Saturday, April 20, 2013

RTE deadline ends, where do we stand?

RTE deadline ends, where do we stand?

TNN Apr 1, 2013, 07.07AM IST

Right to Education Act (RTE) enforcement deadline ended on March 31, 2013. Urmila Sarkar, chief education, Unicef-India , writes on the priority areas to fulfil the goal.
April 1, 2013, marks a key milestone in RTE implementation. It represents the third year anniversary of the Act, which for the first time guaranteed eight years of quality education for every girl and boy across India. It is also the agreed deadline for meeting provisions related to the rights of children, teachers, schools, and monitoring with a focus on child-friendly and child-centred curriculum. Provisions related to the training of untrained teachers have been given an extra two years and should be met by April 1, 2015.

The notification of RTE status rules and implementation guidelines across states and Union Territories has led to significantly increased education budgets , major teacher reform measures and countless stories of hope from the field. While progress is evident, it is widely acknowledged that much remains to be done considering that there are still eight million children out-of-school and millions more that drop out before completing the full cycle of elementary education . Learning assessments demonstrate that many of the children who do remain in school do not have the foundational literacy or the skills necessary for their overall development.
Some of the most challenging provisions to implement include the identification and integration of the out-ofschool children into age appropriate class through special training, recruitment , training, and continuous support for teachers, ensuring functioning school management committees of parents and teachers, which produce childfriendly and child-centred school development plans, and the establishment of local authorities, which monitor children's admission, attendance and completion of elementary education.
It is critical that national/state governments , together with civil society, take stock of the progress achieved and what remains to be done in order to achieve RTE targets on an urgent basis. More concerted efforts are needed to ensure that schools are inclusive spaces for children with teachers as agents of learning and social change with the strong ownership by the community.
Major institutional reform is required in key areas such as teacher education and classroom process through strengthened monitoring and quality assurance systems. Adequate and improved targets of resources which reach the most deprived and marginalised children will be paramount.
The enactment of RTE marked a historic moment for the children of India and a tremendous opportunity. The government is now proposing through the Child Labour Amendment Bill to prohibit employment of children in all occupations and processes to facilitate their enrolment in schools in light of RTE. This is most welcome and should be strongly advocated. To sum up, India's past achievements in education indicate that it is possible to reach its goals and the Act sets a target that can be met. Let us work together to translate the promise of RTE into quality education with equity and a brighter future for India and for its children.
Learning Outcomes
Three years since the RTE was enforced, it has boosted enrolment in schools, however, several studies including the ASER report indicate that students' learning levels are still low.
Sridhar Rajagopalan, founder-MD , Educational Initiatives, said that the RTE is more focused on infrastructure issues such as mid-day meal, school buildings, enrolment, teacher:student ratio, etc, than on learning outcomes. "The focus of education is on learning , hence, we need to asses whether students are learning to read and write," he added.

A joint statement signed by civil society organisations and individuals from across the country highlighted the key priority areas for RTE, they include:
Focus on learning outcomes not just access
Private school regulation based on transparency
Fairness in implementing 25% reservation for EWS
More power for school management committees to ensure quality education
Increase the number of qualified teachers
Improvement of evaluation and assessment tools
Sharing good practices across states, Ashish Dhawan, CEO, Central Square Foundation, said that Gujarat had introduced an assessment system to measure student learning levels in all schools. The schools are graded on a scale of 100 with a minimum defined grade. And 85% of the scale is focused on learning outcomes of the children.
To ensure quality education, Yamini Aiyar, director, Accountability Initiative , Centre for Policy Research, highlighted that parents and community members have to be involved in school development and overall planning process.
A meeting was convened in the Capital to discuss the road ahead for RTE. The joint statement reiterated that going beyond enrolment, the fundamental goal should be on making learning a priority.

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