Duration: April 2018 – July 2020
Funder/ Partner: American Jewish World Service
In the current Indian context, there is need to focus on secondary education i.e. grades IX to XII, for children between the ages of 14 and 18, for several reasons. Firstly, since the mid 1990s, the enhanced allocation of financial resources through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the creation of legal entitlements through the Right to Education (RTE) Act have resulted in significant achievements in enrolling children and reducing drop outs in the 6-14 age group. There is agreement among scholars and policy advisors that a higher number of children than ever before are ready to access secondary education. Moreover, the enrolment of girls has kept pace to a large extent with that of boys at the elementary stage, as has that of children from several marginalized groups to some extent (World Bank 2009, Siddhu 2011).
Secondly, secondary education has become important in the context of the sustained high economic growth that India has witnessed in the last two decades. Economic growth in India has been led by high-skill sectors, i.e., information technology, tourism, telecommunications, retail etc. Employer surveys indicate a shortage of skilled workers. With these continuing changes in the economy, more workers with secondary education are needed for the continued growth of the economy (World Bank 2009).
Thirdly, given the above scenario, today, secondary education has very important implications for equity in general, and gender equity in particular. In the changing economy, new opportunities are being created constantly. But these opportunities will accrue to persons who have the requisite skills. While elementary education is a Fundamental Right, secondary education is a key enabler for benefitting from the growing economy. Economic studies show that secondary education is critical in breaking the inter-generational transmission of poverty (World Bank 2009). If historically marginalized groups are unable to access secondary education, they will remain marginalized in the changing economy too. Women who have not attended secondary school may not be able to join the modern workforce, may remain confined to their traditional roles as wives and mothers, or be forced to work in low-skilled jobs.
Finally, there is the all-important dimension of empowerment. For most young people in developed countries and for those from economically better-off backgrounds in developing countries, the age 14 to 18 is a critical time for learning, expanding horizons, and forging an identity. Young people with secondary education can access higher education and technical / vocational training. Those deprived of this opportunity miss out a chance to fulfil their potential. Equally, a higher level of education has the potential to deepen democratic participation and political empowerment.