The impact of literacy and adult education programmes clearly shows that in the future, skill development and increased economic opportunity must form one of the major components of initiatives in this area. The challenge before the National Literacy Mission is to create a continuing education system where the effervescence of the mass upsurge of the literacy campaigns can be channelled into structuring a continuous and life-long learning process.
The sheer complexity and contextual specificity of the concept of continuing education make any attempt to define it an extremely difficult exercise. There is a multiplicity of views. This is because of two primary reasons. The first can be called normative, in as much as the area of continuing education is inchoate. Thinking in this relatively new field is flexible and open to several interpretations. The second is formal, in the sense that the content and style of the programme is determined by the context of its implementation.
In the post literacy and continuing education stages, greater emphasis is being placed on skill development and acquisition of new learning. For those who have acquired basic literacy skills, we need to link these skills more intricately with their lives. This can only become a reality when they learn not only to practice these skills in their day-to-day life, but also clearly under stand that these skills will be of vital importance to them in order to improve the quality and the standard of their lives.
The continuing education scheme is postulated on the principles of:
Thus, the scheme of continuing education, taken up in a district after it has completed the total literacy and post literacy phases, makes the learners aware of the power and significance of education. They realise that education is the agency for improving their lives and they tend to find ways to use their literacy skills in their everyday life to make it more meaningful and rewarding. The continuing education scheme is, therefore, multi-faceted and enjoys supreme flexibility to allow grassroots community participation and managerial initiative.
Establishment of Continuing Education Centres (CECs) and Nodal Continuing Education Centres (NCESs) is the principal mode of implementing continuing education programmes. The centres follow an area-specific, community-based approach. The scheme envisages one CEC for each village to serve a population of about 1,500-2,000 people. About 10 such centres form a cluster with one more acting as the nodal CEC.
The centres are run by full-time facilitators or preraks, and assistant preraks who are drawn from the community itself. The continuing education centre serves as:
The CECs, including the nodal one, are set up in active consultation with the user community and its programme is designed to meet their demands. The stress on imparting literacy skills to non-literates is sustained. Teaching of primers, identification of target groups, environment-building activities, and other items of work if connected with basic literacy eradication continues unabated.
Wide acceptance and local sustainability is achieved by involving NGOs, voluntary agencies, social workers, Panchayati Raj institutions in the planning and implementation of the scheme of continuing education. Various development departments, technical institutions and professional groups provide inputs needed by the programme. State Resource Centres and Jan Shikshan Sansthans join hands by giving the necessary resource and training support.
Apart from establishing CECs, the scheme also undertakes the following programmes:
Equivalency programme designed as an alternative education programme equivalent to existing formal, general or vocational education.
Income-generating programme where the participants acquire or upgrade their vocational skills and take up income-generating activities.
Quality of life improvement programme which aims to equip learners and the community with essential knowledge, attitude, values and skills to raise their standard of living.
Individual interest promotion programme to provide opportunities for learners to participate and learn about their individually chosen social, cultural, spiritual, health, physical and artistic interests.
The project for a continuing education programme is formulated by the Zilla Saksharta Samiti taking the district as a unit. The proposal is submitted for approval to the State Literacy Mission Authorities of the concerned state or to the National Literacy Mission in case the district falls under a union territory.
While the central government does provide financial assistance for initial establishment and running of CECs, in the long run all such CECs are expected to become self-sustaining. The scheme, therefore, envisages provision of financial assistance from the central government and the state governments for the first five years. The central government provides 100 per cent financial assistance to a district for the first three years. In the fourth and fifth year, the cost is to be shared on a 50:50 basis by the central and state governments. Central support to the programme may be liberalised as more and more encouraging results are obtained.
Clearly, the effectiveness of a CEC and the scope of its activities will be significantly determined by the extent of support it enjoys from the community. The CECs must be perceived by the people as arising from their own initiatives to meet their explicit needs. To achieve this objective, the ZSS will be expected to devise all possible ways to enlist community support and mobilise financial and material resources from the community itself so that the CECs and their programmes become self-sufficient in due course of time. In fact, some states such as Andhra Pradesh have achieved remarkable success in mobilising local resources through 'Corpus Funds' and 'Membership Fees'.
The continuing education scheme is visualised as a mechanism for integrated human resource development. Well-organised and coordinated infrastructure for continuing education can advance the course of literacy in India leading to the rise of a learning society.
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