In the last decade the national Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme has focussed on universaling access to elementary education (Grades I–VIII). Most recently the Right to Education Act provides the legislative framework to guarantee schooling to all children between 6 and 14 years of age. It remains the case however that less than half of all children attend and complete secondary school especially in the Northern states. Under the 11th National Plan Rastriya Madhyamic Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) has been launched to increase the numbers entering secondary school. This paper explores some of the key issues in planning and managing the growth in participation that is envisaged so that 75% or more enjoy the benefits of transition to Grades IX and X. The issues include the constraints on expansion that arise from the restricted output of elementary school graduates, the continued exclusion of the poorest and those from disadvantaged groups from progression to Grade VIII, the costs to households and government of universal secondary schooling as currently structured, the limits to growth of private provision, the massive infrastructure needs, and the problems associated with increasing teacher supply and deployment. Policy dialogue around secondary school expansion is a central concern if India is to close the gap between itself and China and other rapidly developing countries in educating most of its population beyond the elementary level.
International Journal of Educational Development (2011) 31 (4) 382-393 [doi:10.1016/j.ijedudev.2011.01.007]