Residential school system: promoting female education through incentivisation

Introduction:  Education is a key component of human development besides economy and health. The Human Development Index of UNDP also has educational development as an indicator for human development. Governments across the globe have taken initiatives for alleviating the educational level of masses especially females, India being one among them. Several programs and policies have been implemented for increasing the level of education since the time of independence with the RTE Act 2000 being the landmark to this initiative. In spite of this, India was not able to achieve the MDG goal of universal primary education till 2015, though there was significant increase in the primary school enrollment. The SDG goals also calls for ‘Education for all’ by the year 2030. In India, till now the budget for primary education has not gone further than 4% of GDP. Elementary education is also heavily underfinanced in India.      Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) Archives - The Times Headline

Focus has been on female education as women in India lag far behind men in literacy levels across the states, though it has been increasing over the time (39 % in 1991 to 64.6 % in 2011). The Gross Enrolment Ratio and the number of females enrolled per hundred males is also on the rise but gender disparity is observed when it comes to Gross Attendance Ratio of females from primary to secondary level. Though gender parity improves, the girl’s education upon completion of a certain grade becomes uncertain as attendance of female students remains lower than males. 

The lower attendance level at higher grades can be the result of the numerous barriers (such as distance, socio-cultural norm, economy etc.) which girls face while pursuing formal education. 

It has been identified that incentives in the form of direct cash transfers, stipends and resources to students have resulted in improving the enrollment and retention of female students at the primary and secondary levels in several developing countries. In India, governments (state as well as union) have implemented several incentivisation schemes for girls’ education in the form of direct cash transfers, stipends and residential schools under programs like Mahila Samakhya Yojana, Beti Padhao Beti Bachao, girls’ hostels and residential schools like KGBV, JNV, Ashram schools etc.

Impetus to girls’ education through incentivisation schemes: a historical perspective

Importance of girls’ education started being recognized during the latter part of the 20th century and several initiatives were taken like the Jomtein EFA goals at the international level, which called for the signatories to fill the gender gap in education by the year 2015. This gave impetus to various strategies like community schools, alternative school, flexi timing and bridge courses.

These schemes could be broadly differentiated as 

  • Stipends and fellowships
  • Accelerated Learning programs 
  • Bridge courses
  • Residential formal schools

Several cash transfer schemes have been launched by the central and the state governments; for instance, schemes like the Ladli scheme, Balika Samriddhi Yojana, CBSE Udaan scheme, National Scheme of Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education, Dhanalakshmi Scheme, Karnataka Bhagyashree Scheme, Mazi Kanya Bhagyashree Scheme etc. While these schemes cater to reducing the financial barriers to education of girls; residential programs cater to removing the barrier of distance. Several initiatives have also been taken in this form. 

The Mahila Samakhya (MS) programme was launched in 1988-89 in order to pursue the goals of the New Education Policy (1986) and the Programme of Action (1992). Initially implemented as a pilot in 10 districts in three states, Mahila Samakhya programme is now present in more than 20000 villages across ten states. Mahila Shikshan Kendras (MSK), residential learning centres working under MS offer eight to eleven months of unique curriculum to impart various skills to never enrolled females. It provides rural poor women learning opportunities in a safe and conducive environment. 

Balika Shikshan Shivirs  (Girls’ Education Camp) in Rajasthan is a six-month residential education programme for girls between the ages of 10-17 years who have dropped-out of school or been deprived of an education. The program is run since 1997 in collaboration with the Lok Jumbish program of the state. 

(Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan) SSA as well as several other agencies run bridge courses and Accelerated learning programs. For instance, MV Foundation (MVF), Andhra Pradesh, which set-up and ran its first residential bridge course in 1992 for poor and marginalised children. 

Ashram schools/harijan vidyalayas were set up by the union government during the 1960s for tribal and dalit children. Some schools were co-educational and in some states separate schools for boys and girls were set up. Through these schools it was envisioned to bring the tribal and dalit children at par with the non-tribal students.

Eklavya model residential schools were also set up by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs during 1997-98, to enable ST students to get into professional courses and government jobs.

Javahar Navodaya Vidyalayas : Ministry of Human Resource Development  started in mid-1980s to cater to meritorious students from rural areas. It is a well-resourced school set up at district level.

Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas are set up exclusively for marginalised girls at the block level throughout the country. The following section provides the details of the program.

Educational schemes in India

1968National  Policy on Education      (focus being inclusive and compulsory education to children till 14 years of age )
1986National  Policy on Education(focus being female and SC, ST literacy, distance education and expanding of stipends and fellowships) 
1992National  Policy on Education (restructuring of admission for technical and professional education)
2019National Policy on Education(calls for critical thinking and experimental learning; suggestions to introduce 5+3+3+4 system) 
1987Operation Blackboard (to provide minimum resources to primary schools) 
1994District Primary Education Program (DPEP)
1995National Program of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (commonly known as Mid-day meal scheme)
1989National Open School
1993-94Area Intensive Program for Educationally Backward Minorities and Financial Assistance for Modernization of Madrasa Education 
2000Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan 
2009 Right to Education Act 

Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV): salient features

Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) being one of the schemes focusing on girls’ education was launched by the central government in 2004. Later on it came under the ambit of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan as a separate component (XIth Five Year Plan since 1st April, 2007). Under this scheme residential schools for girls in extremely backward blocks (EBB) where the female literacy rate is less than the national average, have been set up to reach the girls of school going age from the marginalized community (ST, SC, OBC and minority committee). The focus of this project is not only completion of upper primary education but also facilitating the overall empowerment process of females from the marginalized and deprived section of Indian society. It is facilitated through a gender sensitive education including life skills training. To ensure this a quota system is followed during the time of admission. The scheme provides for a minimum reservation of 75% of the seats for girls belonging to SC, ST, OBC or minority communities and priority for the remaining 25%, is given to girls from families categorized as Below Poverty Line (BPL). 

Though initially it was set up to provide formal education upto class VIII, some state governments have introduced schools with classes higher than Class VIII and have also provided additional funds (e.g. Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Haryana, and Uttarakhand). There is a general demand from the parents, teachers and community as a whole for extending KGBV at least up to class X. The project is being implemented in 27 states/UTs of India.

Since the KGBVs are residential setup and comes under the ambit of SSA, allocation of funds are provided for the resources required. Apart from free textbooks and uniform, infrastructural maintenance has also been stressed upon by ensuring community participation through SMCs (School Management Committee).  

Though it is a flagship program of the union government and fully funded by the centre, several states have started contributing to this project to reach the SDG goals. Several studies have also been taken up by various bodies to record the general administration and functioning of KGBVs (NCERT, NITI Ayog etc.). The policy is very effective in SDG goal fulfilment and overall human development but at the same time, scale up in the implementation is required for best outcome.

Empowerment of marginalised girls: Road ahead

This section discusses about various aspects related to KGBV which needs attention at the priority basis and scaling up the program in these areas would be a constructive step in the empowerment process of marginalised girls.

Teachers’ capacity building and addressing their shortage:  KGBVs are funded under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan budget and the allocated funds are supposed to be spent under three categories, one of them being training of the teachers. Research shows that in many states the funds are underutilized and are mainly spent on teachers’ salary and compromised on other categories like community mobilization, teachers training or monitoring and evaluation. The allocated budget may be spent completely on all categories mandated by SSA and more full time and permanent teachers should be appointed who can benefit from these activities. Focus should be not just on enrollment but also on quality of education. 

There is a shortage of more than nine lakh teachers in India at the elementary level, out of which around 46.3 percent (4, 17,057) posts are vacant under the mandate of SSA. Teachers are the core element of any education system and maintenance of its adequacy should be focused upon.  The vacant seats of teachers may be filled on a urgent basis to sustain quality of education. Computer proficiency as well as vocational training should be facilitated to promote the mandate of ‘Skill India’ program of the government.  

Protection and welbeing : A residential setup for girls calls for a robust security system.  Any gap in the safety and security of girls might dilute the mandate and mission of empowerment of marginalized females. Also the scheme might lose credibility in the particular community for which it has been designed. Therefore, security arrangements in the school and hostel premises should be strengthened and given priority. At least a high boundary wall and CCTV cameras must be ensured. Contribution of the state government in this aspect can scale up the process through close monitoring of the adherence to security norms. A system of in house medical staff or easy access to nearest health facility to address medical emergencies may  also be focused upon.               

Infrastructure:  Started as a centrally funded project, at present several states are also contributing to the overall functioning of the KGBVs. Recently many states have upgraded the existing KGBVs to secondary and higher secondary grades. This might lead to overcrowding due to sudden increase in number of girls which will have direct impact on the sanitation facility, of new buildings are not constructed.  The overcrowding of the hostel should be reviewed from time to time and in case of increase in existing number, the infrastructure should be upgraded accordingly. Maintenance of the infrastructure can also be looked into by the state governments. Government can look into constructing new residential buildings for KGBV in light of increase in enrollment.  

Intake: Since the KGBVs are well resourced, the phenomena of elite capture can take place, which should be monitored. There is a need for strict adherence to the guidelines for identification of out of school and drop out girls of the deprived community. An important and a very significant aspect of the policy is the quota system which may have practical implications in applying it uniformly throughout the country. For instance, the state of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh has quite significant proportion of tribal population and applying the uniform quota might not be feasible there and in other states which are dominated by one category. 

The guidelines for intake of students in consultation with the State/District departments can be developed to be followed. The state government should be given freedom up to a certain extent to adjust the quota as per the demography of a particular block. Collaborating with Aanganwadi Centres would ensure identifying and reaching the most marginalized of girls for admission in the KGBVs. 

Bridge course: The KGBV is designed to accommodate out of school and dropout girls and caters to the completion of the upper primary education, that is, from grade VI onwards. Those students who have never been to school are also admitted in the KGBV. In such cases it would be difficult for the girls to catch up academically with others who have completed primary schooling. Keeping this in view, bridge courses should be designed for such students to enable them to learn at their own pace so that they are at par with others with some extra effort. 

Life skills Education: Being an integral part of overall development, imparting of life skill education is an innovative mandate under the SSA and KGBV scheme. It focuses on developing better communication skills and confidence among the students. Conceptual understanding of some of the social issues like dowry, discrimination etc. forms the component of the life skill training. The life skill training should be scaled up in the KGBVs as it is most significant in the empowerment process of the deprived section. Training modules can be developed with the assistance of various agencies and should be made an integral part of the school curriculum. Trainers, exclusively for teaching life skills may be appointed in the schools. 

Vocational training: Since the prime focus of this project is empowerment of disadvantaged girls, economic independence upon completion of education becomes an important aspect towards this process.  Keeping in view this aspect, vocational courses like tailoring, computers have been introduced in the KGBVs. However, if these courses are not provided in a continuum, the mission for overall development of the students might be compromised. Various vocational courses as per the demand of the students as well as the parents should be provided in the KGBVs. Students can also be trained for horticulture, water conservation avail the maximum benefits of a residential setup.    

Guidance for choosing career:  After completion of formal schooling, it is a common concern of parents and students as to what profession or career they should opt for. The students in KGBV are mostly first generation learners and they may be clueless about various career opportunities. Hence, extensive guidance for various career opportunities should be provided to them especially in schools which have been upgraded to secondary and higher secondary. 

Community participation:  The project KGBV has a community approach and SMCs (School Management Committee) and PTMs (Parent Teacher Meeting) are also an important component under this as in other government schools for community involvement in the education of a girl child. This component may be scaled with a higher frequency. The functioning of SMCs should be strengthened through awareness drive and training programs. Training sessions for developing the capacity of the community to take decisions for their daughters’ education should be conducted at regular intervals.  On one hand participation of the parents improves the functioning of the schools and on the other educated girls act as change agents for the betterment of the community.

The overall mandate of a residential schooling can be summed up in the following figure:


Empowerment of women through literacy programs has been widely recognised by the governments and is evident through various schemes and projects. KGBV is a unique, comprehensive and inclusive project towards female education which has a national reach. Though the positive outcome of this scheme is visible in many districts, scaling up and strict implementation policy would add to the vision of universal education and women being leaders who are capable of decision making and change agents of the society. Regular monitoring and evaluation exercise and revisions in the policy based on the findings, would also have a far reaching impact on the program.

1 thought on “Residential school system: promoting female education through incentivisation”

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