India PM pledges free primary education plan

India's prime minister promised to launch a guarantee of free elementary education.

India PM pledges free primary education plan

India's prime minister promised on Thursday to launch a guarantee of free elementary education.

The implementation of the law, passed last year to fulfil a promise made at the birth of the republic in 1950, comes days after Sonia Gandhi, the powerful chief of the ruling Congress party, was named the chair of a top policy panel that would advise the government on social programmes.

It also comes at a time when the government has been forced to defer crucial legislation such as the nuclear liability bill with a resurgent opposition and unwilling allies target it over inflation and other economic woes.

Manmohan Singh pledged in a speech on national television that financial constraints would not hold up the scheme, which is estimated to cost 1.7 trillion rupees ($38 billion) over five years.

The majority of funding will come from India's states, the rest from the federal state and the private sector. The plan is not expected to affect the federal deficit.

Singh, who rose from a poor rural family to earn a doctorate in economics from Cambridge, recountered his childhood when he walked miles to school and studied under kerosene lamps.

"I am what I am today because of education. I want every Indian child, girl and boy, to be so touched by the light of education. I want every Indian to dream of a better future and live that dream," Singh said.

Under the act, children aged six to 14 will be sent to schools that will have at least one trained teacher per 30 students.

Eight million children of those ages are still out of school, despite India spending 3 percent of its annual budget on school education and building elementary schools in most villages.

The country has improved its literacy rates to over 64 percent of its 1.2 billion population but studies have shown many students can just barely read or write, and most state-run schools have inadequate facilities and untrained teachers.


Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 01 Nisan 2010, 12:02

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