Why the DPEP failed to achieve the objectives?


It was during the 1990’s that a new phase of developments in education, particularly in primary education started in India. This was a result of international assistance to improve primary education in the developing countries. The primary education in India was opened for external assistance starting with the assistance from World Bank and the UNICEF.

In order to coordinate the activities between the central government and state government on one side and the international agencies offering assistance on the other side, the government of India launched the District Primary Education Programme.  This was an effort to bring the international assistance programme under one roof so that the coordination activities can be made easy and simple.

Why District Primary Education Program?

Educational planning in India was always under constrained by lack of financial resources. With the launch of DPEP, there was a relaxation of constraints in terms of financial resources. The districts were told thatparticipating districts will be provided with Rs 350 to Rs 400 million over a period of 7 years under the programme. This amount was not large when compared to Rs 600 million which was spent over every district every year by the government of India during 1990’s.

Contributions of DPEP in India

Under the DPEP the role of districts in planning of primary education was given due importance. There was a call for district planning in education for long post independence. The whole program of DPEP is based on district planning and thus it became important in primary education. This is considered as the most important contribution made by DPEP.

Another contribution made by the DPEP is that, it helped in improving capacity building. But the fact is that both district planning and capacity building does not need external assistance. It was a worrying fact that India had to depend on external assistance for district planning and capacity building. This can be considered as an inability from the part of the government of India and that even after decades after independence our government failed to deliver these aspects.

The external assistance was of use only for quantitative development and for qualitative development the government could have made use of internal resources. So the entire process of external assistance does not provide a sound  rationale so that it can be justified. This is the most important drawback of the program. The severely damaged budgetary conditions of India were the main reason why the government of India decided to accept external assistance. Moreover the international aid organizations were willing to provide financial assistance for improving the primary education in India.

Draw backs of DPEP scheme

The external assistance under DPEP had reduced the efforts from both the central and state governments. Under DPEP the central government can ask the state government to go for external assistance, so that they can reduce the amount provided for the state government. In the case of state government, it reduced the effort from their part to mobilize additional resources. Another advantage state governments enjoyed was that this external assistance was provided as grants and not as loans.

The state government considered this as a programme sponsored by the central government with plenty of resources coming to the states through the central government. Both the central and state governments failed to realize that this will bring in more long term burden to the people of India.

A negative consequence of DPEP was that the people started believe that the government doesn’t have adequate fund to improve primary education in India and that the only way out was to go for external assistance from international organizations. This had led to a situation where both rich and poor states compete to enter into the DPEP system to get external assistance for primary education. This developed a situation where the state governments across the country started to depend on the external fund as source for improving primary education in India.

What led to the failure of District Primary Education Program?

As a result of the DPEP, there was improvement in terms of infrastructure and study materials. But the tragic part is that most of the schools failed to ensure that students showed improvements in reading, writing and mathematics. According to report published in 2008, two third of students in classes 3 to 5 could not read fluently or understand class two lessons. Even after spending millions to improve the primary education in India, the governments failed to improve the quality of education.

A decade and half effort couldn’t provide quality education in India till now and the outcome in future is dark. What will be the situation after a decade if the students pass out of schools with excellent infrastructure and computers, but with limited knowledge and skills?

A major portion of this failure can be blamed on those who are responsible for the implementation of large scale schemes of DPEP. It was very late when the administrators took up the issue of student learning seriously.

The administrators of the DPEP scheme had very little knowledge of what has to be improved in classrooms to facilitate teaching and learning. They concentrated on improving infrastructure and increasing enrollment and retention. They overlooked the fact that improving quality of teaching and learning would automatically bring in more enrollment and ensure retention.   They failed to realize the fact that quality of teachers was the most important factor that ensures delivery of quality education. As a result proper training and developmental opportunities were not provided to teachers.

We Indians focus on policy rather than implementation

In India and in many of the developing countries, policy is given more importance than implementation. So people consider planning as prestigious and implementation as a low end job done by a clerk. So in India as far as DPEP is concerned we failed in implementing DPEP to meet the requirements of the Indian education system, ie, improving the quality of primary education in India.



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