Dated 3 February 2008
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
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.