UNICEF Resource Centre

Fact Sheets




The Education Programme supports and strengthens government efforts to provide quality education by reducing gender and other social and economic disparities at the national and state levels. The Ministry of Human Resource Development is the nodal ministry for UNICEF’s Education Programme.

Through a close and productive partnership with MHRD and the Department of School Education and Literacy along with civil society, the Programme has been supporting the government of India’s flagship programme Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All)1 to ensure greater access to education, enrolment and improved learning outcomes for the most marginalized groups of children.

While retaining a focus on elementary education for children aged 6 – 14 years under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), the programme is now covering a wider gamut – starting from early childhood education through elementary up to Grade 10. Child friendly schools and systems are being promoted and capacities of teachers strengthened to ensure children’s right to learn. Convergence with other programmes to combat child labour and child marriage, and universal access to improved water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, is also ensured. The programme aims to:

  • Improve equitable access to quality early childhood education
  • Accelerate implementation of the Right to Education Act and child friendly schools
  • Enhance capacities of teachers and pre-school functionaries to deliver quality education
  • Mobilize communities to demand equitable access to quality education
  • Increase access to secondary education for adolescents with a focus on reducing gender and social disparities

    Also read Frequently Asked Questions about the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE)

Key Challenges:

  • An estimated 8.1 million children are out of school, majority of those belonging to the disadvantaged groups.
  • Drop out rates are high. Despite achieving close to universal enrolment at primary level, 27% children drop out between Class 1 and 5, 41% before reaching Class 8, and 49% before reaching Class 10. The figures are higher for children from Scheduled Castes (27%, 43%, and 56% respectively) and Scheduled Tribes (36%, 55%, and 71%).
  • Wide gender disparities exist in education. For every 100 boys enrolled in secondary education, there are 81 girls enrolled.
  • Less than half (47%) of Class 5 students can read Class 2 text5. Children’s attendance rate in rural primary schools has shown a decline from 73% in 2007 to 71%6 in 2012.
  • As per RTE norms, there should be one teacher for every thirty students at primary level and one teacher for every thirty-five students at upper primary level. However, 41% of primary schools have a pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) of more than 30 and 31% of upper primary schools have a PTR more than 35. About 80% of regular teachers and 72% of contractual teachers are professionally qualified.
  • Of the 1.3 million schools across India, only 72% of elementary schools have a separate girls’ toilet, while only 85% of these toilets are functional.
  • Significant challenges still remain to keep schools safe considering rising civil unrest and the wide prevalence of corporal punishment across the country.

Key Opportunities:

  • The Parliament has passed the Right to Education Act (RTE), making eight years of quality education a fundamental right for every girl and boy in India. Enacted on 1 April 2010, the RTE serves as a building block to ensure that every child from 6 to 14 years has his or her right to receive quality elementary education, and that the State, with the help of families and communities, fulfills this obligation.
  • National Policy on Early Childhood Care and Education approved by Cabinet which consists of the ECCE policy, curriculum framework and quality standards. There is now a movement to expand RTE to include early childhood and secondary education.

Key Results Achieved:

  • Notification of RTE rules and implementation guidelines across all States and Union Territories resulting in more than 11 million more children in schools, significant resource allocations to the sector and major education reforms.
  • Since 31 March 31 2013 RTE deadline, RTE stocktaking at the national level and in ten states completed to accelerate implementation
  • Child friendly schools as mandated by RTE integrated into governments plans and budgets including Activity Based child-centred method of teaching and learning replicated across 13 states.
  • Improved water, sanitation and hygiene practices mainstreamed into RTE plans.
  • National Policy on Early Childhood Care and Education cleared by the Government.
  • Early childhood education curriculum piloted in 16 states and finalized in three.
  • Support to GOI Teacher Education Mission to ensure academic support structure strongly linked to learning outcomes
  • National Vision for Girls’ Education and 2015 Roadmap incorporated into SSA Annual Work Plans and Budgets as well as capacity development of state Gender Coordinators through GOI-civil society partnerships
  • Ministerial level support for RTE implementation in civil strife affected areas including new programming in Jammu and Kashmir
  •  District Information Systems for Education (DISE), NUEPA, 2011 – 2012.
  • 83 or the 640 districts are affected by civil unrest. Ministry of Home Affairs

For more information and interviews, please contact:

Caroline den Dulk  Chief of Communication, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-1810-6093; E-mail:

Geetanjali Master, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-1810-5861; E-mail:

Sonia Sarkar, Communication Officer- Media, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-101-70289; E-mail:

Real Lives 

Girls Learn Life Skills in Deepshikha
Pratibha says her dramatic transformation is thanks to lessons learned in Deepshikha, or the ‘Light a Lamp’ programme, which aims to break down age-old negative attitudes toward women

Finding Innovative Ways of Putting Child Labourers Back in School
Anas is an ex-child laborer who has gone back to school with the help of a UNICEF project. The project aims to help an estimated 8,000 children working in metal ware industry.

Residential Schools Allow Tribal Children an Education
DALEIGUDA, India, 8 September 2011 – Krupasindhuv Pangi knows the challenges that indigenous communities face. At the age of five, his family lost their land when it was taken from them to build a factory.

Giving Voice to People: Community Radio Station Launched in Koraput
Pratibha says her dramatic transformation is thanks to lessons learned in Deepshikha, or the ‘Light a Lamp’ programme, which aims to break down age-old negative attitudes toward women

Corporate Sector Can Play Important Role in Achieving RTE
The Right to Free and Compulsory Education and the role corporate sector can play in helping to achieve it was the theme of the consultation jointly organised by UNICEF, CII and TSMG

IKEA Investing in the Lives of 100 Million Children and Women
The IKEA Social Initiative – the corporate philanthropy arm of the international home-furnishings retailer – is providing funds so that activity-based learning and quality education can be expanded to all elementary schools in Uttar Pradesh

Bringing Child Labourers Back to School in Bihar
NALANDA, India 3 September 2010 – Wearing a clean, navy-blue school uniform with a sky-blue shawl draped over her shoulders, 14-year-old Khaushaliya Kumari is sociable and relaxed as she goes through her daily routines.

Masti Ki Paatshala Curbs Dropouts
JHARKHAND, India, 20 May 2010 –The Multi Grade Multi Level (MGML) teaching process aims optimise the abilities and mental aptitude of primary school children to bring out the best in them.

IKEA SUNNAN Lamps Light Up Students’ Lives in India
IKEA Social Initiative is partnering with UNICEF to promote the rights of every child to a healthy, secure childhood with access to quality education. What once started as IKEA’s fight against child labour in the supply chain has developed into a broad co

RTE in the News
Pratibha says her dramatic transformation is thanks to lessons learned in Deepshikha, or the ‘Light a Lamp’ programme, which aims to break down age-old negative attitudes toward women

The Right to Education: Fact Sheet
For the first time in India’s history, children will be guaranteed their right to quality elementary education by the state with the help of families and communities.

The Right To Education: Frequently Asked Questions:
The passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 marks a historic moment for children of India. This Act serves as a building block to ensure that every child has his or her right to get a quality elementary education.

The Right To Education
Pratibha says her dramatic transformation is thanks to lessons learned in Deepshikha, or the ‘Light a Lamp’ programme, which aims to break down age-old negative attitudes toward women

Children enjoy learning in Activity Based Learning Schools
The initiative launched in 4000 primary schools for classes one and two across 50 districts in the state allows children to study according to their own pace in a child-friendly teaching and learning environment.

Community radio connects, educates and entertains in rural India
Residents of Shivpuri, located in India’s Madhya Pradesh State, turned out in force for the recent launch of the station, which will broadcast to scores of villages in a 15-kilometre radius of the city.

Storybooks to help marginalised children bridge language barriers
Attractively illustrated and written in simple Assamese, the storybooks embody the flavour and culture of tea communities and have been specially designed, keeping in mind the language needs of first-time school goers in tea garden areas.

A Braille version of the CRC spells out rights for the visually impaired in India
In the run-up to 20 November 2009, the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF is featuring a series of stories about this landmark international agreement on the basic human rights of all children.

Community radio connects, educates and entertains in rural India
Pratibha says her dramatic transformation is thanks to lessons learned in Deepshikha, or the ‘Light a Lamp’ programme, which aims to break down age-old negative attitudes toward women

Isolated Islanders Support Schools to Educate Their Children Closer to Home
Education Coordinator Juri Gogoi makes her way along a beaten earth path about half a foot wide that twists from the shores of the Brahmaputra River to the Chapori or Island school, a 20-minute walk away

ADEPTS – An innovative strategy to improve educational performance through teacher support
Children from English medium school are now seeking transfer to our school. Last year, around thirteen students took a transfer from private schools to our government primary school,” proudly says the Head Teacher of Magodh Dungri Primary School.

Headmasters train to become better Managers
“I’m Anbu, Headmaster of the Mekala Chinampalli School in Krishnagiri District. My hobbies are reading books, listening to music and keeping myself updated with current affairs.”

Global Action Week of the Global Campaign for Education
Global Action Week of the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) is taking place from 21-27 April 2008 on the theme of “Quality Education to End Exclusion” - a priority within the Education for All goals and a priority for achieving the Millennium.

SRUJAN- Integrating folklore into education
Kamlu Chalan, Babuli Bhatra, Soudamini Dhanful and Sudharani Dhanful are just some of the children who wanted to go back to school at Bandaguda village in Kotpad block, after participating in the fair organised to showcase different aspects of education.

Vaijanti and Sugna
While the girls were experiencing one of the most joyful times of their lives, their parents paid no heed to the staff of the NGO CULP, talking about the importance of girls’ education.

Reaching out … taking education to the unreached!
On Sunday, the 10th of February 2008, an air of palpable excitement laced the cheery sunshine bathing the Chief Minister Shiela Dixit’s lawns, as her guests milled around in anticipation of the unveiling and launch of the ‘Chalta Firta School’ Mobile Lear

Radio Bachpan
‘Radio-o-o Bachpan-n-n!!!’ the voice of ten year old Shabnam trilled through the loudspeakers and the audience laughed and clapped with glee.

Mobile schools in tents to target migrant children in Madhya Pradesh
With 85 percent tribal population, a large number of children in Jhabua district, who move with their parents in their search for work, end up missing education altogether.

Rural children learn to read young
The success of the Activity Based Learning among rural children in a Corporation run primary school at Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai needs applauding.

Maharashtra adopts child-centered learning
Take a peep into Class I in Kavha village school in Latur district and you see children, sitting in groups, engrossed in looking at picture cards in their hands and sharing with each other what they see in those cards.

A Vending Machine Radicalises Girls’ Personal Hygiene Choices
The adolescent girls of Nemmeli School, Kancheepuram District, Tamil Nadu, are well informed when it comes to menstrual hygiene.

Quality Education Package for primary schools
Education quality has received a great deal of attention in recent years. There is agreement that quality needs to be improved.

Quality education package produces better results in Maharashtra schools
The "Quality Education" package adopts a multi grade multi level method where the class teacher knows the exact levels of understanding of students and assigns activities accordingly.

Anandshala - a model ‘school of joy’ in Bilpudi village, Gujarat
Anandshala is a success story of the model schools conceptualized and promoted by UNICEF. The school, with a focus on co-curricular activities, aims at mental and physical growth of its students by instilling among them a love of learning.

In Gujarat, Niloshi’s five-year olds enroll in school amidst jubilation
Niloshi, located at a rugged end of the Western Ghat mountains, is home to one of the most backward tribes in the state.

Girls speak out for equal access to education
Adolescent girls in India demand greater, sustained support for equal access to good quality education.

School sanitation and hygiene education - Rajasthan
The absence of safe drinking water and toilets in many schools in Rajasthan’s Alwar district used to make children fall frequently ill and seriously affect the enrolment and retention of students, especially girls.

Girls' education initiative - Uttar Pradesh
In 1999, in partnership with the government and other voluntary organisations, UNICEF initiated a project for girls’ education in four blocks of Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki district, where female literacy was about 15 per cent.

Nali-Kali initiative - Karnataka
Developed in 1995 by teachers in Karnataka’s Mysore district, the Nali Kali strategy adopted creative learning practices to help retain children in school and bring in those not attending school.





Awaaz Do For Out-of-School Children

Awaaz Do

The RTE Act promises all children between 6 to 14 years the right to free and quality education.
To make the Right to Education Act successful, it is important that each one of us knows about it so that every child who isn't in school can be sent back for free and quality education.

Let us raise our voices and spread the word. Tell everyone around you, family and friends. Everyone you know must know that every child has the right to free and quality education. Let's support the RTE implementation process and provide the momentum it needs.

Awaaz Do!! Our collective voices will help make a difference.

You can play your role via:

1. Logging onto our website ( & getting to know more about RTE and its impact.
2. Telling your friends on Facebook or Twitter about the ‘Awaaz Do’ movement by updating your status.
3. Emailing or sending an SMS to your network and telling them about ‘Awaaz Do’

You can be the change agent! Start Now..

For every child
Health, Education, Equality, Protection