Monday, February 25, 2013

Right To Education Act: Is It Helping In Achieving National Education Mission?

Education is one of the many things that can develop a nation in a big way. Education gives the people of the nation a life to live. Unfortunately, in our country, education has been limited only to those people with a strong economical background. And since, the majority of the nation is lingering in poverty; education for all was not being possible.

Keeping all these points in view, the government had implemented the Right to Education Act to achieve the national education mission.

The Right to Education Act – A brief history
In the year 2005, a rough draft of this bill was composed. But because of its specification to give 25 percent reservation to disadvantaged children, it received huge opposition. As a reply, the drafting committee pressed the point that this provision was a very imperative move to create a democratic as well as educated society.

This education bill was approved by the cabinet in 2009. It received Presidential approval and was notified in the law as ‘The Children’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act.’

The insides of the RTE Act

Highlights of the act:

  • This act makes education compulsory to every child between the ages of 6 and 14.
  • Under this act, every private school should reserve 25 percent of the seats to underprivileged and economically backward children.
  • Donations, capitation fees or interviews of the child or the parents are prohibited in the school admissions.
  • And also, those schools that are unrecognized by the government don’t come under this act.

A few facts of the RTE Act:

  • The RTE Act is the first of its kind in the world where it is the government’s responsibility to ensure equal and compulsory education for all. In most other countries like the US and UK, the responsibility of children’s education lies with the parents, and not with the government.
  • When it comes to children under the age of 18 with disabilities, there is a separate education act for them, known as the ‘Persons with Disabilities Act.’
  • There is a special organization called the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, which is in charge of monitoring and the implementation of the RTE Act.

The RTE Act: Criticism and Analysis
Despite its stature and reputation, the RTE act was subject to many controversies and criticisms too. A few of them are as under.

  • Many educationalists put forth that the act was drafted hastily; just for namesake. It was designed without the consultation of various educational groups. There have also been statements like the quality of education was not taken into consideration while drafting the act.
  • Most of the schools set up in the rural areas were criticized to be corruption-ridden. And also, there were speculations that the teachers in most government schools resorted to absenteeism. The appointments of particular teachers were politically designed.
  • It has also been noted that around 55 percent of urban children attend private schools, and this rate is growing every year by 3 percent. The reason, as most entrepreneurs feel, is that the children are not attending government schools because the teachers don’t show up.
  • Though the act states the admission of children without any certification, there are many schools under this act in various states which don’t follow this sincerely. Most schools insist the children to produce caste and income certificates, and also birth certificates. Because of this, orphans are unable to get admissions into schools. The government was questioned regarding this issue, if any changes were being made, but the government’s reply was just silence.

Various sociologists and educationalists have analysed the RTE Act. And what they have come up with is not at all supportive to the idea of development. Their analysis and statements show clearly the carelessness of the government in the amendments made to the RTE Act. The analysis is as follows:

- Providing quality education is one of the main objectives that come under the RTE Act. Unfortunately, the very education in the government schools is of serious concern. Over the years, the educational standards in government schools have been going down drastically.

- When it comes to the enrolment and admissions, there has been considerable nationwide progress. But, the number of students attending classes in the government schools is falling at the same rate too. One of the findings of the analysts is that in spite of lack of staff in most government schools, teachers remain absent. The attendance of teachers is directly proportionate to the quality of education, which is missing in most of the government schools.

- Despite the large number of enrolments of children, over 50 percent of the students of 5th grade lack the basic knowledge and skills that are expected in a 2nd grade student. Haven’t all these things come under the notice of the government? If yes, doesn’t the RTE act have the power to make the required corrections?

- As already said, the RTE act directs all the schools to reserve 25 percent of seats to the economically backward and underprivileged children. And it is obvious that this will change the classroom structure. Analysis says that the present Indian scene of mixed and diversified classroom is not at all encouraging. The children from the weaker sections of the society are discriminated within the classroom itself, on the basis of caste, creed and ethnicity. Though our Indian constitution prohibits discrimination on various grounds and marks it as a punishable offence, discrimination is still happening in classrooms, as a result of the RTE act.

Education is the basic and a very important right of every Indian citizen. And when more than two-thirds of the nation’s populace doesn’t have access to proper and quality education, we can just see where our nation is heading. We have seen the criticisms and the analysis the RTE act had faced and undergone. The question here is, will this act help in achieving the national education mission, that is, education for all? Will there be a hundred percent literacy rate in our country?

There are many fears regarding the 25 percent seat allotment for the children from the weaker sections. By doing this, the government has justified the poor quality of education in government schools. One more glitch in the RTE act is that will the children who are enrolled in private schools will be able to cope up and adjust with the standards of education culture in elite schools.

To put in a single line, the RTE act is more of a collection of loopholes in regard to quality education and funding, teacher availability and skills and discrimination. And will this act help in achieving national educational mission? Definitely not, if the loopholes remain loopholes. There should be quality education on the government schools also. Teachers should be appointed on merit basis, not politically or on the basis of relation. Strict punishments should be issued for teacher absenteeism. Above all, discrimination on any social basis should be completely abolished. Only after all these things happen, RTE act can really and completely be successful in our country.

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