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Miles To Go

Anne Vaugier Chatterjee

By Jyotsna Jha and Dhir Jhingran
Manohar Publishers, Delhi, 2005, pp. 348, Rs. 895.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 10 October 2005

Elementary Education for the Poorest and Other Deprived Groups: The Real Challenge of Universalization is a welcome addition to the abundant literature already available on elementary education in India. Indeed, the topic has, in recent years, massively drawn the attention of social scientists in and outside India with, in the forefront, Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze making education a central issue in all their analyses on development and participation in India. The tradition to which the present book belongs is thus clear.     With the UN Conference on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), held in September 2005 in mind, the question that begs more than ever to be asked is whether India would be able to meet the goals that it has set itself in the education sector. In their latest reports, World Bank analysts have expressed reservations on this question. In this context, this book, the product of the joint research of a social scientist, Jyotsna Jha and an administrator, Dhir Jhingran, is a timely entrant – particularly because of the goal that the authors have set themselves, viz., provide a clear picture of the debate on primary education in the context of the recent governmental schemes, i.e., District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the main vehicles to achieve universal education.     The book is the outcome of extensive field work in both the rural and urban areas of eleven districts in eleven states of the Indian Union (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Orissa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi). The choice to go beyond the so-called BIMARU states needs to be underlined; it thus provides a broader picture than most existing studies. The financial support for the study was mainly provided by Care India and the European Commission Education Office.     That education is a basic right in a modern democracy that is committed to equity and social justice, that its importance is recognized in Article 45 of the Constitution and that 57 years after Independence, the goal of universal education remains elusive are topics that concern Indian policy-makers and India observers alike. The book effectively underscores the obvious – namely, that exclusion from the schooling system is overwhelmingly concentrated amongst girls, disadvantaged communities and deprived regions. Recent estimates put the number of people living below the poverty line (BPL) at 300-350 million. The authors start from the premise that the higher incidence of school dropouts amongst ...

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