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Dated 3 February 2008

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

As you have repeatedly emphasised, ensuring quality school education to all is the foundation upon which any further advances towards a knowledge society must be based. Noting the crucial importance of school education, the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) held a series of workshops and consultations around the country involving a very wide range of stakeholders, to discuss issues of quantity, quality and access in school education. NKC recognises that the primary responsibility for school education is borne by the state governments, and therefore any policy changes must be with the full participation and involvement of the States. Nevertheless, NKC believes that positive changes in systems of schooling will require the active involvement of the central government as well state governments, not only in the matter of providing resources but also in promoting organisational and other changes.

We have a number of suggestions and recommendations covering the different aspects of school education, but the essential thrust can be summarised in terms of more resources, more decentralisation and more flexibility. The full set of recommendations, with details, is provided in the accompanying Note. This letter summarises the most important areas of possible intervention.

1. Central legislation for the Right to Education, backed by financial commitment: NKC endorses the speedy enactment of a central legislation that will ensure the right of all children in the country to good quality school education up to Class VIII, supported with financial commitments of the central and state governments. This obviously requires substantially increased public spending for both elementary and secondary school education, which must be seen as a priority area for spending. Currently school education is highly segmented, even in government-run institutions, as a result of the parallel track of "education centres" in some states. These separate systems must be integrated to give all children access to schools of acceptable quality, which will obviously require additional spending.

2. More flexibility in disbursal of funds: However, there is a strong case for changes in the manner in which such expenditure is incurred. The current norms for central government disbursal to states of funds for , including for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the planned SUCCESS program for secondary education and other central schemes, are too rigid and must be made more flexible. NKC strongly recommends a system of funds transfer and accounting that will allow for regional and other differences as well as changing requirements over time, and thereby allow state governments to use the resources in the most effective way. There should also be greater flexibility in disbursing funds down to the school level and a greater degree of autonomy of local level management in the use of funds. The norms and rules should allow schools to adapt to local conditions and meet particular requirements of their students.

3. Decentralisation and greater local autonomy: Community participation is an important instrument to ensure accountability and improve the day-to-day functioning of schools. This in turn means that the management of schools, including the use and management of funds, should be decentralised to local authorities as far as possible, whether they be panchayats, Village Education Committees or municipalities, and to School Boards that have representation of all stakeholders including parents.

   
 
 

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