The World Bank has approved a $600 million credit to support the India's ongoing Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a nationwide centrally sponsored education programme designed to provide children aged 6 to 14 with quality education.
The 'Second Elementary Education Project' aims to improve quality and access to this critical social service.
The project also aims to promote equity by enabling hard-to-reach children to attend school, create better learning conditions for all children and provide capacity building and academic support to state and sub-state education structures.
In the area of oversight, the project will help monitor learning outcomes and support research and evaluation of quality initiatives.
India, the World Bank said, has made strong progress in enhancing access to education. In 2002, India made elementary education a fundamental right of every child through its 86th constitutional amendment.
Between 2003 and 2005, it noted, the number of out-of-school children was reduced from 25 million to about 13.4 million. The transition rates from primary to upper primary also improved, from 75 per cent in 2002 to 83 per cent in 2006.
"There has been a significant reduction in gender gaps. Access for children from marginaliSed groups, minorities, extremely poor households, and educationally and economically lagging states has increased," the Bank added.
The project is the second phase of support by the development partners to the government's ongoing and evolving SSA programme.
With more and more children now entering school, the focus in this next phase is on quality with equity, the Bank said.
In addition to capacity building and monitoring, the project will also support plans to enable the hard-to-reach children to attend school.
In areas where access to education remains low, it will support provision of teachers and construction of primary and upper primary schools. It will also support provision of free textbooks and grants to private aided schools to encourage them to subsidise enrolment of students.
"The first phase of development partners' support to the programme saw a rapid expansion of pRimary school facilities across the country, especially in remote and socially disadvantaged areas," said co-team leaders Amit Dar, World Bank Lead Education Economist, and Venita Kaul, World Bank senior education specialist.
SA II focuses on moving towards the achievement of quality goals and improved learning outcomes. Achieving these goals will play a big role in moving towards the achievement of the education Millennium Development Goals on a global scale.
Total cost of the SSA II is estimated at $10.7 billion, of which the states of India will contribute close to 36.9 per cent, Indian government about 53.7 per cent and development partners 9.4 per cent.
The credit is provided by the International Development Association, the World Bank's concessionary lending arm and has 35 years to maturity and a 10-year grace period.