Secondary Education is a crucial stage in the educational hierarchy as it prepares the students for higher education and also for the world of work. With the liberalization and globalization of the Indian economy, the rapid changes witnessed in scientific and technological world and the general need to improve the quality of life and to reduce poverty, it is essential that school leavers acquire a higher level of knowledge and skills than what they are provided in the 8 years of elementary education, particularly when the average earning of a secondary school certificate holder is significantly higher than that of a person who has studied only up to class VIII. It is also necessary that besides general education up to secondary level, opportunities for improvement of vocational knowledge and skill should be provided at the higher secondary level to enable some students to be employable.

Universalizing access to secondary education

Following the Constitutional mandate to universalize elementary education, and success of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, it has become absolutely essential to push this vision forward to move towards universalisation of secondary education, which has already been achieved in a large number of developed countries and several developing countries. It is well recognized that eight years of education are insufficient to equip a child for the world of work as also to be a competent adult and citizen.

The Mid-Term Appraisal of the 10th Five Year Plan (June 2005) of the Planning Commission has suggested a new mission for secondary education on the lines of SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) pursuant to the success of SSA. The report of the Committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) on ‘Universalisation of Secondary Education’ (June 2005), which is the highest deliberative and advisory forum on Education in the country with Union Minister of Human Resource Development as Chairman and Education Ministers of all States and eminent educationists as its Members, had suggested urgent taking up of a programme in this behalf with certain norms. The CABE Committee on “Girls’ Education & Common School System” in its report of June, 2005 had also, inter alia, recommended (i) making good quality education available to all students in all schools at affordable fees, (ii) investment in public schools system with standards, norms of Kendriya Vidyalayas.

While education is a concurrent subject, and secondary education primarily remains the responsibility of the State Governments, the Ministry of HRD has set its vision on making secondary education of good quality available, accessible & affordable to all young persons in the age group 15-16 years.