GS (M) Paper-2: “Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.”
GS (M) Paper-2: “Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.”
Right To Education (RTE) Act and the Challenges Ahead
The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has called for a review of the provisions of the Right To Education (RTE) Act that stipulate children who do not perform well cannot be held back up to 8th Class.
Why NITI Aayog called for a review?
The RTE Act aims to provide primary education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. It stipulates that no child can be held back in a grade, regardless of his performance, all the way up to the 8th grade. This means that a child is entitled to an 8th grade diploma even if he cannot recognise a single letter or a number if he has spent eight years in school.
- Though the purpose behind this move is to minimise drop-out rates, the Niti Aayog pointed out that this provision has a detrimental effect on learning outcomes, since it takes away the pressure to learn and to compete.
- According to NITI Ayog, the real problem is the quality of education as measurement by student achievements. The education quality trend between 2010 and 2014 has been worsening instead of improving performance.
- Despite good intention, the provision has a detrimental effect on learning outcomes, since it takes away the pressure to learn and to compete. So the NITI Aayog called revision of the RTE Act.
- The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 report, the proportion of children aged 6-14 years enrolled in school in rural areas has been above 96% for the past six years but more than 50% of the 5th graders cannot read second standard level text.
What RTE provisions say?
- The Right to Education (RTE) Act, which aims to provide primary education to all children aged 6-14 years, stipulates that no child can be held back in a grade, regardless of his performance, all the way up to the eighth grade.
- This means that a child is entitled to an eighth grade diploma even if he cannot recognise a single letter or a number if he has spent eight years in school.
RTE Act 2009 – Anomalies and Challenges:
- There are no specific penalties if the authorities fail to provide the right to elementary education.
- On age criteria, the act allows only children between the ages 6-14 to get the privileges.
- It leaves out 0-6 years and 14-18 years despite India has signed the U.N. charter which states clearly that free education should be made compulsory to children of 0-18 years old.
- Both the state government and the local authority have the duty to provide free and compulsory elementary education. Sharing of this duty may lead to neither government being held accountable.
- The Bill provides for the right to schooling and physical infrastructure but does not guarantee that children learn. It exempts government schools from any consequences if they do not meet the specified norms.
- The act talks about 25% seat reservation in private/public unaided school for lesser privileged children. The constitutional validity of reservations of seats in private schools for economically weaker sections could be challenged.
- Minority schools are not exempt from provisions in this Bill. It is possible that this will conflict with Article 30 of the Constitution, which allows minorities to set up and administer educational institutions.
- The Bill legitimises the practice of multi-grade teaching. The number of teachers shall be based on the number of students rather than by grade.
- The fees of these students will be borne by state government. The fee will be reimbursed at government rate. There will be a wide gap between the cost of education per child and the reimbursement by the government. There comes the question of who will bear this deficit portion?
- Moreover, what about the overhead expenses such as uniform, books, stationery, etc of attending a private school? The chances are high that the parents themselves would feel intimidated at the thought of sending their kids to private schools.
- Further the kids will be suddenly exposed to a different living standard. Will they be treated with dignity and equality by their peers and teachers? Will it not be traumatic for the poor kids to cope with that?
- Lack of awareness about the Act, inability to meet the distance criteria and difficulty in obtaining necessary certificates from government authorities could be some of the reasons for the poor response from the public.
- The act stipulates that the child should be assigned the class according to age, which is a good step because wasted years can be saved; but no bridge course is suggested that can prepare the child to adjust to the admitted class.
- Every student will be passed to the next class. This can promote indolence and insincerity among children towards their studies and carelessness and laxity among the teachers.
- The Act will create a system with no incentive for students to try to improve themselves, or to behave with a modicum of restraint. It compromises their ability to withstand pressure and compete harder in order to excel. This will create a generation of drifters who have never tasted hard work or competition.
- The act requires every government and aided school to form a School Management Committee (SMC) which will be most comprised of parents and will be responsible for planning managing the operations of the school. SMC members are required to volunteer their time and effort. This can be a burden for the poor parents. And for the aided schools, the SMC rule will lead to a breakdown of their existing management structures.