Making Grassroots Education Work

Updated: Oct 19 2002, 05:30am hrs
The scheme Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS) or Institute of Peoples Education (formerly known as Shramik Vidyapeeth) was initially launched as a multi-faceted adult education program aimed at improving the vocational skill and quality of life of workers and their family members. The program was evolved primarily to respond to the educational and vocational training needs of a large number of adult and young people living in urban and industrial areas and particularly for those, who had been migrated from the rural to urban areas.

With the emergence of millions of neo-literate as part of the total literacy campaigns launched across the country and the transformation that has taken place in the economic and social set up over the last few years, the role and scope of these polyvalent educational institutes have widened manifold.

In the changed scenario, it is expected that the JSSs are having higher levels of responsibilities so as to act as resource support agencies especially in regard to organisation of vocational training and skill development programs for the neo-literate and other target groups of the continuing education scheme. The area of operation of the JSS has now been expanded to both urban and rural areas in the entire district in which they are located for greater coverage.

In view of the additional focus on the JSS, it is very important to evaluate the performance of the JSS so as to identify the causal relationships for its success or failure. The evaluation study was sponsored by the Directorate of Adult Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, New Delhi.

The evaluation of the study is based on collection and analysis of both primary data through a structured questionnaire. A sample of 125 participants, 14 instructors and several staff and board members were interviewed for this purpose. The various issues raised in this evaluation study can be summarised in the subsequent paragraphs.

The macro level data shows that performance of JSS is quite significant. All together 7765 beneficiaries took advantage from the project. However, the efforts are not enough to fulfil the stated objectives of the project.

The number of female beneficiaries covered by the project is 72 per cent. However, the number of schedule castes is only 8 per cent. The geographical coverage shows that the project is concentrated on a few pockets of the district.

The organisational structure and manpower deployed for the success of the JSS was found to be all right. However, some amount of decentralisation of power will improve the motivational level and morale of the staff and improve the performance of the project.

The training requirements of the staff need to be looked into more seriously. It should be more frequent and need based. The staff members should be motivated enough to perform their duties in an effective manner.

The budget available to satisfy the needs of the target population is inadequate. The delay in release of funds creates problems for the smooth running of the courses. The cash flow problem needs to be solved for improving the motivation levels and job satisfaction of the staff.

The objectives of JSS are to improve the occupational skills and technical knowledge of neo-literate and to increase their efficiency. The number of people bypassed by the conventional education system are too many. Due to the low levels of enrolment and retention and high dropout rates, particularly for the target groups the stated objectives are not fulfilled according to our satisfaction.

The project addresses the problems of very few people. The number of participants should be drastically increased to cater to the needs of large mass of people who are waiting for the services rendered by the JSS. The project must cover a vast amount of rural areas in the district.

The project has created some positive degree of awareness among the urban population and increased the expectation of the target groups. However, the capacity building and community mobilisation activities need to be strengthened.

The courses offered are providing quality service and majority of the participants is getting the benefit. We have used systematic random sampling technique to select 125 participants from different courses. Our data shows that number of female participants are 83 per cent. Whereas, 92 per cent of the participants were matriculate and above. These participants with higher educational qualifications are definitely not the desired target group. Further, when we looked into the family income, we found that 80 per cent of the participants are having annual family income above the poverty line.

It was found that a majority of the participants are getting the information about the JSS courses from friends/relatives. In general, they are very happy with the courses. They find the fees are less and the quality of learning is quite good. The courses are definitely improving the confidence level of the participants.

Many of the participants felt that practical hands-on-training was the most important factor for the success of the program followed by the faculty commitment. The quality and sincerity of the faculty members is a positive factor for the success of the JSS.

The job orientation of the program and the use of teaching learning materials were found to be inadequate. The JSS is not providing necessary help to the participants for their future employment services.

While talking to the instructors, we found a very low level of satisfaction. Their job satisfaction level was found to be 2.71 out of 5.0, which is quite low. The reasons could be delay in receiving their pay, problems of transportation and availability of teaching and learning materials.

There are a number of organisations, which are collaborating with JSS and the success of JSS depends on the interface and convergence. Some of the collaborators are not fully aware with the objectives of the JSS. The target groups for the collaborating organisations are different and not necessarily the same.

The convergence with various rural development activities, employment generation and other educational activities needs to be more cohesive and functional. The need for an interface with these agencies will go a long way towards fulfilling the common goals and objectives. The performance level of JSS, Gaya according to the weighted score framework provided by the Department of Adult Education is quite good. However, the success will depend on various other factors and hence the weighted score should not be considered in isolation. The replicability and sustainability issues must be considered for determining the degree of success or failure of a project. The actual needs of the district are too large.

The number of staff and organisational requirements are not enough to fulfil this gigantic task. However, a good beginning has been made by the activities of JSS and the people in rural areas and the members of the target groups are genuinely interested in the success of the program. It will be necessary to increase the program activities in a phased manner. This would require more staff, a higher amount of budget allocations and a decentralised system of administration. It is hoped that the evaluation study will open up the future opportunities and many of the pressing issues are addressed towards improving the performance of the JSS.

(The author is professor at Management Development Institute, Gurgaon)