Saturday, February 8, 2014

A bumpy road ahead for RTE Act

A bumpy road ahead for RTE Act

KOLKATA: The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act is an innovative idea and has the potential of bringing about a sea change in the education system. But the gap between the conception and its implementation is a serious cause for concern, felt government-aided and private school authorities in the city.

Sonali Sen, principal of Delhi Public School, New Town, said, "I feel it's a good idea to integrate and sensitize children and to remove the barriers that existed before the economically weaker students. But how it is being done needs to be seen."

She was happy that the act allowed backward class students to learn and that there was a strict bar on corporal punishment but the admission rules left her worried. "I feel the weak link in the RTE Act is the clause that gives students age-based admissions. If the provision to admit children on age basis could have been mended and the schools had the right to evaluate which age group the child would fit in, then the system would have been holistic. If a student fails to cope with the class then it does not help the purpose. There should be some evaluation in this regard. Sensitization of children is very important," she added.

For MP Birla Foundation Higher Secondary School principal Herbart George, the RTE came a bit too late. "The government has woken up 50 years too late. It allows children to be among their age group and to be one among them. Some of the children, who are taking admissions are under four categories SC/ST, OBC1, OBC2 and those who are below the poverty line, are first-time learners so they might have a culture shock. It could so happen that the children studying with them may not be comfortable sharing a classroom with them. It is important to make parents of these children understand the novelty of RTE Act," George said. He also pointed out that the government aid was not enough in case of private schools.

According to Calcutta Girls School principal Basanti Biswas, the act do not match with reality. "It is absurd in certain aspects. Reservation for children from the financially weaker section is still confusing. We do not know where these students are going to come from and we are at a loss as to who is the rightful authority to recommend these children. Instead of government schools being under scrutiny they have passed the buck to the private ones."

However, she admitted that the thought behind the act was good as it sought to provide education to all. "But in a diverse country it's not clear how it is going to reach every corner. We have to address the problem not in cities but also in the rural areas."

Even Mukta Nain, principal of Birla High For Boys, felt the rules in Bengal had not been properly implemented. "We are yet to get any directives from the government. The 25% reservation for underprivileged kids will make private schools collapse. It puts a lot of financial pressure on the school."

The principal of a school in Park Street echoed Nain. "There is a communication gap between schools and the government. Till now, we have received no aid from the government that we were suppose to get," she said.

A senior school education department official admitted that there were lapses but went on to caution: "The act cannot be implemented overnight. It will take some time."

"RTE has been promulgated to ensure equal opportunity to students from all sections of the society. The government is gradually implementing all the clauses. We are committed to bring about a change in the society through RTE," said education minister Bratya Basu.

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