Monday, March 25, 2013

New Approach

New Approach

The Financial Express : Mon Mar 25 2013, 01:27 hrs

Shutting down schools not meeting RTE requirements will set India's education system back a long way
Despite a 52% increase in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan budget for the infrastructural upgradation of schools between 2010-11 and 2012-13, according to Accountability Initiative's PAISA 2012 report, this hasn't translated into any significant increase in the number of schools meeting the Right to Education norms. According to the report, the percentage of schools with a shortfall in girls' toilets remained at 25% in 2012, the same as in 2011. The percentage of schools reporting a shortfall in classrooms also remained flat at 47% over the last year. Similarly, there has been no significant improvement in any of the other infrastructural requirements of the RTE—be it in headmaster's office, playgrounds, boundary walls, drinking water provisions, kitchens or library books. Now, there is no doubt that this is a dismal state of affairs, and the government needs to investigate where the money allocated for this infrastructural upgradation is really going. But the threat of these schools being de-recognised and shut down for non-compliance, which is what the RTE Act mandates, is an unrealistic and harmful one.
Despite the fact that these schools are lacking in infrastructure, Pratham's ASER shows that private schools enrolment is growing quite rapidly. This means that parents are choosing to pay the higher private fees over sending their children to public schools—clearly, the private schools are doing something right. Shutting them down helps nobody, and stands to harm lakhs of children. It is a good thing, then, that each state can implement the RTE rules as it sees fit. So, Shiela Dikshit was able to recently extend the deadline for schools in Delhi to meet the RTE norms and Gujarat could opt for the more efficient outcome-based approach to the RTE. Shutting down these schools over infrastructural inadequacies is not the answer; ensuring students are improving every year is.

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