Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] The ABC of the RTE

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Fundamental rights, Article 21-A, 86th Amendment, RTE Act, Pupil-Teacher Ratio, ‘no detention’ policy

Mains level: Bottlenecks in implementation of RTE Act


Right to Education Act

  1. Free and compulsory education of children in the 6 to 14 age group in India became a fundamental right in 2002
  2. Article 21-A was inserted in the 86th Amendment to the Constitution
  3. This right was to be governed by law, as the state may determine, and the enforcing legislation for this came eight years later, as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2010, or the RTE Act

A futuristic law

  1. The practices were drawn from over a hundred countries having various and similar pieces of legislation or regulations already in place
  2. Since its enactment, the RTE Act has been lauded and disparaged
  3. The RTE Act is a game-changer in that it establishes that the onus to ensure free and compulsory education lies on the state

Provisions, use of which can bring about big transformation

1. Focus on retention

  • The Act envisaged that the state, i.e. State governments and panchayats, would aggressively ensure that each child is brought into the schooling system and also “retained” for eight years
  • Tracking dropouts and preparing and mainstreaming them into age-appropriate classes has been subsumed into existing scheme activities
  • The problem now is more about dropouts than children who were never enrolled
  • Strategies to ensure retention need to change from the earlier approach of enrolling the un-enrolled

2. Pupil-teacher ratio

  1. No meaningful teaching-learning is possible unless trained teachers are physically present at school
  2. The RTE Act lays down Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) for both primary and upper primary schools
  3. At primary level, the PTR should be 30:1 and at the upper primary level it should be 35:1
  4. According to the Education Department’s data, under the Unified District Information System for Education (U-DISE) database 2015-16, 33% of the schools in the country did not have the requisite number of teachers, as prescribed in the RTE norms
  5. All other forward-looking provisions of the Act such as continuous assessment, a child learning at her own pace, and ‘no detention’ policy are contingent on a school with an adequate number of teachers

3. Decentralisation

  • Another important provision is that the academic calendar will be decided by the local authority, which, for most States and Union Territories, is the panchayat
  • This provision recognises the vast cultural and regional diversities within the country such as local festivals, sowing and harvesting seasons, and even natural calamities as a result of which schools do not function academically
  • Not all festivals and State holidays declared by the State headquarters may be locally relevant
  • If panchayats, perhaps at the district level, decide the working days and holidays, this would exponentially increase attendance and teaching-learning
  • It would also strengthen local panchayats, being closest to the field, to take ownership of their schools
  • They would be responsible for ensuring the functioning of the prescribed instruction days

Way forward

  1. A law is as good or as bad as its implementation
  2. Open-minded adoption of these provisions, keeping the child in mind, can go a long way in radically transforming our school education sector
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