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It is important to understand the structures that perform various functions in order to analyze the processes. Traditionally, the government machinery, in the form of administrative structures, controlled all the activities in school education, including elementary and secondary levels. Although this continues to be largely true even now, space has been created for players other than administrators both within and outside the administrative structures. 

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the State Councils of Educational Research and Training (SCERTs) were established under different names, mainly by bringing together a number of government-owned training institutions in the school education sector. Though this institution was established as one of the wings in the administrative setup, this had the character of an academic structure in terms of nomenclature, staff structures and job roles. 

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) were established under a centrally sponsored scheme to provide academic/technical support to elementary education. Some states, like Gujarat, have started giving autonomous status to the SCERTs/ DIETs within the broad governmental framework, but these remain part of the government’s administrative structures in most other states in India. 

Local Self-Government in the form of elected Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in rural areas, and Municipal governments in urban areas, had some power or say in elementary education in almost all the states during the 1950s and 1960s. However, the structure of these bodies, as well as their roles and responsibilities, varied widely across the states. During the later years, while the PRIs were strengthened by the delegation of additional powers for an enlarged role in development in some of the states, in many others these bodies experienced a contraction in their role. By their very nature, the PRIs are political bodies and do get affected by the character of the politics of the land. In 1992, the Government of India (GOI) passed the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments which provided for compulsory direct elections to three tier Panchayat bodies, with reservations for weaker sections like Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and women.

Thus, the structures in elementary education could be divided along three lines – administrative, academic and local bodies. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the emergence of a number of large programmes bringing in a holistic approach and covering almost all aspects of the primary/elementary education sector, as different from schemes focusing on one or two individual items. These projects/ programmes are supported by external funding and came into existence primarily under “Education for All” initiatives. These included the Bihar Education project in Bihar, Lok Jumbish in Rajasthan, UP Basic Education Project in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh Primary Education Project in Andhra Pradesh, and the District Primary Education Project in 15 states. These projects and programmes added a fourth dimension to the elementary education system. Although these do not have any administrative powers, many of the interventions have far-reaching implications. 

Political/Local bodies, Administrative and Academic Support structures in Elementary Education

* These structures have been created by the District Primary Education Programme, or some other similar project and, therefore, may not be present in every district.
** A Gram Panchayat generally covers a cluster of 4-10 villages, depending upon the size of population.

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