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Record loan for India’s schools

The World Bank has approved a record $1bn (£0.7bn) loan to help get more children into schools in India. It is the biggest investment the poverty-fighting institution has ever poured in to education and aims to boost the number of children enrolling in and completing primary school, and to improve the quality of engineering education across the country. India has made s great progress in meeting its education goals, especially at the primary level, the bank said announcing its backing for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme aimed at providing quality elementary education to all children.

“Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan SSA – the largest ongoing Education for All programme in the world - has been remarkably successful, particularly in achieving greater access to elementary education,” said Roberto Zagha, the World Bank Country Director for India. “Between 2003 and 2009 the number of children reportedly enrolled in elementary education in India increased by 57 million to 192 million. More than two-thirds of this increase took place in government schools, “he told Reuters news service. “The number of children out of school dropped from 25 million to 8.1 million during that same period, a truly remarkable achievement.”

Although the loan is a huge investment for the World Bank to put into education, it is not such a large amount for a nation as big as India, which has large numbers of poor. The latest funding is the third in a series of loans to support the government's program."This is going to be a game-changer for a number of the poorest households in India, who until now have been out of the system," said Sam Carlson, World Bank education specialist. Children living in urban slums and remote rural areas are the hardest to reach, he said adding that the program focused on getting those children into classrooms. "This is reaching out the families who have never sent their children to school before; who have traditionally been excluded both socially and economically.”

Over the next three years, more than 50 per cent of education resources will be a handed out to activities to improve student learning, such as teacher training, remedial education, free textbooks and for other learning materials.  The cash will also scale up post-graduate education, research, development and innovation, the bank said and will build on the first phase of the project which supported 127 institutions and thousands of faculty members in well performing institutions such as, the College of Engineering Pune, the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Hyderabad, and BIT Mesra.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children