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Time to fix the school-to-work transition

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Over the last 30 years, India has done a remarkable job ensuring its citizens have access to education. Beginning with State-level policies such as the Andhra Pradesh Primary Education Programme and Shiksha Karmi in Rajasthan in 1984 and 1987, respectively, and culminating in the Centre’s Right to Education Act in 2009, the legislative and programmatic attention to education has been tremendous. And with that, there has been a genuine expansion in access and provision at the primary level.

In the chart, historical data from the District Information System on Education (DISE) on the year a school was built have been used to show how the number of government schools across the country has increased relative to three major Central Government education policies, the National Policy on Education in 1986, the District Primary Education Programme in 1994, and the aforementioned Right to Education Act.

Given that it has now been approximately 16 years since the passage of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the first central level effort, what has this flurry of activity brought? Encouragingly, there have been real wins over time. India has nearly universalised access to education and is now educating more people, including girls, for longer than it ever has before. The programmes have built schools, gotten children into schools, and had them stay in school for longer.

Additionally, it seems like this is also increasing employment and wages. A paper by Gaurav Khanna at the University of California, San Diego, finds that an additional year of schooling has high returns in the labour market, and that large-scale policies to expand education, such as the District Primary Education Programme, redistribute income from high-skilled to low-skilled workers. These are real........

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