Friday, May 17, 2013

RTE Act working against stated objectives

RTE Act working against stated objectives

Tuesday, 02 April 2013 | Pioneer | in Bhopal
Nearly half a century after the Education Commission headed by Professor DS Kothari wrote its recommendations and three years after Right to Education Act was implemented throughout the country, educational revolution leading the way to social, economic and cultural revolution still remains uninitiated, writes Lokesh Malti Prakash
The present system of education, designed to meet the needs of an imperial administration within the limitations set by a feudal and traditional society, will need radical changes if it is to meet the purpose of a modern, democratic and socialistic society — changes in objectives, in content, in teaching methods, in programmes, in the size and composition of the student body, in the selection and professional preparation of the teachers, and in organisation. In fact, what is needed is a revolution in education which in turn will set in motion the much desired social, economical and cultural revolution.” - Excerpts from the Report of Education Commission 1964-66
Nearly half a century after the Education Commission headed by Professor DS Kothari wrote its recommendations and three years after Right to Education Act was implemented throughout the country, educational revolution leading the way to social, economic and cultural revolution still remains uninitiated.
Going by numerous reports and informed opinions, it appears that the Right to Education (RTE) Act, far from transforming education to make it the harbinger of radical change, is falling short of realising the long-cherished goal of equalising educational opportunities for every child regardless of socio-economic background, gender and physical ability.
For example, despite coming into force of a law ensuring free education, more and more people are now paying for education. A study by Annual Status of Education Report (ASER-2012) has following to say about increasing trend of people preferring private schools: “At the All India level, private school enrolment has been rising steadily since 2006. The percentage of 6 to 14 year olds enrolled in private schools rose from 18.7 per cent in 2006 to 25.6 per cent in 2011. This year this number has further increased to 28.3 per cent. The increase is almost equal in primary (Std I-V) and upper primary (Std VI-VIII) classes. In 2012, among all private school children (age 6-14), 57.9 per cent were boys. Increase in private school enrolment is seen in almost all states.”
In Madhya Pradesh, more than 30 per cent of the students now go to private schools. The ASER report estimates that by the year 2020, half of the children will be paying for education as they increasingly move towards private schools.
The reason behind this exodus to private schooling lies well within the provisions of the RTE Act.
“There are several areas which the RTE Act does not address properly. First, the role and powers of the SMCs (School Management Committee) are not clearly established. It seems that those who have drafted the Act failed to take into account the fact that a majority of parents would come from poor, marginalised and even illiterate background which would limits the role they can play in management of schools,” said Archana Sahay, who was appointed by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) as State representative to monitor implementation of RTE Act.
“Second, despite the fact that the Act provides certain minimum norms for infrastructure, there is no clear mandate for improvement of the quality of government schools. So, what we see is that the whole discussion and concern has effectively come down to implementation of the 25 per cent quota in private schools in the name of providing good education.
“Third, several other issues having a bearing on child education are neglected in the Act. For example, right to free and compulsory education and child labour exist simultaneously because the issue is not sufficiently addressed in the Act,” added Sahay.
The gaps as well as the contradictions in the present Act are indeed too many. The Act talks about ‘free’ education but fails to give an equivocal guarantee to every child for making education absolutely free in the exact sense of the word. How can education be termed ‘free’ when everything, except school fees, one ‘mid-day meal’ and school uniform, the child (and his family) has to pay for everything else?
Further, by creating and recognising different categories of schools, the Act in effect creates distinction between various categories of children to the extent of discriminating between the children so categorised.
“In conceiving the RTE Act, the Indian state was following two key objectives of neoliberal economic order. First, children of different sections of society shall have access to varying quality of schooling in accordance with their socio- economic and cultural status or purchasing capacity or both. This is evident from the very definition of “school” in clause (n) of Section 2, which provides for four categories of schools of varying quality and provisions. The second objective of the neoliberal economic order that informs the Act is the brazen pursuit of privatisation and commercialisation of education,” points out Anil Sadgopal, a noted educationist who considers that the RTE Act has been enacted to formalise the abdication of constitutional obligation of the State to provide equitable education to every child of the country.
“All the predictions that were made three years ago about increasing the pace of privatisation and commercialisation of education have come true in these three years. The Act was not formulated to provide the long-cherished right to education to every child of this country, but to facilitate private take-over of the education system. The Act has done this. We are witnessing schools being privatised and closed down on massive scale all over the country,” he added.
As a matter of fact, the RTE Act has completely failed to alter the prevailing view that government schools are bad. This ideological view, which neglects the fact that top-class Central School, Navodaya Schools or Excellence Schools run by the government has not only gained currency but has been firmly established in public mind and the Act fails to address this.
It is a known fact that the school infrastructure norms provided by the RTE Act are downgraded norms as compared to the special category of schools operated by the government, yet the government has failed to implement even these in three years. The structural inequalities that have robbed the masses of access to meaningful and equitable educational opportunities are still firmly in place.
Clearly, the aspiration of making education a vehicle of radical change still remains far from realisatio

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