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Base de données d'évaluation

Evaluation report

IND 1999/801: Evaluation Study to Assess the Efficiency and Effectiveness of the National Programme for Nutritional Support to Primary Education in Ten States of India

Author: Operations Research Group

Executive summary


During recent years, there has been increased international discussions and growing awareness of the link between children's nutritional and health status and their educational participation and performance. Apart from the nutritional importance of school feeding, such programmes are expected to act as an incentive to parents to enrol their children at school and for children to attend regularly. Despite substantial gains in providing access to primary education, the primary schooling system continues to be characterised by low participation especially of girls. This programme is envisaged to serve as an additional and valuable component in the package of measures to help the poor families to defray the indirect cost of education. NPNSPE envisaged full coverage of students studying in primary classes (1 to IV/V) in all the government, local body and government aided schools in the country in a phased manner over a period of three years from 1995 to 1998.

Purpose / Objective

The main objective of the study was to critically evaluate the National Programme for Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NPNSPE), with a view to formulate strategic recommendations for strengthening the existing program and, if considered necessary, to suggest alternative strategies for a more effective utilization of resources to promote primary education.

The specific objectives of the assessment were:
- To study the nature of the NPNSPE currently operating in India
- To critically examine the program versus actual disbursement and utilization
- To evaluate the effectiveness of the program against the criteria of increase and sustained increase in enrollment and attendance rates, and decrease in drop out rates
- To generate recommendations for strengthening the program or suggest alternative strategies for using these resources for the promotion of Universalization of Primary Education (UPE)


Data was collected through a variety of research techniques. A literature review was conducted along with in-depth discussions and semi-structured interviews. A school checklist and household questionnaire were completed along with Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRA). The study was conducted in 25 districts across the 10 sample states. Participants included: State and District implementing agencies, MHRD, Food Corporation of India (FCI) staff, District/Block/Panchayat members, headmasters, teachers, parents and students.

For selecting the sample districts, all districts in the sample states were placed into categories based on parameters concerning literacy rates, geographical coverage and proportions of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) population. Two to four districts per state were selected from each category.

Key Findings and Conclusions

On the basis of coverage, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal were found to be performing well, with 70% or more of children receiving meals. However, coverage by itself is meaningless unless accompanied by the right quantities and timely delivery. Despite wide coverage, timely receipt of foodgrain was the key issue to be addressed in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

In comparison, Gujarat and Karnataka, though overall coverage was 55 to 67%, the quantity and frequency of receipt was much better. The low overall coverage could be attributed to the strict adherence to the eligibility criteria by a majority of teachers in Karnataka.

States where multiple agents were involved in lifting [distributing] of foodgrain (Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Jammu) had low coverage less than 50%. Though the program was currently non-operational in Assam and Jammu, the discussions have clearly revealed that due to the involvement of multiple agents in these states, delays in the supply of foodgrain to the schools was a regular problem. Even in Uttar Pradesh, the lack of communication between the agency and the schools regarding delivery of foodgrains led to delayed receipt by students; 88% of students received foodgrains once in two months or more. Furthermore, some grain was lost due to prolonged storage. All states were grossly under equipped with facilities at school level to store foodgrains or cooked food.

Among other states such as Gujarat, Orissa, and West Bengal, innovated approaches for the lifting of foodgrain have been adopted. In these states, the delivery of food grain was far more regular (67-87% of households receiving grain every month) and in the right quantities (90-100% of children receiving 3 kg or more of foodgrain). The streamlining of the delivery process is a priority area for improving the coverage and reach of the program.

In some areas, households had access to land and were able to produce food of better quality. Hence, instances of eligible students not participating in the program or selling the grain for other items were high in the state of Haryana. In Madhya Pradesh and Jammu, the demand for pre-cooked meals was higher than foodgrain. A state-specific needs assessment of the target group is recommended.

The awareness and adoption of eligibility criteria was designed to enhance the enrolment, attendance and retention levels. In all states except Rajasthan, Haryana and Karnataka, there was low adherence to the rule that foodgrains may only be given to those students with an attendance of 80% or more during the previous month. Many parents, students and community members were not aware of this requirement.

Enrolment levels have increased significantly in Assam, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. In none of these four states is the variation in attendance significant at the 5% level of significance. In none of the other states was significant variation in enrolment or attendance observed. The reasons vary across states. In some areas, interruptions in the program did not allow data to be analyzed in a systematic manner. In others, similar government programs operating during the same time period influenced the impact of the program.


Keeping in mind that the key objective of the NPNSPE is to provide a boost to primary education, it is critical not only to strengthen the various program components but also to design strategies to reach out-of-school population. This and other issues could be addressed by greater involvement of the community and Panchayati raj institutions.

There is a need to set up a separate cell for implementation of NPNSPE with full time staff. Presently, the MHRD is the national agency for implementation of NPNSPE. None of the 67 posts created at this level for the program have been filled. At the state level, in all states except Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, the implementing body is the Department of Education. There is little interaction between state agencies and the Food Corporation of India (FCI). Inter-linkages between the FCI and the implementing agency need to be improved for the timely delivery of foodgrains.

It is essential to maintain school records on key indicators of the program that can then be aggregated at various levels. The aspects of quantity and quality of foodgrains and cooked meals, timely delivery and frequency of distribution to eligible students are not monitored or supervised properly across states. Though monitoring committees have been formed in some states, they have yet to become functional. Furthermore, there is no system for redress of complaints by functionaries and beneficiaries across all states.

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