education. These efforts were intensified in the 1980s and 1990s through several schematic and programme interventions, such as Operation Black Board (OBB), Shiksha Karmi Project (SKP), Mahila Samakhya (MS), LokJumbish Project (LJP), District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) and An Integrated Scheme for School Education (ISSE) – the flagship Centrally Sponsored Scheme in partnership with State Governments for UEE across the country. This was further strengthened with the passage of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 which gave a legal mandate to provide free and compulsory elementary education to every child in the age group of 6-14 years. States and UTS were supported in the implementation of the RTE Act, 2009 through the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of ISSE. The norms of the Scheme were aligned with the provisions of the Act with effect from September, 2010.
The Centrally Sponsored Schemes of ISSE and TE were the two major school education development programmes of the Ministry of Ministry of Education, Government of India being implemented in partnership with State/UTs. The common objectives of all the Schemes are to enhance access through the expansion of quality school education; to promote equity through the inclusion of disadvantaged groups and weaker sections, and to improve the quality of education for all. While the ISSE (Elementary) covered the elementary level (grades I-VIII) and was the vehicle for implementation of the RTE Act, 2009, the ISSE (Secondary) covered grades IX-X (IX-XII for certain components. CSSTE was providing teachers’ education through proper institutional setup for both pre-service and in-service training across classes I-X. Further, with the role of SCERT as an academic authority u/s 29(1) of the RTE Act, the focus was on strengthening of SCERTS and DIETS. With the persistent efforts of the Central and the State Governments, these schemes have significantly addressed several major gaps in the school education system and have significantly contributed towards laying a strong foundation for an equitable quality school education system in the country. However, the major challenge is provision of quality of education. The focus of the Central Government needs to be now on encouraging States to take steps for improvement in quality of education.