World Bank offers 500 million dollar loan for education in India

The World Bank has offered $500 million interest-free credit to India for improving the standards of secondary education, an official statement said Friday. The World Bank on Thursday approved the credit that will help the Indian government's efforts to make good quality education "available, accessible and affordable to all young persons at the secondary level (grades 9 and 10)."

The project will support all activities as envisioned in the $12.9 billion Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) programme, a flagship government of India programme for gradual universalisation of secondary education, the World Bank said in a statement.

"This World Bank project will support the objectives and activities of RMSA. It will facilitate a whole set of mechanisms built around identifying what is needed to improve the quality of secondary education," said Venu Rajamony, joint secretary, economic affairs in India's finance ministry.

The project will be financed by a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) -- the World Bank's concessionary lending arm - which provides interest-free loans with 25 years to maturity and a grace period of five years.

The money will be used for setting up libraries, computer laboratories, upgrading primary schools in to secondary schools and providing training to teachers.

In addition, expansion, repair and renovation will take place in some 60,000 existing government secondary schools; some 44,000 upper primary schools will be upgraded into secondary schools; and about 11,000 new secondary and senior secondary schools will come up mainly in underserved areas.

Efforts will also be made to strengthen the role of local bodies in school management, which can, over time, lead to greater accountability and improved outcomes, the World Bank said.

"RMSA is a young programme which is expected to grow rapidly and hence it is an opportunity for the World Bank to support the government of India in building effective systems as the programme expands while improving quality," said Roberto Zagha, World Bank country director for India.

Zagha pointed out that a major concern in India these days was the issue of quality education.

"Mere improvement in access, if it is of differential quality, may not be conducive for inclusive growth. Recent international research confirms that improved quality - measured by cognitive skills - is important in determining future income and contribution to economic growth," he said.

"Hence the country needs all their young people to get good quality secondary education," Zagha added.

The World Bank's funded project is designed to meet critical needs in secondary education.

"First, to make sure that secondary education expands in such a way that quality and equity are enhanced at the same time; second, to develop and evaluate innovative approaches to secondary education; and, third, to leverage World Bank resources to help the government address systemic issues in the sector."
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