This chapter describes the progress made in Independent India’s quest for universal elementary education till 1986 when NPE, 1986, was formulated; it concludes that the much touted ‘neglect theory’—neglect of elementary education being responsible for the country’s failure to universalize—is not wholly true. It describes the points of departure NPE, 1986, made in the extant strategy for universalizing elementary education, the imprimatur that NPE, 1986, gave to child-centred activity-based learning, provision of minimal infrastructure in all schools, non-formal education and revamping of teacher education. The chapter then proceeds to a critique of the design and implementation of flagship programmes launched in the wake of NPE, 1986, such as Operation Blackboard, teacher training, and non-formal education. It describes the practical challenges of putting in place a large, effective non-formal education programme. It also describes the SIDA-assisted Shiksha Karmi programme in Rajasthan.
Keywords: National Policy on Education, 1986, Operation Blackboard, Non-formal Education, teacher education, District Institute of Education and Training, Micro-planning, Social Mobilization, SIDA, Siksha Karmi
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