ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Elementary Education of the Urban Poor

Policy Context, Text and Practice in Delhi

Through a two-way process comprising text analysis of the policy framework of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme and analysis of empirical data collected through interaction with policy implementers, teachers, students, experts, etc, this article puts forth the argument that urban education system has failed partly because of the inability of the implementers to plan, manage and facilitate the programme.

This article is based on my MPhil Research Dissertation completed in 2009 from the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Despite consistent emphasis on providing free and compulsory education to all children below the age of 14 years, policies and programmes designed to ensure universal elementary education have failed to capture the contextual reality and specific situation of urban children in India (Ramachandran 2006). This is because it is widely believed that urban areas are well-provided with educational facilities, and therefore, development of primary education need not be a matter of major concern for urban education planners (Govinda 1995). This assumption fails to capture the fact that urban areas present wide disparity in terms of the socio-ec0nomic status of its population (Govinda 1995), and, therefore, concerns and issues unique to an urban set-up are not taken into consideration when strategic interventions are planned for ensuring provision of quality education to the urban poor.

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is a flagship programme for promoting universal primary education, regarding the urban poor as a “special focused group”. However, within its Framework for Implementation (2008) it prescribes norms for both rural and urban areas on almost similar lines, not giving any weightage to the fact that the sociopolitical context of an urban area differs greatly from that of a rural area.

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