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Universalisation of elimentary education means universal access,enrolement,retention,and qualitative education up to the age of 14.

Elementary education has become a justifiable Fundamental Right. The provisions contained in the Constitution of India, insists on providing elementary education to all children. Educational facilities at the primary education stage have expanded tremendously during the post independence period. This expansion has definitely helped in making primary level education more accessible to a larger section of the population. However the large-scale expansion has resulted in the creation of education facilities with widely varying quality in terms of institutional infrastructure, teaching-learning processes as well as the quality of students passing out of these institutions.

Constitutional, legal and national statements for universalization of elementary education

Constitutional mandate, 1950 - "The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education to all children until they complete the age of 14 years."

National Policy of Education, 1986 - "It shall be ensured that free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality is provided to all children up to 14 years of age before we enter the twenty first century".

Unnikrishnan Judgement, 1993 - "Every child/citizen of this country has a right to free education until he completes the age of fourteen years."

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What is universalisation of elementary education (U.E.E.)?

Universalisation of elementary education has been long accepted as a pre-condition to socio-economic and political development of any society.

Although this has been recognized as a need of an individual, this need has been given an expression of fundamental right in Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Constitution of India does not recognize right to education as a fundamental right but has placed it explicitly in Article 45 under the Directive Principles of the State Policy. This

Article places an obligation on the State to endeavour to provide for free and compulsory education to all Children up to the age of 14 years. The International Instruments which have been ratified by India including the convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights explicitly provide for Right to Education up to the elementary level or up to 14 years of age.

The National Policy on education also emphasizes the responsibility of the State in providing educational facilities to all. However, the legal duties on the part of the State are not clearly stated in the Constitution for the domestic status on education. The remedies in case of violation of the right are also not clearly stated in the present legal frame works other than the remedies available under writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the High Court. The present understanding of compulsory education is limited to right to schooling although the term education means much more than just what is offered in the present school system.

For the statistical data of literacy visit this site

  1. http://www.educationforallinindia.com/page157.html

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Compare article 45 with article 21(a) and state two significant changes of the two

[Put tick mark for the right answer]

1 A child goes to School but does not learn:

(a)It is the child’s problem.

(b)A child’s right to education is being violated

(c)The teacher should be suspended

(d)It is the problem of childs' parents.

2 The present legal framework offers only for a provision of the right and does not make it obligatory for the state to provide free and compulsory education. This will

(a)Lead to the actual realization of the said Right

(b)Make the child go to court

(c)Give room for the violation of the right to education


Universalisation of elementary education has been long accepted as a pre-condition to socio-economic and political development of any society.

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Recognizing the urgent need to rectify the anomalous situation with respect to quality, the National Policy on Education 1986, called for paying immediate attention to:

  1. Improving the unattractive school environment, buildings, inadequacy of instructional material, and
  2. Laying down minimum level of learning that all children completing different stages of education should achieve.

Thus we see that the need to lay down Minimum Level of Learning (M.L.L) emerges from the basic concern that irrespective of caste, creed, location or sex, all children must be given access to education of a comparable standard. The major focus of the policy formulation behind the M.L.L exercise is upon equity and reduction of existing disparities. The effort is to combine quality concerns with concerns of equity keeping in view the developmental needs of children from the disadvantaged and deprived sections of the society, the dropouts, working children, and girls, who constitute the majority of school going age population in this country, and to whom, in all likelihood, atleast for some time to come, primary education will be the only opportunity for structured learning.

To achieve the universal access:

  1. Schools have been set up within walking distance of children.
  2. Admissions are not refused.

Steps taken are

  1. Holding enrolment drives.
  2. Contacting parents of non-enrolled children.
  3. Making attempts to enroll all the children.

Even then,

  1. some children do not get enrolled in spite of all efforts.
  2. some children get enrolled but dropout soon.
  3. some children continue to stay do not make progress.

The net result is,

only a partial success or non-fulfilment of our national Resolve. Whose Concern is this?

It is the concern of all

  1. Parents
  2. Community leaders
  3. Social workers
  4. Administrative officers and
  5. Primary school teachers.

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As a Teacher what one can do?

  1. We can make efforts to enroll all the children
  2. We can make efforts to retain all the children in the school till they are 11 years of age.
  3. We can make efforts to ensure educational attainment.

While Micro-Planning helps us to achieve universal access-Universal Enrolment and Universal Retention, M.L.L strategy helps us to achieve-Universal attainment. Thus the cherished goal of U.E.E is said to have been achieved only if:

  1. Every child has Access to learning centre,
  2. Every child is Enrolled to a formal school or non-formal learning centre.
  3. The child is Retained in school for five years. In a learning centre for 2 years
  4. The child Attains the minimum level of learning (M.L.L)

What are Minimum Levels of Learning?

M.L.L. can be defined in a number of ways. It can be defined with reference to

* the learners achievement

* teachers effort and

* its implications to the society

Teachers gain a clear purpose for their teaching and the students are aware of the results of their learning when they refer to the list of M.L.L. When the parents go through the list of M.L.L, they can appreciate the learning process and facilitate the learning of the child. M.L.L insists upon the achievement (development) of competencies that the level of mastery learning is possible when the child learns through activities (by doing) which is in the form of self-learning.

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The M.L.L consists of three-concepts.
  1. Learning
  2. Level
  3. Minimum

LEARNING is defined by some as a change of behaviour while some others define it as the process of acquiring knowledge, skills, attitude and values.

LEVEL refers to standard for comparing or judging attainment of individuals, groups and institutions.

MINIMUM means that the quantum of learning also be clearly specified. In a nutshell “Behavioural changes” should be further “Quantified” to indicate a pre-defined “Level of achievement and performance”. In other words M.L.L. can be stated as:

  1. expected learning outcomes defined as observable terminal behaviours.
  2. learning competencies expected to be mastered by every child by the end of a particular class or stage of education.
  3. terminal competencies, each of which can be further delineated in-terms of sub-competencies while specifying the content inputs, while designing specific measures of learning.
  4. statements those are in terms of competencies at the mastery level to improve quality.

Why MLLs?

M.L.L. aims at improving the quality of primary Education. Since the quality has a direct bearing on the child, M.L.L. aims at improving the capacities of the child to learn better. M.L.L also aims at improving the quality of teaching and learning. It introduces a sense of direction in teaching and expects greater accountability on the part of the teacher.

When it comes to learning it sees that children should reach an essential level of learning during the primary education course which eventually enable them to understand their world better and function as useful adults in the society.

It provides the head of the institution with a tool for programme formulation for school improvement. M.L.L in the form of competencies serve as goal and objectives, to be achieved by all learners irrespective of caste, creed, sex or religion.

In operational terms 80% of the children should master at least 80% of the prescribed competencies. This is considered mastery learning.

M.L.L competencies were introduced to reduce a teacher’s dependence on one textbook. However, if the competencies are not clearly defined, or partially understood by the teacher, her dependence on the textbook will remain absolute, and the primary objective of introducing M.L.L will be lost.

For teachers to understand M.L.L competencies, exposure to the concept is required. Therefore initial training followed by recurrent retraining of the persons involved is a must to view the whole strategy of quality improvement in primary education and to participate in the crusade against illiteracy. The realization of competencies as a mastery level should be brought about by providing joyful activities to the children in the school. The activities should be attractive enough to involve the child in it. The monotony should be broken and new and interesting learning activities should be created every time. This ensures freedom for a teacher from the textbook.

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The Quality Issue in MLL

The emphasis on quality leads to three important factors:

1 Laying down of well-defined levels of learning is expected to introduce a sense of direction and a greater element of accountability in the system.

Without a clearly defined set of criteria for measuring student’s progress, teachers may lose sight of their goals. The very purpose of education will be lost. Therefore whether the teaching-learning process has developed the innate capabilities of the child, should be our first priority. Regular attendance and completion of syllabus are of secondary importance. That is why the objectives must be clearly stated and the minimum level of learning that all children must achieve at a given stage of education must be clearly defined.

2 Secondly M.L.L is expected to provide an effective tool for programme formulation for school improvement.

Better buildings, more equipment and qualified teachers are necessary for the improvement of schools. These are the inputs to increase the outputs in terms of pupil achievements. But when it comes to quality of a school or educational system what we should focus upon is the output, i.e., the performance capabilities of its students. In other words we have to first define the measure of output in the form of the expected standard of achievement practically by all children.

3 The third factor is that the M.L.L strategy should help the learners attain minimum level of learning.

It is seen that many school children even after spending five years in school do not possess essential competencies. Then there are many children who do not get the opportunity to continue education beyond the primary education stage. Therefore what they learn here must sustain them throughout their lives. That is why we must improve the quality of primary education. And it becomes imperative that all children, irrespective of the background they come form and the condition of the schools they attend, reach a minimum level of learning before they finish primary education. That would eventually enable them to understand their world and prepare them to function in it as literate, socially useful and contributing adults.

Criteria to determine the quality

Competencies (Particular element of learning acquired by learner which only the school can provide)

Mastery level (80% of the students should master at least 80% of the prescribed competencies) are the two important elements that determine the quality of Primary education. What are the salient features of Competencies?

  1. The statement of competencies should be based on processes rather than content and should be indicative of activities to be conducted.
  2. The identified competencies should have functional value and relevance for the children for whom they are intended.
  3. The competencies should relate not only to the cognitive but also to the psychomotor and the affective domains.
  4. Any overlap or/and repetition should be avoided unless necessary and competencies should be stated in clear and simple language.
  5. Competencies should form a continuum but, should also be graded i.e., competencies of class I are to be carried forward through class II to V.

Example: Statement of M.L.L in language (Mother tongue)

Mastery level of learning is achieved when the child masters competencies by learning through activities (by doing), which is in the form of self-learning.

The curriculum issue in MLL

Every curriculum attempts to modify the various domains of development of the learner. It lays down specific educational objectives and the corresponding learning outcomes expected on the part of the learners. Usually these are defined with reference to targets of educational achievements under ideal conditions of learning, enabling the learners to fully realize their inherent potential and engage in socially useful life. The outcomes of learning expected should be based on the maturity level of the learner especially during the initial years of elementary education.

The aims of M.L.L as stated earlier are primarily to improve the quality of primary education. This in turn involves improving the capacities of the child, and also the quality of teaching and learning strategies.

Therefore, laying down minimum levels of learning should be viewed as part of a larger curriculum reform endeavour attempting to move towards greater relevance and functionality in primary education. The implications of this exercise are.

  1. lightening the curriculum of its textual load and also the burden of memorizing unnecessary and irrelevant portions.
  2. leaving room for the teacher to relate textbook information and objective reality into a meaningful process of understanding and application.
  3. ensuring the acquisition of basic competencies and skills to such a level where they are sustainable, and would not easily allow for relapse into illiteracy.
  4. permitting mastery learning not only by the brighter students in the class but also by almost all children, including first generation learners.

Formulating M.L.L

The two basic considerations while formulating M.L.L. are:

  1. The capability of the child to know and understand depends upon its age.
  2. It is necessary to provide suitable and effective environmental conditions for learning.
  3. Children at the primary stage of education are in the age group of 5+ to about 10. This is a period of stability and consolidation and is characterized as a period of pseudo-maturity. Children at this stage delight in sensory experiences and as learners they are self-learning propelling and creative. As such they need pleasure and not pressure. As such guidance and direction rather than dictation. To the learners, learning should be out of activity methods of teaching and learning involving direct experiences, learning by doing and learning by living is ideally suited for children at the primary level.

When we talk about the age of the child what we should take into consideration is “the developmental tasks”. It is a concept introduced by R.J. Havighurst of the University of Chicago.

What is a developmental task?

“It is a task or skill or a behaviour pattern which arises at or about a certain period in the life of the individual, successful achievement of which leads to happiness and success in later tasks, while failure leads to unhappiness and difficulty with later tasks.”

These tasks are essential to personal social adjustment at those ages and each cultural group expects its members to acquire these. For example, all children are expected to master the 3 skills namely reading, writing and counting, during their elementary years.

Havighurst has listed the following developmental tasks for middle childhood. However it must be remembered. These may not be pertinent to our culture system and life values as many such tasks have a cultural bias.

Developmental tasks of middle childhood

  1. learning physical skills necessary for ordinary games.
  2. building wholesome attitudes towards oneself as a growing organism.
  3. learning to get along with age mates
  4. developing fundamental skills in reading, writng and calculating.
  5. developing concepts necessary for everything living.
  6. developing conscience, morality and a scale of values.
  7. developing attitudes towards social groups and institutions.

These aspects should be remembered while formulating M.L.L

Providing suitable and effective environmental conditions refers to external conditions, that is, classroom atmosphere.

The classroom atmosphere should be child centred or child-oriented i.e., the children should be active participants in the process of learning. The children should experience the joy of learning by doing (activities or tasks)

The content should also be conceptualised. It should relate to the child’s life situations and culture.

The role of the teacher is also important in creating a conducive atmosphere for the learners. The teacher should only guide and direct. He/she should not be an instructor or a dictator. In a dictatorial atmosphere learners will only be passive recipients of information, often of little or no pragmatic value. Such a system is counter-productive as it completely ignores the nature and the needs of pupils.

Teaching-Learning strategy is yet another aspect that we should facus upon. It should be activity based. A variety of interesting activities in the form of peer group discussions, story-telling, quiz competitions, riddles, mental activity (in working out sums) debates on social issues etc. can be organized for making learning (be it language, mathematics, or environmental studies) a joyful activity.

Some basic features

Specification of M.L.L’s should meet the purpose of improving learning attainments and serve as performance goals for the teacher and output indicators for the system. For this, the M.L.L must have, apart from relevance and functionality, the attributes of achievability, understandability, and evaluability.


Achievability refers to learning objective that should be achievable by all learners. For this it is necessary that ;

  1. The learning objectives should serve as performance objectives and goals. It should relate to the life situations of the child and the actual levels of achievement in the class. Only then will the teachers be able to help learners to achieve the objectives.
  2. The curriculum objectives should ensure learning upto mastery level by every child in the class. The endeavour should therefore be set attainability so that the class as a whole works towards mastery of these M.L.L in operational terms. 80% of the children should master at least 80% of the prescribed learning level. This is considered as mastery learning.
  3. Since achievement levels vary widely with school conditions, socio-economic factors etc., there must be flexibility in implementation. What is achievable in Delhi schools may not be possible in Raichur schools.


In order to function, as achievement targets, the M.L.L’s must be spelt out in simple enough terms so as to be understandable to all these concerned with the academic growth of the children. There are teachers and non-formal education (NFE) instructors staying in remote rural areas and working in isolation without proper guidance or interaction. Therefore the curriculum developers, text-book writers and educational administrators should see that the documents that would guide the primary teachers or the text-book meant for teaching should be written in a language and form that are easily understandable. It should be effectively communicated to the teacher, student, parent and the community. Only then is the purpose of education achieved.


The success of any educational programme solely depends on the extent its goals and objectives are achieved. Any such programme focuses only on the learner and the learner’s level of educational attainment serves as a yardstick to measure the success of any programme. And evaluation is the only means, which helps us to know the learning states of the children. For the evaluation to be effective, teachers should know more clearly about expected outcomes in the course they teach. Educational administrators should have the system of tests of learners, the instruments to appraise the performance of institutions and teachers too. And for this M.L.L has to be set in evaluable terms specifying the competencies to be mastered under each learning unit form class I through class V. This would permit the construction of criterion-referenced tests by the teachers. Results of such tests based on the M.L.L’s will also help the teacher to identify which specific learning outcome or competency has not been mastered by the learner, so that teacher can help the learner to relearn the clusters of competencies representing specific unit. They can also prepare correctives for remedial instruction quite precisely.

This is what evaluability is, which is one of the basic features of M.L.L

Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor areas of learning

We can distinguish certain aspects of human development such as physical and physiological (bodily) development, with which are related to loco-motor and skill developments (psychomotor) intellectual development (cognitive), emotional development (affective) and social development. These cut across and continually proceed through the various stages of development such as infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. These aspects of human development are interdependent and inter-related, reciprocally initiating as well as influencing each other. Accelerated or retarded development in any one sphere is bound to have repercussions in the others. This integrated aspect of human development is basic to teaching children. It is the “whole child” who comes to the school, nor merely its intellectual segment. The educational goals of “wholesome personality development”, “self-actualisation” etc. stresses the need for a holistic approach to the education of pupils.

Psychomotor skills

Direct movement of the body and its parts is called motor abilities or skills. After birth, motor development is marked and is characterized by gradual increase in strength, flexibility and speed, balance and co-ordination as well as endurance of the child.

The motor skills are sub-divided into "loco-motor skills" like walking, running and climbing and manipulative skills in which objects are handled with dexterity. Normally, by about 5+ or 6 (primary stage of education) children possess many loco-motor skills. Norms have been evolved for the development of such motor skills as jumping, hopping, skipping, ball throwing, ball catching, speed of reaction, threading beads etc.

"Manipulative skills" develop out of basic motor abilities. These are refered to as “Psychomotor skills” by Benjamin Bloom. Manipulative skills include precision of control, co-ordination of many limbs, speed of arm movement, dexterity of fingers, arm steadiness, aiming etc. Both maturation and learning are involved in skill acquisition.

In the teaching of skills, the following suggestions can be utilized.

  1. Correct patterns of movement should be emphasized even from the beginning.
  2. Help and guidance may be needed by the pupil at the start to have the feel of correct movements but this should be gradually lessened to lead to self-reliance.
  3. The student should be made to attend to the total act of the skill but when needed training may be given in specific responses.
  4. Accuracy more than speed should be stressed in the beginning.
  5. Learners should be motivated, because motivation is vital for the acquisition of skills.
  6. In giving practice to the skill learnt, spacing of practice periods is important.
  7. Transfer from prior learning also plays a part in skill acquisition; and skills once learnt are retained for extra-ordinarily long periods of time.

Cognitive skills

When we compare the child as it leaves the school with what it was when it entered it, the most striking aspect of development, apart from the body, is the rapid development of its intellect. Intellectual development is also referred to as cognitive development, which is a vital aspect of education. Cognitive development refers to the gradual growth in what are called cognitive abilities (ability to attend, to perceive, to discover, to recognize, to imagine, to judge, to conceptualise, to remember, to learn and to indulge in meaningful speech) and also to consequent growth in knowledge and adjustment to the environment. Broadly speaking cognitive development of children can be fostered by a stimulating home and school environment with a lot of scope for free self-activity and opportunities for varied sensory experiences.

Emotional development (affective domain)

Emotional development, like other aspects of development is gradual. Both innate maturational factors as well as learning play a part in the development. Emotional development is linked with other areas of human development like physical, intellectual and social. Art retardation, undue acceleration or abnormal deviation in these areas would ineviatably influence normal emotional development resulting in frustrations, conflicts and imbalance in behaviour.

Emotion and Education

Education is not only to train the intellect of pupils, but should also enable pupils to develop emotional control and maturity, which are important for mental as well as physical health. Proper emotional development prepares the individual to appreciate the pleasurable aspects of emotions and to cope up with unpleasant emotions in a constructive manner. This of course, does not mean that the young child should be protected from all unpleasant situations. What is stressed in reasonable prevention of unreasonable fears, angers, jealousies etc. The child should learn to tolerate frustrations so that habits of aggression do not develop.

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Towards a scheme of learner evaluation

A sound evaluation programme if carefully designed and effectively implemented as an integral part of an overall educational programme, can be of immense value in maintaining and enhancing the quality of learning.

While developing an effective system, (the following issues among others should be paid particular attention) we should pay particular attention to the following issues:

  1. Prerequisites for following the system of automatic promotion at the initial stage of learning.
  2. The need for emphasizing mastery learning at the basic stage of education - the question of quality coupled with equity.
  3. A balanced view of learning and evaluation in respect of cognitive, affective and psychomotor aspect of development.
  4. Accountability of the education system and its functionaries as reflected in the actual achievement of learners.

Cognitive, affective and psychomotor learning

Primary education should include not only the acquisition of knowledge and mental skills but also healthy work habits. Cleanliness, co-operation and such other personal and social qualities that form character and personality. The cognitive elements such as knowledge and mental skills are relatively easier to assess. But the other aspects are either altogether excluded from the evaluation process or they are not given adequate attention. Simple and manageable means of assessment of affective and psychomotor aspects of growth must be included in a comprehensive evaluation scheme. Much of this should be based on observation techniques aimed at helping children in acquiring valuable personal and social behaviour and in cultivating healthy habits for their well-being.

Accountability of the education system

The accountability of individual schools, school system and their functionaries should depend on the ultimate criterion of education, namely, student achievement. For this, what is required is competency-based evaluation. In such an evaluation system, each competency constitutes and expected performance target and each cluster of competencies lends itself to unit testing and formative evaluation. Besides summative evaluation, achievement surveys and other measures should also form a part of an overall comprehensive scheme of evaluation to determine accountability and efficiency of institutions and their functionaries and to make decisions by administrators, planners and policy-makers based on actual achievement data.

In the light of the above-mentioned facts what emerges is that a competency-based evaluation system should be followed as part of the M.L.L approach to improve quality together with equity. As M.L.L’s are defined in terms of expected attainments of competencies, these competencies themselves should become the basis of developing evaluation tools and techniques, analysis and interpretation of evaluation data and other such procedures.

In short the whole evaluation procedure focuses on students/learners achievement. And it is the teacher who is the closest to the learner. Therefore evaluation of the result of teaching as well as the process of teaching-learning is absolutely necessary for a teacher.

Assisting teachers & supervisors in strengthening evaluation procedures

The following are some suggestions made in assisting teachers and supervisors in strengthening evaluation procedures.

  1. Development of battery of tests for each of the competencies.
  2. The test item could be non-conventional activities
  3. Supply of test items to teachers and supervisors
  4. Orientation to teachers in using the test items for continuous and terminal evaluation.
  5. These test item could be modified from time to time and standardized during course of time.
  6. The final stage would be to evolve local specific activities based on criterion referenced test items.
  7. Helping teachers to share their evaluation materials, teaching learning aids, remedial exercises etc.
  8. District wise and state wise achievement surveys to be conducted from time to time in different subjects for different classes. The evaluation results should be made known to teachers so they can bring about the necessary modifications in their instructional programmes.

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One day a potter was driving his cart to market to sell his pots. A pot fell off the cart and landed on some grass near the road.

A fly came along and saw the pot. She decided to live in it. Then a frog came along and decided to live in the pot with the fly. Soon afterwards a mouse came along the road, she decided to live with the fly and the frog.

After a short time a rabbit passed by. She thought it was a nice house to live in so she moved in too. The next morning a fox arrived. He too decided to live in the pot with the fly, the frog, the mouse and the rabbit.

In the afternoon a bear came along the road. “What a nice pot to sit on!” he thought. Slowly he sat down on the pot. He crushed it to pieces. The five friends ran away before the bear could catch them. “What a pity,” they said, “It was such a nice pot to live in!”

# Which class is this material suitable for?

# What competencies would you develop while using the above content?

One need not depend on the textbook material to develop the competencies listed for each subject and each class. Especially at the primary level, the curriculum is so designed that the content is available in one’s surroundings, where as in secondary schools, the screw gauge, oxygen preparation apparatus are available in the laboratory. There is lot of mathematics in the kitchen, a big vocabulary list within the range of a child’s experience and environmental concepts within the jurisdiction of school and home. Thus, a teacher has the opinion of adapting/selecting/using the content outside the textbook. This brings variety in the classroom. The teacher’s benefit in such situations is the freedom to select, the creativity of designing, the challenge and pleasures of Innovation. For children this methodology provides novelty, ensures relevance, motivates learning, and gives a conviction that learning material is available all around and hence learning is not difficult. One can learn without a book! The curriculum for environmental studies divides the content into five major areas as shown in the following web.

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This section dealt with the following:

  1. Universalization of elementary education is the goal of the education system.
  2. UEE has four major components, i.e., universal access, universal enrolment, universal attendence and universal attainment.
  3. MLL is a way of achieving universal attainment.
  4. MLLs are the competencies to be developed in the child. The presumption is most of the children can master the competancies, If taught in a suitable manner.
  5. Learning is holistic & contextual therefore teaching should follow the pattern.

MLL oriented teaching renders itself for learners as well as system evaluation. Developing competencies in a child does not require uniform standardised teaching learning materials.

You may like to read this document on the Minimum Levels of Learning for a detailed understanding of the concept and its scope in elementary education. The MLLDocument


  1. In what way do you think RTE, 2009 is helpful in realising UEE?
  2. Do you think the concept of MLL is relevant if we are to adopt constructivist approach to classroom learning? Justify your stand.

Send your answers to your online facilitator and to kumaraswamy64@gmail.com