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Access of Poor Households to Primary Education in Rural India

By Ravindra H. Dholakia and Shreekant Iyengar


The Planning Commission’s premise that the growth in India has bypassed the weaker sections due to their ineffective access to the basic services like primary education needs to be tested against the evidence. Traditionally identified weaker section on social criteria (SC and ST population) seems to have a similar or relatively better access to the primary education. However, there is no direct evidence available for the weaker section on the economic criteria or the population living below poverty line (BPL). The present paper attempts to provide an empirical evidence for the premise of the Planning Commission from the household survey of BPL families in five states of India including the survey of primary schools for the same states and localities. Our findings suggest that there is a problem of access of the poor (BPL) households to the primary education services in rural areas. Primary enrolment ratios among the children of poor households are considerably lower than the respective state average and also the aggregate enrolment ratio of the country. Our findings also reveal that the incentives such as mid-day meals, free textbooks and cash subsidies given by government schools to the poor children do actually reach them. The problem of insufficient effective access of the poor to primary education still persists. It calls for a change in the policy level thinking. Qualitative aspects like school infrastructural deficiencies and functioning of teachers having a direct bearing on the quality and access of education in the rural areas need urgent attention.

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