Free uniform and notebooks; compulsory for schools to reserve 25% seats for children from poor sections

The State Budget gives a major boost to school education, with the government earmarking a record sum of Rs.14,553 crore for it — the highest ever allocation made to any department in Tamil Nadu. The school education department will also focus on increasing enrolments and arresting drop-out rates, Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam told the Assembly on Monday.

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This year's Budget gives a thrust to the implementation of initiatives as part of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), in addition to implementation of the Right to Education Act.

The allocation ought to be seen in the context of the RTE Act that places huge emphasis on improving school infrastructure and quality of education. Interestingly, the Budget speech had a special reference to the clause on schools reserving 25 per cent of their seats at entry level to children from economically disadvantaged sections. “It has now been made mandatory for all schools to follow this rule which has been notified by the State government,” the Finance Minister said.

Of the total Rs. 2,000 crore set aside for SSA for the year 2012-13, the State will chip in with Rs. 700 crore, with the Centre providing the remaining amount. This means an increase of over Rs.100 crore as compared to the outlay for 2011-12. This, potentially, could speed up implementation of the RTE Act in the State, for the School Education Department sees the SSA as a vehicle to take the State closer to RTE goals. In regard to RMSA, which received nearly Rs. 1070 crore for 2011-12, the State has sought adequate funding from the Centre to help improve secondary education in Tamil Nadu.

While no specific points pertaining to Samacheer Kalvi or other pedagogical interventions were made, a host of other schemes were announced. A sum of Rs. 150 crore will go towards providing free notebooks to all students in classes I to X going to government and government-aided schools.

As was promised in the election manifesto, the government will distribute four sets of uniforms to students every year, beginning 2012-13. Boys from class VI upward will receive full pants instead of half pants and girls will receive salwar-kameez. The government will also commence supply of a pair of footwear to all students from classes I to X, a scheme targeting 81 lakh children. Students will also receive special educational kits this financial year. This includes school bags, geometry boxes, colour pencils and atlases. As a follow up to an announcement made earlier, special cash incentives will be given to students in classes X, XI and XII. As per the initiative, which seeks to arrest drop out rates particularly in higher classes, students in classes X and XI will have Rs.1,500 deposited in their names, and those in class XII will have Rs. 2,000 deposited. A total of Rs. 313 crore was invested in students' names in the current year and a sum of Rs. 366.7 crore will be invested in the coming financial year, benefiting 21.36 lakh students.

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012