Primary education is a segment that needs acute attention and action in India. The District Primary Education Program or DPEP is aimed at providing primary education to all children in the country. Initiated in 1994 in 41 districts and expanded to 271 districts by 2002-03, the goals of DPEP are aligned with the National Education Policy.
While DPEP was implemented in these districts, the approach of the program was area- specific. Every geographical region has its own challenges to the accessibility of primary education. Along with this, the socio-economic challenges also vary from district to district. Thus, DPEP acknowledged the local conditions that were preventing children from availing formal schooling and started working on mitigating them.
Geographical Coverage of the Program
The expanse of the District primary Education Program grew with the years. The DPEP started with 41 districts in the states of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu in 1994. The impact of the program encouraged it to be extended to the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Gujarat, and Himachal Pradesh. It further extended to 271 districts of the country, impacting a child population of 60% all over the country.
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Strategy of Implementation
The strategy of implementation is based on the differential needs of the districts. Some trends were observed in all the districts and were included in the plan of action. The DPEP is focused on education-deprived regions and communities. One of the disadvantaged communities was identified to be girl children.
This is a concerning statistic since girls are a large population segment and deprivation of education affects the national growth. It was observed that girls are particularly disadvantaged due to a lack of demand for education in girls.
Another observation after thorough research and survey of the areas revealed the various constraints and needs of girls that prevent them from attending school. On the basis of this data, a district selection criteria were developed.
District Selection Criteria
The District Selection Criteria revolved around two parameters. The first was whether the district’s female literacy rate was lower than the national average or not. The second was whether the district had organised a total literacy campaign through which awareness of the need for education could be raised.
Characteristics of DPEP
- Integrated Program
The DPEP was designed to have a holistic scope. It would take all regional schemes and policies under its wing or coordinate with the existing district-level program to enhance the effectiveness of all the efforts made towards the accessibility of primary education in the district. Not only would the policies converge, but so would their resources.
Resource allocation and distribution have a major role in the implementation of program like DPEP. This would entail working closely with grassroots officials and increasing community participation in the districts.
Since every district has peculiar conditions and challenges, a decentralised mechanism was essential. This means that no general formula or strategy can be applied uniformly to all the districts. A distinct was to be taken as the unit of planning and implementation. Customised strategies followed grassroot level participation as locals would be able to give realistic statistics which would further concept clarity and sensitivity to a certain area.
With an initiative like DPEP, community participation is indispensable. Teachers, parents and other functionaries must join hands to make DPEP a success. The community at large would follow them in their efforts to make the district education-friendly for both boys and girls. The program pays special emphasis to the role of the community at large.
Equity and Positive Discrimination-
The concept of positive discrimination focuses on providing the disadvantaged communities with opportunities to reach the same standards of living as everyone else. With regard to education, DPEP focuses on the vulnerable groups like scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, girls and disabled persons. The goal of equity can be furthered via the DPEP by eliminating some of the specific challenges these communities face.
DPEP has been constructed in a way that reflects the idea of a people’s project. The government and government officials are mere facilitators and the ownership is in the hands of the community. The goal is to help people realise that it is their community that benefits from the program and not the government so that they do not feel like outsiders. For any project to be successful, it must be fully accepted and absorbed in the community and its members. It also gives people an opportunity to be flexible and apply methods that are most effective and relevant to each community.
Funding of DPEP
The DPEP receives funding from the Indian government, State governments and international bodies. It is a centrally sponsored scheme which means that the centre and state government share the responsibility of funding the program. The central government gives 85% of the project cost and the respective state governments pays 15%. The international funding is provided by organisations like the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Official Development Assistance (ODA), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency(SIDA), and the Netherlands. The total external financial assistance amounts to 7 thousand crore approximately with a major contribution from the International Development association (IDA).
Primary education is the foundation of personal development in humans. The ages of 3-10 witness steep learning curves in children. The brain is open to learning in the conceptual, rational and linguistic spheres. Primary education also forms the foundation for intermediate and higher education amongst individuals. The progress of a country can only be brought about by a strong education system. The District Primary Education Program understands the need for primary education and tries to reach the lowest rungs of society to achieve the goal of education for the country. It expects all the sections of society to join hands towards this goal.