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Progress towards RTE Act as on April 1st, 2011

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009: The Gazette of India Notification (August 27, 2009)

Monitoring RTE: A Set of Indicators

 

Model Rules for Right to Children Act (Draft)

(Please consult and refer original document)

Right to Education Bill 2008

Right to Education Bill 2005: I

Right to Education Bill 2005: II

 

 

Aligning SSA Norms with the RTE Act, 2009

Centre to pick up 70% of education law tab
Charu Sudan Kasturi, Hindustan Times
Email Author
, New Delhi, July 30, 2010

The Centre has agreed to pay almost 70 per cent of the finances required to implement the Right to Education (RTE) Act, ending months of bickering with state governments crying over inadequate funds

The finance ministry's expenditure finance committee (EFC) on Wednesday approved a massive hike in central funding for the law, which promises schooling to every child between 6 and 14 years of age.

 

The hike means 16 out of 35 states and union territories won't need to increase their education budgets to meet RTE commitments at all, government sources told HT.

 

Presently, the Centre and states share funding of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the principle vehicle for RTE, in a 55:45 ratio.

 

The HRD ministry has projected Rs 2,31,233 crore as the total cost over five years of implementing the law. The 13th Finance Commission has already set aside Rs 24,068 crore of additional funds to help the states implement the law.

 

The EFC agreed the Centre would pay 65 per cent of the remaining financial requirements — after deducting the Commission's award from the total projected cost. The 65 per cent, added to the Commission's award, works out to Rs 1,58,725 crore, almost 70 per cent of the total financial burden of Rs 2,31,233 crore.

 

"Finance minister Pranab  Mukherjee has met HRD minister Kapil Sibal and indicated support for the extra funds," a source said.

 

The HRD ministry had requested the finance ministry for a 75:25 fund-sharing ratio but is likely to accept the EFC decision. The ministry will now approach cabinet for its approval.

 

Most states have protested against a shortage of funds to implement the law, in operation since April 1.

 

Non-Congress governments like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh have even suggesting the Centre bear 90 per cent of the cost.

Right to Education Act will not interfere with madrasas

IANS, 25.07.2010

Lucknow: The right to education act will not interfere with madrasas, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal asserted on Sunday.

Replying to questions during a media interaction at the end of a function at the B.R. Ambedkar University here, Sibal said: 'It is a misnomer that we have any intention of interfering with the madrasa education'.

'We have no intention to impose any changes in the existing madrasa education in the country, unless the madrasas themselves seek certain changes,' he said, adding even the proposed Central Madrasa Education Board was not intended to disturb the existing madrasa education in he country.

Sibal was here to inaugurate the women's hostel on the central government-run university campus.

 

Making the right to education real

Indian Express, March 06, 2010

Vinod Raina

The Budget for 2010-11 was presented precisely 10 days after the Right to Education Act was notified, for implementation from April 1, 2010. That the government took nearly six months to notify its implementation after the presidential assent in August is indicative of the backroom tussles that must have taken place regarding its funding.

The timing of its notification therefore raised hopes that the budget would reflect adequate importance to the only fundamental right to be included in the Constitution since Independence. At a first glance, those hopes seem to have been belied. The allocation for its first year of implementation works out to Rs 15,000 crore out of the total budget of Rs 31,036 crore sanctioned to the department of school education and literacy. This appears woefully inadequate; less than half the estimated cost of Rs 34,000 crore per year (Rs 1.71 lakh crore for five years) as calculated by the National University for Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA). It should be obvious that the Act is front-loaded in terms of expenditure: a) recruit and deploy teachers at 30:1 ratio in every school within six months of notification, b) neighbourhood schools of specified quality for every child within three years, c) all teachers to be trained to a national norm within five years of notification. All three require substantial financial inputs in the initial years and form the basis of NUEPA estimates.

So why did it take six months to thrash out an allocation that is less than half the estimated cost for the coming year? In the absence of public information regarding the backroom parleys, one can only guess. The prime factor could be the inability of the state governments to absorb and expend sanctioned amounts at the required pace. It is no secret that many states, including Bihar, UP, Orissa, Assam and West Bengal have not been able to utilise SSA grants of previous years, particularly for teacher recruitment and classroom construction, the two most important targets to be met under the Act. Estimates suggest that nearly Rs 10,000 crore already sanctioned remain unutilised, and added to the budget allocation of Rs 15,000 crore, works out to Rs 25,000 crore. Which is still nearly Rs 10,000 crore short of the estimated first year cost. The finance minister indicated that around Rs 3,675 crore have been directly allocated by the Finance Commission to the states for elementary education (as per the provisions of section 7(4) of the Act). This would further close the gap between the estimate and allocation.

However, initial estimates prepared by Bihar and Orissa for implementing the Act are as high as Rs 28,000 and Rs 16,000 crore respectively. The Orissa school education minister has publicly stated that unless the Centre makes adequate financial provisions, his state will not be in a position to implement the Act from April 1. Being a concurrent subject, the Centre and states are both responsible for implementing the Act. The tug of war between them is part of the history of this Act, with the Centre asking the states to bring in their own respective Acts in 2006 based on a model Bill. But now that it is a Central legislation, and overrides existing state legislations, the Centre has to assume a greater responsibility for its implementation. Equally, the states have to perk up and improve their delivery systems so that sanctioned funds do not remain unutilised.

An area of special concern here is that of recruitment of teachers. The practice of engaging cheap, untrained and even unqualified teachers at times has boomeranged. After a few years of service, they unionise and start asking for enhanced salaries leading to litigation, with courts staying further recruitments. This is one of the reasons teacher recruitment funds have remained unutilised in states that badly require more teachers. The only way under the Act is to move towards a cadre of trained and qualified elementary education teachers, without resorting to cheap teachers, which anyway is a short term measure since the courts normally pass judgments in favour of the aggrieved contractual teachers. This change would be necessary in order to recruit lakhs of teachers in the six-month framework prescribed by the Act, and then move rapidly towards completing their training requirements within the next five years. Just as the Centre has responsibility for providing adequate funds, the states also need to go beyond asking for more funds and demonstrate their ability to utilise the funds within time frames that are legal and part of the fundamental right of children now. Once the pace of expenditure is at par with the time targets of the Act, the HRD ministry would be justified to demand additional funds from the supplementary budget during the year, which could further narrow the difference between requirement and allocation. However in order to set the pace, the UPA needs to wake up to the fact that the implementation of this fundamental right is not the job only of the concerned ministry, namely HRD, but equally so of the finance ministry and planning commission, and ministries that are directly implicated in its implementation, namely, labour, for issues of child labour; women and child welfare, for children below six years (under section 11 of the Act) and monitoring by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights; social empowerment and justice, for issues related to curbs on social discrimination in the Act, water and sanitation for providing water and toilets in each school, tribal welfare, which runs schools in many states; and panchayati raj, since most of the local authorities under the act are likely to be panchayati raj institutions. Unless the state governments and these ministries work cohesively in a mission mode for the implementation of the Act, the approach is likely to be fragmented, or worse, full of friction.

To demonstrate the UPA’s seriousness, it would be befitting to bring all the chief ministers and ministers of the directly involved ministries and others to a conference before April 1, to be addressed by the prime minister, that galvanises the concerned implementers and sets up permanent inter-state and inter-ministerial processes to ensure that an Act that took 100 years to come (Gopal Krishna Gokhale unsuccessfully tried for such an Act in the Imperial Assembly in 1911) is implemented with earnestness.

The writer, an educationist and member of CABE, helped draft the Act and worked for its introduction in Parliament

 

 

Implementing Right to Education Act

Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 10, February 27, 2010

By B.C. Mehta, Kranti Kapoor

The Bill to provide free education for all children in the age-group 6-14 (which has now become an Act) ensures that any child can demand provision of free education to him or her in his or her neighbourhood right up to the 8th class. It is also claimed that the state will provide compulsory elementary education. Here there is some confusion. Right to education implies that the parents of some children want to get their children educated but fail to do so because there is no school in the neighbourhood, or if there is a school, the school is not of their choice or they cannot afford to pay the fees and/or bussing and other charges. Violation of the right implies that the parents are willing to get elementary education for their wards but are unable to do so for reasons beyond their capacity or control. Compulsory, on the other hand, implies that there are parents who are unwilling or unlikely to send the children for schooling even when the facilities for free education are available in their neighbourhood. The state can and should compel them to send their children to school in the interest of the future of the children, their family and the society as a whole. If, however, compulsion is on the state for providing free education, then it is implicit in the right to education itself.

While it is true that a substantial number of students do not get education because there is no affordable school in the neighbourhood, specially in the tribal hilly areas and sparsely populated desert districts, in a very large number of cases education is not the first priority of the family. Survival is the top priority. Children working as rag-pickers, shoe-shine boys, domestic help, regular or contract or piece-wage workers in several kinds of factories and on farmlands is a regular phenomenon all over India, especially in the poorer districts. For example, there is the case of seasonal migration of child workers to work on Bt cotton farms from the tribal districts of Dungarpur, Banswara and Udaipur to Gujarat. In case of monsoon failure as in this year there is large scale migration of families. Child labour also works as an insurance mechanism against fluctuations in parent’s income.

To attract and retain children of these families to/in schools is not possible through compulsion alone, nor is it a question of opening of schools in the neighbourhood. The children of these families remain uneducated because of the mere accident of their birth in such families. They must not be allowed to suffer for no fault of theirs. They have the right to be educated. The state has to step in. It should be noted that though often the trade-off between school and child labour has been underlined, the two activities need not be mutually exclusive. Education strategies should examine the possibility of combining work and school by reducing the duration of school to just half-a-day and/or by changing the school timings. Special problems require special solutions. Schooling may be provided when the children are free from domestic duties or paid or unpaid work through night schools, mobile schools and the like. This will involve no cultural break and no cost to the family. Involvement of NGOs and teacher entrepreneurs would be necessary in such conditions.

The task to provide universal education to the girl child is even more complicated. The primary school enrolment of girls is far below that of boys even in the urban areas; the gap is much wider in the rural areas. The gulf widens as we move to the final years of elementary education. This implies that even those parents who send their sons to schools do not send their daughters and, in any case, they withdraw them from schools much before the completion of elementary education. The reasons for this are well known: social taboos, priority to education of sons, poverty, sibling care, domestic work, fuel wood gathering, fetching of water, cooking, early marriage, early parenthood and the like. These hard cases, where the parents have no inclination to send their wards to schools whether schools exist or not, whether they are free or not, are not exceptional. In several regions, especially in the BIMARU States, these cases are too large to be ignored. Therefore, tackling the schooling problem without tackling the basic livelihood and social problems is well nigh impossible, RTFE or no RTFE.

For the same reasons, even though universal or very high enrolment in primary education may be attained, class repetitions and school drop-outs and push-outs are common. In addition, because of the inefficiency in the country’s schooling system, actual school attendance is much lower than enrolment, and the rates of grade repetition are very high. Recent findings reveal that although about 93 per cent of Indian children in the age-group 6-14 years are in school a very large percentage either drop out or are repeaters and their learning achievements are very low. About 26 per cent of the students in the primary education system were bound to repeat in the first year itself, and retention rate at the primary level as a whole is only 70 per cent. As a result, many children abandon school with relatively low levels of completed education. The gap between age and grade is large. The problem is particularly acute in poorer and SC and ST neighbourhoods.

Now suppose an unwilling parent is persuaded to send his ward to school and subsequently the student drops out without completing his or her elementary education then who will be held responsible and penalised specially when retaining a student is not merely a function of the quality of teaching?

Implementation

The Right to Education Act is to be implemented through PPP (public private partnership). PPP here implies that the private sector will be encouraged to start primary and middle schools in non-served areas and they will have to admit wards of the weaker sections up to at least 25 per cent of their total intake in each class in the case of unaided schools and up to the percentage of annual recurring grant-in-aid to their annual recurring expenditure in the case of aided schools. The special category and unaided schools will be reimbursed the fee of such students to the extent of actual per child expenditure incurred by the state or the actual amount of fee charged whichever is less. Thus, the voucher system is to be implemented.

This arrangement raises several questions. PPP is not a new idea in India although the phrase is being popularised as something of a new innovation. It existed even in the British period and even in the princely states. Historically it operated in two ways. Some community groups, in most cases religious and caste associations as also secular bodies interested in the welfare of their community, initiated the idea of a school, received donation of land from some member or members, collected contributions from members and built a school building. The schools then applied for grants-in-aid to the government and were usually able to obtain the same in varying degrees. In such schools the fee structure, pay-scale of teachers, and syllabus etc. of the government schools were followed. Nobody was denied admission. Such schools are to be found in most of the cities and towns in all States. There was competition between different communities for starting schools and colleges specially in the urban areas. In fact, such schools helped spread education very rapidly in some communities with low education level. There are also some such schools started by individuals or religious bodies which do not depend on government aid. Nonetheless these are not run on a profit-making basis and they also charge low fees. In fact, to call these schools as private schools is a misnomer. These are real public schools started by the public for the public. These are ‘not-for-profit’ institutions and are run by NGOs and are quite different from the other private schools which are surprisingly called ‘public schools’. The latter are in fact ‘for-profit’ private sector undertakings established to take advantage of the urge of the emergent middle class for exclusive and branded education for their wards. This class, which reaped all the benefits of free education provided by the government or government aided schools, colleges and universities to reap huge rental incomes and high positions, has now become the most self-serving class and derides education provided by these very government institutions.

PPP

Now PPP has been given a new twist. There are to be no grants in aid from the state. At most you will get land for the institution on concessional basis. And now under the RTFE there will be reimbursement of the vouchers presented for admitting the poor. Let us see whether it will solve the problem.

Let us have a look at the present school system. Of the 12,50,775 schools imparting elementary education in the country in 2007-08, 80.2 per cent were all types of government schools, 5.8 per cent private aided schools and 13.1 per cent private unaided schools. Almost 87.2 per cent of the schools are located in the rural areas. In the rural areas the proportion of private unaided schools is only 9.3 and that of aided schools is 4.7. However, in the urban areas, the percentage of private unaided and aided schools are as high as 38.6 and 13.4 respectively (Arun Mehta: Elementary Education In India, Analytical Report 2006-07 and 2007-08, NUEPA) Thus running private unaided schools is mostly an urban phenomenon. Of these, several schools are special category schools, community schools like unaided madarsas or convent schools and private sector non-fee or low fee charging schools run by philanthropists.

Of the total students enrolled in primary classes in 2007-08 about 75.4, 6.7 and 17.8 are enrolled in government, aided and unaided schools. The total number of teachers working in these schools in 2007-08 was 56,34,589 of which 69.3, 10.4 and 20.7 per cent are teaching in government, aided and private schools, the average number of teachers per school being 3.9, 8.3 and 6.7 respectively. Nearly 10.3 per cent of the schools are single-teacher schools. Government schools have the highest percentage of teachers who are professionally trained at 43.4, followed by aided school (27.8 per cent) and unaided private schools (only 2.3 per cent). Thus very many private-for-profit schools are small-sized ones relying mostly on the services of relatively cheaper, untrained and locally available teachers.

The Elite Institutions: Corporate Schools

In the most unlikely possibility of elite institutions opening schools in the rural areas will they be able to fulfil the objectives of RTFE? Firstly, the reimbursed fee will be very small compared to the usual fees they charge. Lowering fees in general will change the elite character without which they will not be able to attract students from middle and upper classes; they will also not be able to maintain the standard of buildings, grounds and other services. The new entrants from the poorest strata will not find courage to enter the premises and even if they somehow enter, they will find the atmosphere alien. The dress, shoes, the bag, even the water bottle, the books, the stationery and the like are so costly that they can never afford them. These schools also do not provide mid-day meals. What kind of tiffin will these students carry? The medium of instruction will itself pose a problem. Will he/she not feel completely outcaste? Then there are several other expenses. Toffees are to be distributed on one’s birthdays. There are educational trips. There will be need for sport shoes and equipment. There is an atmosphere of intense competition necessitating private tuition and coaching. Why will the school make effort and expend money on special coaching of these lagging students? Can anybody expect this poor kid to complete education in such an atmosphere? Dropping out is the only real possibility. In that possibility, the school management can always claim that that they cannot help, they want to admit poor students but nobody is coming forward.

In the urban areas, elite schools are already there. And to be sure, there are usually many juggi-jopdis near these localities. In theory, students from poor families can be admitted to these schools and fees can be reimbursed by the state. However, the first generation students from below-poverty-line families will have to face all the problems enumerated above. Thus, these schools do not provide a feasible solution to the problem of providing universal elementary education.

Small Entrepreneurs

However, not all private schools are high-fee-charging exclusive schools. For instance, Tooley (Tooley, James, 2001, The Global Education Industry, 2nd edition, Institute for Economic Affairs, London 2001, p. 13) observes:

Any visitor to the `slums’ of any of the big cities in India will be struck by the sheer number of private schools—there seems to be one on almost every street corner or down every alleyway….. they are wholly private in every way and are certainly not elite institutions.”

Similar obvservations are made by Tahir Andrabi, Jishnu Das and Asim Ijaz Khwaja (2008) in a World Bank study (A Dime a Day, The Possibilities and Limits of Private Schooling in Pakistan, WPS4066) regarding schools in the rural areas in Pakistan:

These schools are overwhelmingly for-profit enterprises—they have sprung up around the country without much state regulation or subsidy.

These private schools charge relatively low fees in comparison to the elite schools. They further observe that:

They hire predominantly local, female and moderately educated teachers who have limited alternative opportunities outside the village. Hiring these teachers at low cost allows the savings to be passed on to parents through very low fees. This mechanism—the need to hire teachers with a certain demographic profile so that salary costs are minimised—defines the possibility of private schools—where they arise. It also defines their limits. Private schools are horizontally constrained in that they arise in villages where there is a pool of secondary-educated women. They are also vertically constrained in that they are unlikely to cater to the secondary levels in rural areas, at least until there is an increase in the supply of potential teachers with the required skills and educational levels.

If the private sector is to be made partner in the task of universal elementary education, only these small scale private entrepreneurs will be of any help. They will gladly accept the vouchers. Since the scale of operation in villages has to be small and prospects of high profits would be limited and the student intake would also not be to their liking, no elite institution will offer its services.

NGO (Aided) and Concession Schools

Domestic NGOs should be encouraged to take the lead in providing educational services in underserved areas and segments of population. Studies comparing the performance of NGO schools and other educational providers show that non-profit NGO schools are more successful in encouraging literacy and imparting elementary education specially to girls. Considerable externalities arise from their independent interventions in the form of impact on the formal, conventional providers of public services such as state and state-aided private bodies. [Mohammad Niaz Asadullah and Nazmul Chaudhury (2008): Madrasas and NGOs: Complements or Substitutes? Non-State Providers and Growth in Female Education in Bangladesh, World Bank Research Paper, WPS 4511] NGO intervention has directly increased enrolment, specially of girls, and also lead to the opening up of predominantly all-boys religious education madarsa system to girls. In India, aided schools can be termed as NGO schools. They should be encouraged.

Another form of PPP is private provision of public (government) education as followed in the charter school system in the USA and the concession school experiment in Bogota Colombia in 1999. (See Felipe Barrera-Osorio1: The Impact of Private Provision of Public Education: Empirical Evidence from Bogotá Concession Schools, Impact Evaluation Series no. 10, WPS4121).

The programme is a partnership between the public and private education sectors, with private schools providing public education in the 25 selected schools for a period of 15 years. The state provides the infrastructure, selects the students and pays a pre-agreed sum per full-time student per year. The concession schools are allowed relative flexibility to contract administrative and teaching staff and can freely implement their pedagogic model. The concession schools must meet performance standards (on quality and quantity) set by the Secretary of Education.

Tests show that the system has yielded positive results. This is simply contracting-out the schools to NGOs and private providers. However, this option has limited scope. You cannot hand over lakhs of schoolteachers to the private sector; moreover, no private provider will accept permanent government teachers. Then where will the government school teachers go?

Government Schools

However, the major burden of providing education to the unserved and mostly unmotivated sections, especially in the rural areas, will have to be borne by the government though, no doubt, presently the government school system is in a very bad shape. Absenteeism of teachers and lack of serious teaching activity even when present is a major problem, specially in the rural and remote areas. Moreover, the quality of their services in terms of impact on schooling outcomes is quite weak. Motivation and accountability are two major factors determining the outcomes. Poor learning in schools is, in part, also due to the incapacity of parents to monitor and help the study of the child at home and in school.

In their study of differences in the learning level of students in different category of schools in Pakistan and UP in India, Jishnu Das, Priyanka Pandey and Tristan Zajonc (2006): Learning Levels and Gaps in Pakistan, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4067, November 2006) report some revealing and interesting results. Levels of learning and the structure of the educational gaps are similar in these countries. Children know little relative to what they need to know to function in society and relative to their curriculum. Differences across schools account for at least 50 per cent of the overall variation in test scores. While there are differences across children from different parental backgrounds (children from wealthier backgrounds or with more educated parents know more), these differences are dwarfed by those across government and private schools and across good and bad government schools. In English, the difference between children in private and government schools is twelve times as large as the difference between children from poor and non-poor households after controlling for observed differences between children.

While the best schools are not always private schools, the worst schools are almost exclusively government schools. These dismally performing government schools often record achievement levels so low that the pupils tested must have virtually no cumulated knowledge or skills after four years of education.

However, not all government schools are the same—the difference in learning between a high-performing and a low-performing government school is twentyfour times the difference between children from poor and non-poor backgrounds after controlling for observed child-level differences. There are indeed very large differences between schools in the same village, there are some good (and some bad) schools in every village. There are no “bad” villages and “good” villages.

Therefore, for improving learning, we need focus on the characteristics of schools. Thus, improvements in learning can be achieved by designing appropriate policies that influence teachers to come to school and put their effort and also goad parents to improve their parenting and oversight practices.

As already pointed out, all public sector or private sector institutions are not equally efficient or inefficient. India’s number one export is manpower—unskilled as well as highly skilled workers, scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers, professors and even writers and teachers in English can be found all over the developed world. However, not more than three per cent of all schools can be categorised as the ‘efficient’ private sector ‘public’ schools. Surely, India is not competing globally on the strength of this minuscule proportion of population. Moreover, even these have received, in a majority of cases, their higher education in government colleges and public sector university departments other than IIMs and IITs despite the fact that government schools and colleges have lost some of their glory in recent years. This is because governments are also bent upon weakening the public sector education system by starving them of funds, blocking appointments, encouraging part-time per period teachers, and gross political interference. The government sector educational institutions, small or large, schools or colleges or universities are run as normal government departments.

Though government schools have the highest percentage of teachers who are professionally trained at 43.4 and unaided private schools the lowest (2.3 per cent) learning achievements are higher in private schools. Private schools may be better able to fire teachers with low levels of intrinsic motivation and performance. In private schools, pay is linked to performance. In contrast, government teachers are paid according to a fixed-salary scale that rewards experience and training, but little else. And they cannot be fired. Moreover, in several States they receive time-bound promotions which are mostly unrelated to performance. There is no pressure on them to perform, innovate and experiment. There is no effective incentive/disincentive system. Thus, better training as well as higher pay packets alone do not ensure better results if motivation to perform and accountability are lacking.

However, government schools are not inherently inefficient providers of education. This is evidenced by the fact that test-scores are vastly different across government schools and there is a huge variation in teacher effort across government schools and across regions and States. Then the question arises: why are schools that used to perform very well and were rated very high in the past are rated very low now? Explanations have to be found.

Some 40 years back when government and aided schools were almost exclusive providers of education, they catered to all sections of the population, there was enough competitive pressure from students and parents on teachers pushing them to higher and higher efficiencies. Now because of the migration of wards of competition and quality conscious parents to elite private corporate sector schools that pressure is missing. The culprit is thus the segregation of schools into elite and commoner schools.

Presently, the liberalised, sensex-sensitised elite have created their own India with exclusive schools for their children. Parents monitor the progress of their ward. However, this all is missing in the schools which cater to the poor. Thus, quality school education cannot be provided to the poor in this socially and resource segregated school system of today. Establishment of the neighbourhood school system wherein parents from all educational, social and economic back-ground are required to send their wards to a school in their neighbourhood, whether it is private or government school and the school cannot refuse admission, is the best solution. This will also abolish the need of bussing. However, the emergent middle class that controls the bureaucracy, political parties, judiciary, media, think-tanks and universities have seen that this policy is not implemented so as to monopolise on good education and the benefits derived from it. Hence, the public (government plus community school) system has to be strengthened so that students from all classes are attracted to these schools as is the case of the central school system.

Central schools, Navodaya schools and military schools are all government schools. Their standards are not in anyway worse than the so-called ‘public’ schools. Similarly, central universities and institutes, IITs and IIMs are all government institutions; still they are well known for their high teaching and research standards. In contrast, government educational institutions in several States are mostly the worst performing institutions.

Mostly wards of Central Government employees of all ranks seek admission to schools run by the Central Government. The parents are highly competition conscious and motivated, so are their wards. They are highly demanding of the teachers and the schools. Moreover, there is practically no political interference in appointments, posting, transfers and evaluation of teachers. The political centre is too far away from the widely distributed network of schools to indulge in political and bureaucratic interference. There are well-thought-out rules and regulations for promotion and evaluation based on results. The oversee committees are also effective. Therefore, the teachers are motivated to perform. If the non-served children are admitted to these schools then they will also perform well and the problem of drop-outs will be minimised.

In the State government schools, on the other hand, political interference in appointments and transfers have gained epidemic proportions in several States. There are annual transfer melas. Transfers and promotions are not related to performance. For example, in Rajasthan, promotions to higher scales are almost automatic even if the teacher does not fulfil the qualifications for that scale. Mass transfers have become an annual feature. Transfers are unrelated to performance and results. Much time, energy and taxpayer’s money is wasted in this unnecessary political exercise. Now, when it is proposed to promote all students upto the fifth class and class X examinations are to be discontinued, the teachers are almost given the license for not working. Moreover, only poor families get their wards admitted in government schools. The parents have no motivation, no time and above all no capacity to press for high performance.

Priyanka Pandey, Sangeeta Goyal and Venkatesh Sundararaman (2008) (Public Participation, Teacher Accountability, and School Outcomes: Findings from Baseline Surveys in Three Indian States. World Bank, Policy Research Working Paper WPS4777) conducted a baseline survey of teachers and students in randomly selected government primary schools in MP, UP and Karnataka in 2006 for assessing public participation, teacher accountability, and school outcomes.

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan initiated in 2001 to universalise quality education, envisages increasing accountability of schools to the community through greater involvement of village education committees and parent-teacher associations. The situation has not improved much in the case of most. States as evidenced from this study of MP and UP Karnataka is in a better state. Learning achievements differ substantially across States, these are very low in both MP and UP and much higher in Karnataka. For example, in UP and MP only 46 and 54 per cent of children after four years of schooling can read three or more words from a list of five compared to 92 per cent in Karnataka. And barely 22 per cent in UP and 33 per cent in MP at the end of grade 4 can read a simple sentence compared to 73 per cent in Karnataka. Knowledge in Mathematics is still more miserable.

Teacher attendance and engagement in teaching are low in both MP and UP and much higher in Karnataka. On an average, 88 per cent of teachers were present in Karnataka, 65 per cent in UP and 67 per cent in MP. However, low rates of teacher attendance and teaching activity are only part of the problem of low learning achievement. What is going on in classrooms when teachers are present and teaching takes place is obviously quite important. The researchers found that the average fraction of teachers present and actively engaged in teaching was 68 per cent in Karnataka, 25 per cent in UP and 30 per cent in MP. In all the States, a high proportion of teachers are male and from the high caste. More than 50 per cent of the teachers have a college education in MP and UP unlike Karnataka where 72 per cent of the teachers have a grade 12 degree or less. Both MP and UP have a large cadre of contract teachers who have significantly higher attendance and activity compared to regular teachers. Despite these positive factors, learning achievements are much lower in UP and MP in comparison with Karnataka. An interesting result is that more qualified and permanent male teachers are less likely to perform well. Salaries and qualifications of government schools teachers are above the norm for the country. Indeed, if anything, absenteeism increases with salary and qualifications. Trade unionism is often blamed for this mess. This is only partly true. Trade union power has been reduced considerably in the liberalised post-1991 scenario. One probable reason is that election work in India is almost exclusively done by teachers and they can help in silent booth capturing and other election related mal-practices. Hence political parties in power try to keep them pleased. This explains the transfer melas and complete absence of monitoring of the teaching work.

One basic reason is that

in MP and UP, the communities do not have the capacity to hold the teachers accountable or communities are largely uninformed or unprepared or unmotivated about the controls that have been devolved to them. Parent members of Village Education Committees (VEC) and Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) are not actively participating in their oversight capacity and have very low levels of awareness regarding their roles and responsibilities. The headmasters seem to be executing most of the functions of VECs and PTAs. The communities at large are not even aware of the existence of these committees.

In another study, the researchers launched structured campaign providing information to communities about their oversight roles in schools. They found a positive impact on process and behaviour outcomes, delivery of inputs to students, teacher effort and learning outcomes in all three States. Outcomes at baseline were much higher in Karnataka suggesting greater efficiency in delivery than in MP and UP. The differences in impact may be due to the differences in the initial conditions and also in the different decentralisation set-ups in different States..

Better results regarding teacher attendance as well as teacher effort can be obtained if the school committee is obligated to verify the teacher’s presence in order for the teacher to receive his or her salary as in MP. The changing behavior of oversee committee members and villagers to change school outcomes requires time to take place. Barriers to collective action take great effort and much time to be overcome. It is also important to induce teachers to be highly motivated and altruistic.

Better performance out of the highly paid teaching staff in government schools in the educationally backward States can be extracted if lessons are learnt from central schools as well as from the better performing States like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and the recent experiments even in the laggard States like MP. Political interference in management of education at all levels will have to be given up. One way out is that teachers are appointed on contract basis for upto five years, though in the same grade as the permanent teachers, and with leave facilities and PF contribution from the employer. This is the practice in Law universities. The Education Minister proposes to introduce this pattern in other institutions too. If efficiency cannot be ensured by high wages or high degrees alone, neither can it be achieved by giving starvation wages to teachers. Examinations have to be retained in some form so that teachers are made accountable. Contract teachers are not to be transferred. In other cases too, transfers should be minimised and should be based on set rules and regulations. Contract renewals and promotions should be strictly based on performance as verified by the VEC or PTA or as per the social audit. It is necessary to introduce social auditing as in the case of the NREGA. The problem of achieving cent per cent elementary education is also acute in areas under the coverage of the NREGA. Social auditing of the NREGA can and should be extended to schools in areas covered by RTFE.

Concerns about too heavy burden and tension of frequent examinations and grade achievements may be valid in the urban schools catering to the middle and upper classes. But not so in the rural schools catering to the first generation students. Promoting all students upto 5th or any standard in their case will be counter-productive. What will be the guarantee that the students are really taught and there are no fake admissions, fake promotions to higher classes and therefore fake universal education just to collect the voucher money?

Dr Kranti Kapoor teaches at the National Law University, Jodhpur, and he can be contacted at dr.krantikapoor@gmail.com; Prof B.C. Mehta is an Emeritus Professor of Economics, and he can be contacted at mehtabc@gmail.com

 

 NEW DELHI: The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act was billed to be a giant leap towards universalization of education in India. However, it has acquired the dubious distinction of being the only fundamental right that exists just on paper More than seven years after the Constitution was amended in 2002 to make free and compulsory education to children in the age group of 6-14 a fundamental right and over four months after the historic Right to Education Bill was passed in Parliament, both the legislations are yet to be notified.

Without notification -- a mandatory step in that into force -- the right to free and compulsory education remains just a goal.

All along, the reason given for not notifying the constitutional amendment was that a law to enforce the fundamental right was not in place. Two years of NDA regime and five years of UPA 1 were spent quibbling over the cost of implementing such a legislation. The bill was finally passed by Parliament last August. Strangely, there is yet no movement towards notification.

HRD minister Kapil Sibal has been saying that the face of education will change completely with RTE Act. He is right. However, the trouble is that the objective will remain a distant dream so long as the great ideas of the legislation lack any legal teeth.

The ostensible reason for the delay in notifying the Act is that its cost is still being worked out. But those associated with its implementation point out that even as the cost is being debated there are other significant things that could have been done by notifying the RTE Act. HRD ministry has pegged the cost of RTE at Rs 1.71 lakh crore for five years. "Many reforms in the RTE Act do not cost money. Now if it is notified in the end of March to be applicable from April 1, state governments will be caught unawares. They will be unprepared without budget allocations. That could be a setback. Early notification would have helped put a system in place," a source said.

What happens if the Act is not notified? For one, all systemic reforms laid out in the RTE Act cannot be put in place without notification. These include maintaining a teacher-student ratio of 1:30. "If the Act was in place, steps could have been taken for redeployment of teachers to attain the stipulated ratio. This could have helped bridge the urban-rural imbalance in teacher-student ratio," a source said.

Similarly, provisions in section 29 of the Act that deal with curriculum and examination reforms could have been put in place. This section aims to free the child from the trauma of examinations and introduce comprehensive and continuous evaluation. It also talks of new learning methods. Even implementing the provision on setting up school management committees with adequate representation of parents would have acted as a watchdog, said sources.

"These provisions would have cost no money and yet are huge steps forward for systemic reforms," a source pointed out.

In the absence of notification, the HRD ministry for the past four months has been working on framing model rules for RTE and has set up a committee that will recommend how to harmonize the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan with RTE

NEW DELHI: The biggest stumbling block which might come in the way of the success of the Right to Education Act could be 7.72 lakh untrained teachers and vacancy for 12.06 lakh teachers across the country.

HRD ministry has now got down to unravelling the problem so that adequate steps are taken when RTE is implemented from the next academic year.

Early this week, the ministry's round table on school education took stock of the matter and found great disparities among states when it comes to quality of teachers. Under Right to Education, 5.1 lakh additional teachers are required to maintain the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) of 30:1. Right now, 5.29 lakh schools (53.2% of the total schools) have PTR of more than 30:1.

Categorising states into three groups, the ministry said while 13 states have adequate teacher education capacity, seven north-eastern states have high percentage of untrained teachers and modest teacher education capacity. The worst off are eight states which have a high number of untrained teachers and inadequate teacher education capacity.

Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand are the states with very low level of untrained teachers. These states put together need 2.33 lakh new teachers and have to train 94,000 in-service teachers.

Karnataka has the distinction of having no untrained teacher while Delhi, Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have less than 1% untrained teachers.

In the second group are the north-eastern states of Arunachal, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. While the vacancy in these seven states is a mere 3,161 teachers, they need to train 72,000 teachers.

The real problem, however, is in Bihar, Assam, Chhattisgarh, J&K, Jharkhand, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. While in Assam, 55% teachers are untrained, Bihar has more than 45% and West Bengal 32.15% untrained teachers. Together these states have 6.06 lakh untrained teachers and vacancy for 9.73 lakh new teachers. In case of Assam, the ministry found that Lakhimpur district has 70% untrained teachers, Nagaon 64.26%, Karbi Anglong 88.48%, Dhemaji 74.5% and Dhubri 68.48% untrained teachers.

In Bihar, Katihar and Siwan have nearly 60% untrained teachers followed by more than 50% untrained in Muzaffarpur, Saran, Gaya and Darbhanga.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW DELHI: Children with any kind of disability will soon be entitled to reservation in admission in private schools in their neighbourhood with

 

the Union Cabinet on Thursday approving introduction of a Bill in Parliament to amend the Right to Education Act, 2009.

The amendment also aims at changing the mandate of school management committees constituted under the Act for aided minority institutions.

The Act provides for free and compulsory education as a fundamental right of every child in the 6-14 age group and earmarks 25% of seats to children from "economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups" in private schools. The amendment will ensure inclusion of children with disabilities within the meaning of "children belonging to disadvantaged groups", I&B minister Ambika Soni said after the Cabinet meeting.

The existing Act refers to disabled children as defined under the Person with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection and Full Participation) Act, 1996. The amendment will treat children with disabilities as defined in the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999.

The amendment will also take care of concerns raised by certain minority groups that provisions regarding the management committee under the Act are inconsistent with Article 30 of the Constitutions which gives minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions freely.

As per the RTE Act, the management committee should comprise elected representatives of the local authority, parents or guardians of children, and teachers.

After considering the concerns raised by these groups, the government decided to bring amend the Act to ensure that School Management Committees constituted under the Act by aided minority institutions shall perform an advisory function only.

In other schools, such committees will monitor the working of the school, prepare and recommend school development plans and monitor the utilisation of the grants received from the government and local authority.

 

Right to Education Act 2009 Estimations: A Few Points for Consideration

Arun C. Mehta, November 2009

 

After long, the mush awaited Right to Education Bill (RTE) has just been passed by the Parliament which would play an important role in achieving Universal Elementary Education in India. The success or failure of RTE would largely depend upon how effectively the act is implemented and whether sufficient funds are allocated for the implementation of the Act.

 

In this direction, the first major exercise is to reliably estimate funds that would be required for successful implementation of Right to Education Act. Needless to mention that the RTE-estimation should be based upon the latest available data. One such source or rather the only source of information which provides requisite set of data is the District Information System for Education (DISE is jointly developed by the MHRD, UNICEF and NUEPA) which is latest available for the year 2008-09 with 30th September 2008 as its date of reference. Through DISE, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan activities are being monitored and District Elementary Education Plans across the country are being developed annually which is largely based on this rich data-set. The beauty of DISE is that it provides unit-wide/school-specific data in case of all the 1.28 million schools imparting elementary education in the country. These schools are located in about 70,000 clusters in 7,000 blocks spread over 633 districts in 35 States and UTs of the country.

 

One of the other important considerations is that the RTE-estimation should be attempted at the national as well as for the individual State/UT level in case of all the 35 States and UTs of the country.

 

Perhaps the most important factor on which RTE-estimation should base upon is the child population of the age group of 6 to 14 years (5+ to 13+ years). Care should be taken in correctly considering the relevant age group child population in RTE-estimation.

 

Second most important task is projection of 6-14 year age population in 2009 i.e. 2008-09. The latest Census figures are available for the year 2001 but projected population made available by the Office of the Registrar General of India is available up to the year 2016 which is likely to be revised once the actual 2011Census  figures are available in the light of which the existing RTE-estimates will also be required to re-look into. The RTE-estimates should not be considered as a one time affair; rather the exercise be repeated when more recent data is available.

 

As per the available projections, the 6-14 years children show a declining trend over a period of time. Between 2007-08 and 2008-09, 6-14 years age population in India declined to 188 million from 193 million which has got serious implications for RTE. In view of this, one has to ensure that the RTE-estimates are based on the current year’s child population i.e. 2009-10 (if not, it may significantly affect the total funds for RTE implementation). The decline in the child population is also reflected in the GER and NER as well as in the out-of-school children. Since the RTE-estimation may be primarily based on the child population, utter care should be taken in considering the current child population. The RGI projections are available by single-age population and that too in benchmark years such as 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016 etc. which should be carefully used to project child population (6-14 years) in the current year (2009-10) for which RTE-estimates are being made. Compound Growth Rate can be used in projecting population in intermediary years.

 

The other important issue is the source of information that is been used in estimating funds. So far possible, same source of information should be used in estimating all aspects of RTE Act. One set of estimation can be based upon one source of data. There may be more than one source of information and hence there may be more than one sets of RTE-estimation. The most appropriate one can be retained out of a number of alternatives.

 

Preliminary estimates based on 2007-08 data suggests that the total funds for RTE implementation during the next 5 years period would be in the tune of Rs. 1.80 lakh crores (1 crore = 10 million, as reported in the Times of India). The same if estimated based on 2008-09 data, would be a little less than what is estimated based on 2007-08 data. Because of the ongoing Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme, a lot of improvement has taken place since 2007-08 especially in case of infrastructure in schools which is quite visible if DISE 2008-09 data is carefully analysed. More schools imparting elementary education in the country now have drinking water, toilet and other such facilities in school. Together with this drop out has also declined slightly so as the out-of-school children all which may change the RTE-estimation significantly if the same is workout based on 2008-09 data.

 

RTE-estimation can be worked out in a number of ways. To begin with 6 to 14 years child population in the current year may be the starting point which should either be link to current enrolment in elementary classes (I to VIII) or be divided by the pupil-teacher ratio as specified in the RTE Act to workout number of classrooms that would be required. Needless to mention that there are a large number of unrecognised schools across the country all which will be closed down (if not recognised). In Andhra Pradesh alone there are about 6,000 unrecognised schools compared to around 7,000 such schools in Punjab. In view of there been a large number of children in all such schools special efforts would be required to make so as to ensure that all these children transit from unrecognised to recognised schools; new schools can be planned in all such locations.

 

If number of classrooms based on 30:1 PTR is estimated, the same would take care of all children of age 6 to 14 year irrespective of whether they are in the recognised or unrecognised schools. Just projecting number of classrooms that would be required will not serve the purpose unless the distribution of schools by number of classrooms in the existing 1.28 million schools imparting elementary education is carefully analysed details of which is available from the  DISE sources for the year 2008-09 in a ready to use form. The number of classrooms so projected can be used to project number of teachers that would be required which can be worked out as per the provisions specified in the RTE Act. Since the number of teachers under RTE Act is linked to number of students in a school, which vary from Primary to Upper Primary school, careful analysis of distribution of teachers in the exiting schools would be of great help in correctly estimating the additional requirement of teachers on account of RTE Act. In a number of states, a good number of teachers’ positions are lying vacant all which should be filled-up (by the states) before the enactment of RTE Act else they be subtracted from the estimated number of total additional teachers.

 

Like number of schools and enrolment, number of para-teachers has also grown significantly (5.19 lakh para-teachers). The estimated number of additional teachers should be adjusted to the number of para-teachers a state has. Para-teachers with adequate academic and professional qualification may be considered as teacher, others those who don’t fulfill the criteria can be treated as schools without such number of teachers.

 

By just projecting number of additional classrooms that would be required will serve only the limited purpose. The additional classrooms may be in the exiting schools or new schools would be required to open in view of the projected additional classrooms. RTE Act has specified minimum infrastructure in each school all which would be required to provide to all such new schools. In addition, a good number of exiting schools imparting elementary education lack minimum facilities all which should also be made available by the state before the enactment of the RTE Act or the states be given sufficient time to provide all such facilities in the school. Minimum infrastructure (as per RTE Act) to all exiting schools is the responsibility of the states and the same should not be accounted in the RTE-estimation.

 

As has already been suggested above that to begin with the RTE-estimation may be based on 6-14 age years’ child population. Though Government’s commitment is of 6-14 years children but a good number of under-age and over-age children are getting enrolled each year in both Primary as well as Upper Primary classes’ provisions for which would also be required to make in the RTE-estimation. Especially Government and Aided schools cannot afford to deny admission to whosoever approach for admission.

 

A number of provisions have been made in the RTE Act with regard to teachers and infrastructure in schools. Minimum academic and professional qualifications of teachers under RTE Act will also be specified. A careful analysis of information would reveal that a good number of teachers do not fulfill minimum requirements. What would happen to all such teachers and also schools those are lacking in infrastructure. Will all such schools be closed down, naturally not or how much time would be given to all such schools to match the RET requirements. Whether teachers recruited are as per the qualifications laid down. Which body would monitor and decide upon all such aspects of RTE Act. Definitely, an independent body, if created  can monitor all aspects of RTE Act on long term regular basis for which the exiting information system would also be required to further strengthened. Making available information concerning RTE Act under the public domain will also be of great help.

 

Cost of Right to Education: Rs 1.78 lakh crore|

 
 
NEW DELHI: After the euphoria comes the real test. The cost of implementing the historic Right to Education Act over the next five years by Centre and states works out to a whopping Rs 1.78 lakh crore.

The new law will come into force from the next academic year and since right to education is now a fundamental right, it is mandatory on the part of the government to provide what is demanded.

HRD ministry sources say the total demand of Rs 1.78 lakh crore when finetuned will only work out roughly to just one-third of the staggering amount. They said that nearly Rs 50,000 crore can be provided to the kitty by the Centre and states from the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan fund. This brings the demand down to Rs 1.28 lakh crore. The ministry expects that in the 12th Plan nearly Rs 60,000 crore will be allocated to SSA. But this will still leave the effective demand to Rs 68,000 crore. Then again, Centre will have the tough task of persuading the states to step forward to share the cost of fulfilling the commitment.

On Friday, HRD ministry sent the proposal to the finance ministry and a copy to the 13th Finance Commission for early perusal. But sources expect a long winter of discussion and negotiation with states, finance ministry and Planning Commission before it can be finalised. The focus of discussion will be the funding pattern of RTE. Currently, SSA is funded by the Centre and states in the ratio of 60:40. It will be 50:50 by the 12th Plan.

In case of RTE, chief ministers are already gearing up to do a collective bargaining. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has written to PM Manmohan Singh demanding that the funding pattern for RTE should be 90:10 between Centre and states. He has circulated the letter to other CMs as well. Earlier, Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik had demanded a 75:25 funding pattern for RTE between Centre and states. Bihar has also said it cannot bear the extra burden since it is already shelling out 25% of its annual budget on education.

The demand for additional Rs 68,000 crore will go towards improving the infrastructure in schools, student-teacher ratio and in hiring more teachers. While SSA has a student-teacher ratio of 40:1, RTE stipulates a ratio of 30:1. The RTE law stipulates that from class one to class five, if a school has 60 children there should be two teachers, for 61 to 90 children there should be three teachers, and for 91 to 120 children there should be four teachers. There are similar stipulations in case of buildings, working days, play material, games and sports equipment.
 

THE RIGHT OF CHILDREN TO FREE AND COMPULSORY EDUCATION BILL, 2009 FAILS THE TEST OF CONSTITUTIONAL MANDATE

Ashok Agarwal, Advocate & Social Activist 

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2009 (hereinafter referred to as RTE Bill, 2009) passed by the Parliament on 4th August 2009 though appears to be a progressive legislation but on examination thereof, it is not difficult to conclude that the same does not stand the test of constitutional mandate guaranteed under Article 14 (right to equality), Article 21 (right to life with dignity), Article 21-A (right to education) and Article 38 (right to social justice) of the Constitution of India.

 Undoubtedly, some of the provisions of the RTE Bill, 2009 are laudable. Section 3 talks of right to free and compulsory education and admission in a neighbourhood school. Section 4 talks of admission of child in class appropriate to his or her age. Sections 8 & 9 talk of obligations of the government to provide compulsory education to children. Section 12 talks of obligation of the unaided recognised private schools to provide free seats to the extent of 25% to the children of the economically weaker sections. Section 13 (1) talks of “no capitation fee” and “no screening procedure” for admission. Section 14 talks of admission without insisting upon production of age proof. Section 16 talks of “no expulsion of a child”. Section 17 bans corporal punishment. Section 23 talks of formation of school management committees. Section 23 ensures recruitment of only qualified teachers. Section 25 talks of ensuring Pupil-Teacher Ratio as specified in the schedule. Section 32 talks of grievance redressal mechanism.

 On the other hand, several provisions of the RTE Bill, 2009 are meant to legalise and to perpetuate the existing unjust and discriminatory school education system based on socio-economic status. Section 3 (b) defines “capitation fee” means any kind of donation or contribution or payment other than the fee notified by the school. The import of this provision is that a school is free to notify any amount of fee whether needed or not and once it is notified, it will be legal. The Bill does not provide any fee regulatory mechanism to check the menace of commercialisation of education. Moreover, the right of every child to receive free and compulsory education as guaranteed under Articles 21 and 21-A of the Constitution does not depend on the capacity of the parents to afford fee or not. Therefore, every child whether studying in private or State-run school, is entitled to free education. The State should bear the entire expenses even of the children studying in private-run schools. On the other hand, Section 8 disentitles a child studying in such private school even to claim from the State the reimbursement of expenditure incurred.

 Section 2 (n) instead of permitting only same category of schools for all the children, sanctifies different categories of schools for the children of different socio-economic status. Most objectionable is; “a school belonging to specified category”. Section 2 (p) defines “specified category” in relation to a school, means a school known as Kendriya Vidyalaya, Sainik School or any other school having a distinct character which may be specified by notification, by the appropriate Government. How can you have such a specified category of school with ‘State Funding’ which does not provide equal opportunity to all the children in the matter of admission? That providing only 25% of seats to the children of weaker sections in such ‘specified category of school’ is a cruel joke.

 Section 7 talks of sharing of financial responsibilities between the Centre and the States. It appears that the Central Government does not want to provide funds to the States uniformly. The State Governments cannot insist upon the Central Government to provide funds more than what is provided under Section 7 (3). The State Governments have been made responsible to provide funds for implementation of the Act. It is submitted that unless the Central Government takes upon itself to provide entire funds for the implementation of the Act, the object of the Act is not possible to be achieved, particularly when the State Governments have publicly declared their inability to implement the Act on account of paucity of funds.

 Section 10 talks of duty of parents to admit his child in neighbourhood school. It is submitted that the duty of parent is alright but where is the duty of the State to bring the child to the school. The State has completely absolved itself of such duty. Section 13 (2) provides punishment with fine against a school, if it is found violating the provisions relating to ‘no capitation fee and screening procedure for admission’. Interestingly, the Central Government has lost sight of the fact that if a school is punished with fine; such amount of fine would simply be passed on by the school to the children by levying the same in the fee slip. It is submitted that thereby it is the child and not the school which would be punished. What is required is the punishment with imprisonment and not merely punishment with fine.

 Section 26 permits the Government to keep the vacancies of the teachers unfilled up to 10% of the total sanctioned strength. It is a well known fact that on average 10% of the teaching staff at a time remains on leave for one reason or another. Therefore, there is a need to have 10% extra teaching staff instead of reducing it by 10% as contemplated in the RTE Bill, 2009. Section 31 talks of monitoring of child’s right to education by NCPCR. Experience with all the Commissions including NCPCR is that all these Commissions work like the department of the Government. Moreover, the Government has not so far appointed full strength members in the NCPCR. It is submitted that the District Judge of every district in the country, should be entrusted with the work of monitoring of child’s right to education. I am conscious of the fact that the Hon’ble Judges are already burdened with deciding so many pending cases but one can not lose sight of the fact that the right to education is a most precious human and fundamental right and any further delay in implementation of the same would be a great peril to the nation. The Bill is also mute on accountability of the authorities. Unless there are provisions for the penalties against the erring authorities at least similar to those available in the Right to Information Act, 2005, it is really doubtful if the authorities would honestly perform their tasks.

 Our constitutional goal is to achieve a casteless and classless society as has been highlighted by a seven-judge bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the recent decision in OBC reservation in educational institutions case. The Government should have brought a Bill which would have directions towards casteless and classless society. However, the Bill in the present form, on the other hand, perpetuates the inequality and unjust discrimination among children in the matter of right to education. That while expressing the above concerns regarding the serious drawbacks of the RTE Bill, 2009 particularly when it fails the test of Constitutional mandate, it cannot be over emphasised that the passing of the Bill is a welcome step. It will undoubtedly open the Pandora’s Box for a national debate on the same in the interest of the future of the children.

07.08.2009

Author can be contacted at ashokagarwal1952@hotmail.com
M: 09811101923
 

Lok Sabha passes Right to Education Bill

August 4th, 2009

NEW DELHI - In a historic step, the Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008.

The passing of the Bill allows children aged between 6 to 14 years to avail free and compulsory education as a fundamental right. The Bill, one of the flagship programmes in the 100-dayagenda of the UPA government, also earmarks 25 per cent seats to weaker sections in private schools. Rajya Sabha, the upper House of the Parliament, had already cleared the Bill. The Lok Sabha put its seal of approval on Tuesday. Human Resource Minister Kapil Sibal, speaking in the Lok Sabha, described the Bill as “harbinger of a new era for children to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

He said the Bill was a “historic opportunity” to provide a better future to children of the country as there was never such a landmark legislation in the last 62 years, since independence.  “We as a nation cannot afford our children not going to schools,” Sibal asserted while noting that the measure details the obligations of the Centre and the States for providing free and compulsory education to children.

Main features of Right to Education 2009 Bill

  • The salient features of the Right of Children for Free and Compulsory Education Bill are -

    - Free and compulsory education to all children of India in the six to 14 age group;

    - No child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until completion of elementary education;

    - A child who completes elementary education (upto class  shall be awarded a certificate;

    - Calls for a fixed student-teacher ratio;

    - Will apply to all of India except Jammu and Kashmir;

    - Provides for 25 percent reservation for economically disadvantaged communities in admission to Class One in all private schools;

    - Mandates improvement in quality of education;

    - School teachers will need adequate professional degree within five years or else will lose job;

    – School infrastructure (where there is problem) to be improved in three years, else recognition cancelled;

    – Financial burden will be shared between state and central government
     

ALL INDIA FORUM FOR RIGHT TO EDUCATION

306, Pleasant Apartments, Bazarghat, Hyderabad-4

Phone no. 04023305266

  Prof. Anil Sadgopal                                                 Prof. G. Haragopal

  Co-President                                                                                       Co-President

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

An Appeal

To,                                                                                                                   July 22, 2009

Ms. Meira Kumar,

Honorable Speaker,

Lok Sabha, Parliament of India,

New Delhi

 

Dear Madam,

Sub: ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008’.

 

The National Seminar on Right to Education and Common School System held at Hyderabad on 21st and 22nd June 2009 urged upon the Central Government to replace the pending ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008’ with a Bill drafted in the framework of Common School System based on Neighborhood Schools. It is our considered view that this is the only framework which would ensure education of equitable quality to all children in consonance with the principles of equality before law (Article 14), guarantee against discrimination by the State (Article 15-1) and equal opportunity in public employment (Article 16) as enshrined in the Constitution. All member-organizations of the All India Forum for Right to Education (AIF-RTE) are opposing the Bill along with several other democratic organizations around the country for logically sound reasons (see below).

 

 However, to our utter disappointment, the UPA Government did not heed the democratic voices in the country. The appeal for wider public debate on different provisions of the Bill has been repeatedly turned down. The Parliamentary Standing Committee also ignored democratic submissions. The Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on 20th July 2009 without any consideration to the objections raised by some learned members of the House. The Union Government is rushing ahead with its 100-day neo-liberal agenda embedded in privatization and commercialization of education. As a last resort we appeal you and the members of the Lok Sabha to seriously ponder over our objections to the Bill before proceeding further with it. You would agree, we believe, that such a Bill will affect a nation for generations and petty political considerations must not be allowed to undermine it.

 

We bring to your notice that the Bill, instead of giving fundamental right to children, deprives them of the fundamental right already given to them by the Supreme Court through the Unnikrishnan Judgment (1993). Indeed, this Bill amounts to being not only anti-Constitutional, anti-educational and anti-child but also promoter of unabashed privatization and commercialization of school education.

 

The Supreme Court, through its historic Unnikrishnan Judgment (1993), declared ‘free and compulsory education’ a fundamental Right of all children until they complete the age of fourteen years (including the children below six years age) by reading Article 45 of Part IV of the Constitution in conjunction with Article 21 (Right to Life) of Part III. The pending Bill, if enacted, will result in (a) 17 crore children below six years of age losing their fundamental right to balanced nutrition, health care and preprimary education; and (b) the government being assigned arbitrary powers to provide free and compulsory education to the 19 crore children in the 6-14 year age group “in such manner as the state may by law determine “, just as the government has been doing for the past sixty years.

 

We hereby underline the following serious lacunae and contradictions in the Bill.

 

This Bill,

·        allows the authorities to dilute the meaning of Free Education in an ad-hoc manner;

·        distorts the concept of Neighborhood School recommended by the Kothari Commission (1966) and resolved by the Parliament in the National Policy on Education-1986 (as modified in 1992), thereby authorizing the government to compel the poor children to study in inferior quality schools;

·        maintains Sarva Sikhsha Abhiyan’s discriminatory multi-layered school system;

·        permits the  government to build schools of entirely unacceptable, ambiguous and sub-standard norms and standards;

·        continues with inferior quality education for almost three-fourths of the children, particularly girls and disadvantaged;

·        undermines the universally accepted pedagogic role of mother tongue in acquiring knowledge and learning languages other than one’s mother tongue, including English;

·        discriminates between the children studying in government schools and the private unaided schools in various ways. This is bound to lead to further deterioration of the quality of education in the government schools, making private schools, both aided and un-aided even more expensive and inaccessible to a wide section of the society. The worst sufferers of such discrimination will be the girls, thereby leading to increased gender disparity;

·        aims at demolishing the government school system under the pretext of providing free education to the weaker sections on 25% of the seats in private schools. On several grounds it is clear that this misconceived provision would not give any benefit whatsoever to the deprived children even in the short term;

·        legitimizes, through the above-named provision of 25% reservation in private schools, the ‘free market’ policy of school vouchers and Public Private Partnership;

·        refuses, by not including the financial estimates for implementation of the Bill in the Financial Memorandum, to explicitly accept the full obligations of the Bill and

·        promotes unregulated privatization and commercialization of school education.

 

The following three cynical objectives of the central government can be identified in tabling such a misconceived Bill:

            First, abdicating its Constitutional obligation for providing free and compulsory education of equitable quality;

Second, demolishing the government school system, except the schools of specified categories (Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalayas, XI plan’s 6,000 model schools, and similar elite schools of the States/UT governments); and

Third, increasing the pace of privatization and commercialization of school education.

We have been for long urging upon the Union Government to,

1.      replace the pending Bill with a new Bill drafted in the framework of the Common School System based on neighborhood Schools in consonance with the basic spirit and principles enshrined in the Constitution;

2.      review the 86th constitutional amendment Act (2002) with a view to providing a fundamental right to free and compulsory education of equitable quality to all children until the age of eighteen years i.e. until class XII without any conditionality whatsoever;

3.      incorporate a Constitutional guarantee within the Bill for providing adequate funding for the entire school system. This is precisely the implication of a fundamental right.

4.      include in the Bill a provision to completely ban all forms of privatization and commercialization of education, especially Public Private Partnership, adoption of schools by private agencies and voucher schools;

5.      hold public hearings in all district headquarters of the country in a democratic and transparent manner in the process of drafting a new Bill.

 

As is submitted to you in the beginning, the Union Government is neither heeding the democratic voices nor is not responding to the widely articulated concerns. We, therefore, request you to either send the Bill to a select committee or return the Bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee with directions to hold public hearings in all district headquarters of the country in a democratic and transparent manner in order to make essential changes in the present Bill or draft a new Bill afresh in consonance with the basic spirit and the fundamental principles enshrined in the Constitution and Supreme Court’s Unnikrishnan Judgment.

 

With hope and trust for your urgent intervention,

 

Sincerely Yours,

 

                                                                                                            Sd./-

Prof. Anil Sadgopal                                                                  Prof. G. Haragopal

Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh                                                          Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

Co-Presidents, All India Forum for Right to Education

 

           

Ravi Rai                                                           Niraj                                       

General Secretary,                                            Convenor, Delhi State  

All India Students Association               Vidyarthi Yuvjan Sabha

 

Copies to:

1.                  Prime Minister of India

2.                  Minister of Human Resources Development

3.                  Leaders of Opposition Parties

4.                  Members of Lok Sabha

5.                  Chairperson, National Commission for Human Rights

6.                  Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights

 

 

 

Right to Education by Vinod Raina

Seminar, January 2009

 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

Anil Sadgopal
Posted: 2008-11-09 00:03:24+05:30 IST
Updated: Nov 09, 2008 at 0003 hrs IST
 

These are election times in several states. These are bad times for government school children. Their teachers have been frequently pulled out of schools in recent weeks for cross-checking voter lists and election training. Essentially no teaching will take place for a week around the polling date. Earlier this year, the teachers were busy updating voter lists. And then there are panchayat and municipal elections. The private school children of course do not suffer such loss of teaching. Would this discrimination stop when the Parliament passes the Right to Education Bill, 2008, recently approved by the Central Cabinet? Of course not! On the contrary, it will be legitimised since the Bill provides for deployment of government teachers for “decennial census, election to Local Authorities, State Legislatures and Parliament and disaster relief duties.” Government school children will continue to sacrifice their education to keep the Indian democracy alive, while the private school children will receive education undisturbed.

This is certainly not an isolated example of the Bill’s discriminatory character. Take the case of pre-primary education (kindergarten, nursery) considered to be critical for preparing children for elementary education. The Bill indulges in falsehood when it says that pre-primary education will be provided in government schools except “if such facilities are not already being provided, through Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) or other government programmes, in proximity to such schools.” Who does not know that ICDS (or its anganwadis) is not even designed to provide pre-primary education? The Bill will thus ensure that the majority of the poor children (about three-fourth of the child population) will continue to be denied pre-primary education by the clever use of ICDS as an alibi!

The proponents of the Bill, especially the internationally funded NGOs, make much out of the provision of 25% reservation in the private schools for the disadvantaged children. Closer examination reveals a different story. As per the Seventh Educational Survey, about four crore children out of 19 crore in the 6-14 age group are currently studying in private schools at the elementary stage (class I-VIII). The above provision will create space for one crore for which the private schools will be reimbursed for the tuition fees. Assuming that these schools are providing quality education, the provision helps only a minority of the underprivileged. What is then the Bill’s vision of quality education for the remaining 15 crores? They will continue to receive education through a multi-layered school system with each social segment in a separate layer, the much-acclaimed norms and standards in the Bill’s Schedule notwithstanding.

Back to the 25% provision. Everybody knows that, apart from the tuition fees, the private school child has to shell out money for a range of items throughout the year — expensive uniform and shoes, extra textbooks, picnic and extra-curricular charges, computer fees etc. Who will pay for that? Why has the Bill not thought of changing the elitist character of these schools that violate the educational principles enunciated by Phule, Tagore and Gandhi? Clearly, the Bill lacks the vision of what constitutes quality in relation to India’s needs. That, however, is another debate.

Let us assume that the underprivileged is able to somehow sustain all these odds all the way until class VIII. This is when the government support for her tuition will come to an end. In such a situation, what would the school do? Throw the child out? Where would she go for high school education? May be nowhere, since that is not part of her Fundamental Right!

To be sure, there is a hidden political agenda in this 25% provision. Whenever the government sets up high profile elite schools — the centrally sponsored Kendriya or Navodaya Vidyalayas and the XI Plan’s 6,000 model schools or the state governments’ Pratibha Vidyalayas (Delhi), Utkrishta Vidyalayas (Madhya Pradesh) or residential schools (Andhra Pradesh) — the regular schools are deprived of funds and good teachers alike. People vie against each other to get their children admitted, using their political contacts, bureaucratic pressure or even bribes. The result: poor communities are divided and disempowered. This sop will thus further divert political attention away from the ongoing struggle for education of equitable quality through a Common School System.

A word on the media hype on the financial allocation that the Bill promises. First, the Kothari Commission (1964-66) recommended that 6% of GDP must be invested on education (including higher education) by 1986 and then maintained at that level. We never got there. Since 1991, the educational expenditure as percentage of GDP has been steadily declining and this is now down to 3.5% of GDP. Without fulfilling this cumulative gap, how does the government hope to provide quality education?

Second, the government knows how to cut corners. In its estimate of Rs 2,28,680 crores required for implementing the Bill in seven years’ time starting in 2008-09, there are plenty of clues how this will be achieved. Look, for instance, at the teachers’ salaries. As per the Bill, the primary school teachers shall be paid a monthly salary of Rs 6,000 and those of the upper primary (class VI-VIII) stage shall receive a monthly emolument of Rs. 8,000. At present, as per Fifth Pay Commission, the gross monthly emolument of the primary school teachers (PRT Grade) and the upper primary teacher (TGT Grade) is respectively Rs 12,400 and Rs 15,000 at the entry point. The cat is out of the bag. The government plans to replace all the regular teachers (qualified and trained as per NCTE norms) by under-qualified and untrained teachers appointed on short-term contracts. While the low quality teachers will teach in government schools, the private school children will be taught by properly qualified teachers whose pre-service training ironically has been subsidised with public funds. Combine this with the prescribed pupil:teacher ratio of 40:1 (Cuba has 20:1) and you have a perfect recipe for low quality education for the masses. The entire financial computation is loaded with such discriminatory logic.

Can there be a Fundamental Right to unequal and inferior education? The central government’s audible answer: Yes, indeed! Professor Amartya Sen told the Confederation of Indian Industries in December 2007 that school education can be funded only by the state. No advanced country in the world has ever been able to provide universal quality education by negating or undervaluing its public-funded education system. This is true for all the G-8 countries, including the USA. Defying this universal experience, the Right to Education Bill is daring to undo the history. Amen!

The writer is an educationist

Tehelka

C For Commerce

A new Bill seeks to put the constitutional promise of free and quality education for all at the mercy of market forces, warns ANIL SADGOPAL

TODAY, FOR example, if a parent petitions the Court seeking a pupil:teacher ratio of 1:30 instead of 1:40, or pleads that her child’s potential for music, art or games is not supported since there is no provision for teachers in these critical areas — in such examples, if the judges see merit in the petition they may pass a favourable judgment.

This became possible because of the Supreme Court’s historic Unnikrishnan judgment in 1993, which gave all children up to 14 years of age a Fundamental Right to Education. The Court contended that the Fundamental Right to Life (Article 21) of the Constitution should be read in “harmonious construction” with the Directive in Article 45 to provide Free and Compulsory Education to children of 0-14 years, including those below six years of age. By implication then, free and equitable education became their fundamental right.

This judicial framework will be dismantled once the current Draft Right to Education (RTE) Bill, 2008 becomes an Act. The UPA government was all set to present this Bill in the Budget Session, but it did not happen. Strangely, this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

The Unnikrishnan judgment sent jitters down the spine of the ruling elite. It meant that the government would have to reprioritise the Indian economy in favour of the masses. Even more frightening to the rulers was the political implication of the entitlement of the masses to education of equitable quality. They will then be enabled to compete with the privileged classes and demand their equal share in economic and democratic life.

Since 1993, successive governments at the Centre have tried to undo the impact of the Unnikrishnan judgment; to dilute and distort the meaning of the fundamental right to education. This culminated in the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act (2002). The Act inserted a new Article (21A) which limited the fundamental right to the 6-14 age group, thereby disentitling 17 crore children below six years of their right to nutrition, health and preprimary education. It further stated that free and compulsory education shall be provided “in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.” This conditionality enables the State to circumscribe the fundamental right of even the 6-14 age group.

The issue of Right to Education is critically linked to the Common School System founded on the principle of ‘neighbourhood schools’. In 1966, the Kothari Commission had argued that such a system was necessary to build a socially cohesive society. All children in a given neighbourhood, drawn from diverse backgrounds, should be able to study and socialise together in a common public space. This has been the organising principle of school education in G-8 countries like the USA, Canada, France, Germany and Japan.

Is it not absurd to even think of a ‘right’ to unequal and inferior education? Yet, this is what is provided through the current multilayered school system. The Draft Bill legitimises the schools that promote inequality, such as the elite government schools (eg. Kendriya Vidyalayas) and private unaided schools. This reflects in its provision of 25 percent reservation of seats in such schools for purportedly ‘free’ education of the weaker sections from the neighbourhood. For 75 percent of admitted children, both the principle of neighbourhood and the fundamental right to free education stand violated. The 25 percent provision shares its rationale with the neo-liberal guru Milton Friedman’s school vouchers that are meant to promote private schools out of public funds. The Eleventh Plan also pushes school vouchers along with public-private partnership. By providing for shifting of public funds to private schools, the Draft Bill becomes an instrument of the market forces.

THE PRIME Minister constituted a High Level Group (HLG) comprising the Finance Minister, Planning Commission’s Deputy Chairman, PM’s Economic Advisory Council Chairman and the Human Resource Development Minister. The HLG concluded that the Centre lacked resources for implementing the RTE Bill and that it should primarily be a state government responsibility. This amounts to kowtowing to neo-liberal pressure for abdication of the State’s Constitutional obligation.

A recent Note prepared by the HRD Ministry for the Union Cabinet warns that, unless the 86th Amendment is immediately enforced through an RTE Act, the Unnikrishnan judgment covering the 0-14 age group will prevail. This vindicates this author’s decade-old stand that the hidden agenda of 86th Constitutional Amendment is to snatch away the fundamental right gained by the children below six years and also to circumscribe, by law, the right being purportedly given to the 6-14 age group. Yet, the Central government has balked at introducing even a diluted and distorted Bill (see box). It is clearly not a matter of lack of resources but of the government’s framework leaning towards neo-liberal policies. This is why it backed out.

The dilemma was underscored at the November 2007 meeting by HLG chairperson Arjun Singh who suggested that “the only logical way out is to report to the Prime Minister that the Constitutional Amendment... was legislated in a hurry without taking into account all the attendant problems.” This is indeed an irony, particularly because all political parties had voted for the 86th Amendment. It is not unlikely that market forces and neo-liberal advisers are pressurising the government to repeal the 86th Amendment, but for the wrong reason

A public campaign is called for to seek replacement of the 86th Amendment by an Amendment that would give an unconditional fundamental right to children from birth to 18 years, encompassing early childhood care and pre-primary education onwards through Class XII. The Right to Education Bill could then be imbued with a vision of systemic transformation for equality in and through education, rather than adjusting itself to neo-liberalism. This will create the framework for building a Common School System in order to forge a sense of common citizenship for a democratic, egalitarian and secular society. •

Dirty Dozen of the Draft Right to Education, 2008

1. Lacks provision to compel the State to provide adequate funds.

2. Dilutes the Fundamental Right of children below six years to nutrition, health and pre-primary education by falsely equating it with Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)

3. Denies right to secondary and senior secondary education.

4. Shifts public funds to private unaided fee-charging schools to exacerbate commercialisation, exclusion and inequality.

5. Legitimises inequality through a multi-layered school system.

6. Permits violation of the ‘neighbourhood’ principle by the government-run elite and private schools, allowing them to charge fees and screen and exclude children.

7. Continues discrimination against government school children as their teachers will still be deployed for census, elections and disaster relief duties.

8. Doesn’t provide for the states/UTs to regulate private unaided schools, leaving them free to indulge in profiteering, anti-child practices and other violations.

9. Fails to guarantee child’s mother tongue as medium of education, even at primary stage. (For children of linguistic minority groups, this violates Article 350A.)

10. Contains subtle provisions that exclude disabled children from schools.

11. Opens space for private agencies to make money through questionable assessment.

12. Lacks guarantee of dignified salaries, professional development, promotional avenues and just social security for teachers and prevention of fragmentation of teachers’ cadre.

Frontline
Volume 23 - Issue 15 :: Jul. 29-Aug. 11, 2006
INDIA'S NATIONAL MAGAZINE
from the publishers of THE HINDU


Education for few

JAYATI GHOSH

The new education bill proposed by the UPA will exclude disadvantaged groups from quality schooling and pass the burden to cash-strapped State governments.

In all the often heated debates about the strategy of development for India, there is one issue on which there seems to be consensus among all - the need to provide universal and good quality education at school-level to all our children. There is good reason for this consensus, which emerges from some very different initial positions with respect to other matters of society and economics. At one level, education is a fundamental human right, without which capabilities for a decent life and effective participation in society are less likely to be developed. Therefore, all our citizens deserve equitable access to a public school education system of reasonable quality.

There is the equally important point about the nature of the society we wish to have. The primary purpose of education is to build a truly humane society - democratic and egalitarian, tolerant of diversity and yet with some shared human values - and to allow all citizens to unleash their full potential and live with dignity.

This implies that school education up to a certain level (ideally 10 or 12 years) must be accessible to all, and that differences in the quality of provision should not be such that they create social inequalities or monopolisation by any group.

But even those who are less likely to adopt a rights-based approach to development or accept the importance of universal education for a good society, still recognise the critical significance of investing in education. This is because they know that for sustained growth and all-round economic progress, an educated labour force is absolutely essential. And as economic tasks become more complex, interdependent and require different kinds of literacy and numeracy, the importance of higher levels of education also grows. All the current talk of creating a "knowledge society" is based on the realisation that education must be a major focus of public intervention.

Therefore, until quite recently it was the case that even those who otherwise debunked public expenditure in general, accepted the need for public spending on and provision of basic education. Additionally, in recent times, some of the recognition of the need for more investment in education is also because of the buzz about the "demographic dividend".

This is the fact that our relatively young population can become a huge asset when most of the rest of the world's population is aging, and this difference in demographic structure can create a large positive potential for faster growth. (Of course, this in turn presupposes that productive work can be found for all of those of working age.)

Yet it is precisely in the sphere of ensuring equitable access to quality education for our people that the development project in India has been conspicuously lacking thus far. Even today, the official gross enrolment ratios for children aged between six and 14 is around 80 per cent, and effective enrolment is much less. Currently, only 56 per cent of children aged between five and nine are attending school, according to Census data.

More tellingly, dropout rates are very high; less than half of the children who join Class I actually complete Class VIII, and much less than 10 per cent pass the higher secondary examination. The situation is even worse because of social and economic divisions, which reduce access. For example, more than 80 per cent of Scheduled Caste girls and 90 per cent of Scheduled Tribe girls who join Class I do not complete Class X.

This is largely because of huge under provision and poor quality provision in the government school system, such that those who cannot afford to attend private schools are either unable or unwilling to attend school, and are often deprived of access altogether.

Some of this is because of the very large infrastructure gaps in the public education system in the country. There are still large numbers of villages and urban settlements without government schools in the approachable vicinity.

There is also substantial overcrowding in existing schools. According to the National Sample Survey, more than 30 per cent of primary schools do not have any proper buildings, and another 20 per cent function out of only one room, which clearly affects both the quality and effectiveness of teaching in such schools. The average number of instructional classrooms across all schools is only two.

The inadequacy of other basic infrastructure (separate toilets for girls and boys, clean drinking water supply, electrical fittings and fans and so on) not to mention advanced teaching aids, including computers, is also well-established not only for many primary schools but also for a substantial proportion of secondary schools and institutions of higher learning.

Then of course there is the shortage of teachers, which forces many students at different levels to be taught by one teacher. According to a study by the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, even now, up to 13 per cent of all elementary schools are single-teacher schools. Nearly 10 per cent of schools do not have even one blackboard. More than half do not have a book bank, not to mention a library. Only 7 per cent of schools have computers.

Part of the reason for this abysmal state of affairs is that there was no compulsion upon either Central or State governments to provide universal education. The faith expressed in Article 45 of the Constitution, making a commitment of the state to provide free and compulsory education to children up to 14 years of age, did not translate into any justiciable right. Most critically, successive versions of draft legislation have failed to make it a justiciable right or to ensure the financial resources for the government to provide universal schooling.

It is against this background that the Right to Education Bill, 2005, was formulated. This Bill has had a tortuous history. The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, passed in 2002, inserted Article 21A in Part III (Fundamental Rights) which declared that "the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age 6-14 years in such manner as the state may by law determine." This set the stage for the Right to Education Bill. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government provided flawed draft Bills which effectively legitimised different "streams" of education, with low quality provision for underprivileged sections, and heavy reliance on privatisation.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in turn provided a more acceptable Bill, which still had a number of problems and also diluted the right to education in several ways. However, it also had certain strengths, such as some move towards a common schooling system by which all schools, including private schools, would have to take 25 per cent of students from among underprivileged children in the vicinity. This reflected the recommendations of the Education Commission in the 1960s that bringing different social classes and groups together would promote an egalitarian and integrated society.

However, this draft Bill gathered dust, apparently in the Prime Minister's Office, for more than 10 months, and was not introduced in successive sessions of Parliament. It has now come to light that the Central government has decided to shelve this altogether, and instead has formulated a model Bill which has been sent to all State governments for them to enact.

Further, according to the letter sent by the Secretary for School Education to the State governments, only States which adopt the model bill in toto will continue to receive 75 per cent funding for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan - all others will have the Central allocation cut to 50 per cent!

Quite apart from the undemocratic nature of this offer, this reneges on the commitment made in the Constitutional Amendment, since the Central government is now taking no financial responsibility for ensuring the right to education. It is ridiculous to expect cash-strapped State governments to be able to provide the resources for this. Only the Central government can and must provide the relatively large financial outlays that are required to meet this absolutely essential public commitment.

The model Bill that has been proposed is even more appalling - it removes any mention of common schooling, places no requirements upon private schools, and does not actually recognise the right to education. It says that any parents/guardians who choose to admit their children to a non-free quota in a school (for whatever reason, for however short a time) shall not have any claim on the State for free education for their children.

It allows for "alternative" non-formal education for children for reasons of disability, or disadvantage, or nature of occupation of parents, thereby creating the possibilities for all sorts of exclusion by class and social group. In sum, it is a Bill of exclusion rather than inclusion, a complete denial of rights.

So here we have an extraordinary situation - a Central government that has publicly committed to ensuring the right to education, working surreptitiously and bypassing Parliament in order to push State-level legislation which completely undermines the notion of that right.

The irony is that this is in all probability driven by the same people who have been opposing caste-based quotas in higher education, on the grounds that it is first necessary to ensure access to quality school education to disadvantaged groups. Unfortunately, while increasing and univeralising access to quality education are critical for the health of our society and its future, we still have to contend with elites and an establishment who are determined to prevent it.

 

Friday, August 22, 2008

Report of the seminar titled 'Right to Education-Actions Now' conducted by Confederation of Indian Industry  (CII) Shiksha India

The seminar titled 'Right to Education-Actions Now' was organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Shiksha India, Aspen Institute and Institute of Quality, on 19th December, 2007 in Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi, India. The main sponsors of the seminar were: Ambuja Cement, Bajaj Group of Companies, Bharti, GMMCO, Haldia, Thermax, Sona, SRF, Organosys and Patton.

The centre of attraction of this seminar was Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, who called for accountability in delivery of elementary education and public healthcare services, effective use of resources and co-operation with unions in these sectors. Prof. Sen underlined the importance of expansion of inclusive growth. He suggested deployment of more economic resources in education and better organisation of public services. Prof. Sen said that resources generated from economic growth should be used for public services and public goods in general, rather than being absorbed only in private consumption. He also highlighted the issue of diversity. He said that India should ensure efficiency and accountability in delivery of public services through organisational reforms. Despite economic reforms, the slowness of progress on school education has been taking much longer to remedy. He observed that there has been some reduction in the proportion of poverty-stricken people. But the process could have been much faster if growth achievements are combined with ways and means of more widespread sharing of economic opportunities. Prof. Sen said that India has been catching up with China in life expectancy and infant mortality, but there is still a long way to go. Prof. Sen expressed concern at the shocking incidence of absenteeism and neglect on the part of many teachers, who come from elite background and who care less for students from disadvantaged sections of the society. He pointed out the poor state of school inspection system in India. To tackle these problems, he suggested positive collaboration with other social groups and particularly the unions of primary school teachers and health care workers. He said that an educated population can make even better use of democracy. He talked on the importance of democracy. He asked for the need for female literacy as it can have positive impact on their economic and social status. He said that education can have powerful effects on quality of life of even the poorest of the poor. Prof. Amartya Sen mentioned that the nature of education is extremely relative. He also praised the $100 computers-for-kids initiative by MIT Media Lab. He said that peer learning is essential. He said that the quality of food provided in the mid-day meal scheme (MDM) is poor in certain states of India. He said that there is need for looking at education for producing skilled labour force, which can be tapped by the IT, ITeS and other services sector. He said that poor people should be provided coupons, which can be helpful in accessing education. He said that education is something more than literacy. He mentioned that in Bangladesh, there is a law which says that the wife of every husband should read and write.

Rakesh said that public-private partnership for constructing school buildings is need of the day. He said that there is need for concentrating on the 'Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan'. Vijay Bhakara talked on the accountability of the education sector. He said that there is need for measuring the quality of education. He mentioned about one census assessment report on quality of education. He said that the competency level of the children needs to be assessed, which has happened in Karnataka, India. He also mentioned about the School Adoption Scheme, which is running in Karnataka. Kalyan Banerji said that the quality of textbook is very poor in India. There is thus the need for good quality content, so that it enhances the quality of the children-the future of India. S Bhattacharya said that there is need for better implementation of already existing educational schemes. Governmental schemes cannot be substituted by other initiatives. Teachers' commitment and empowerment is extremely essential. India produces less number of engineers. There is a need to check why more and more students are taking commerce and management related subjects, instead of science/ technology. There is also the need to see why the system of Aanganwadi has collapsed in most states of India. He also mentioned that the pre-nursery school education system has collapsed. Drop-out is happening due to socio-economic reasons, he added. Students coming from rural background have hidden talents. Teachers must have the potential to tap the talent present in school children. There is also need to assess why there exists much focus only on English. He said that there is need to look at how to ensure accountability in educational schemes. S Bhattacharya said that the unhealthy competition in education need to be reduced. One of the biggest problem in Rajasthan is the transfer policy for teachers since every teacher want to be transfered to his/her native place.

However, Rajasthan has performed well in implementing the mid-day meal scheme successfully. During the 11th Five Year Plan, more allocation of financial resources with have been made on education, he added. He asked for passing of the Right to Education Bill by the Parliament of India. Jamshyd Godrej, Chairman, Shiksha India, talked on the importance of e-Learning tools to impart education at primary and secondary levels. He asked for the need of inputs from all sections of the population in order to make concrete progress in the field of education. He said that CII has been making positive efforts to promote education.

Gautam Thapar, Vice-Chairman, The Aspen Institute India, said, "In the context of globalisation, education assumes greater meaning. Greatness of a nation should not be measured by its ranking in global economic order, but by its ability to provide quality education. If we don't address the issue of education, our demographic dividend may turn into demographic disaster." He added that the Aspen Institute India is ready to contribute to the promotion of education. The day-long session was attended by 200 participants from Indian industry, NGOs, principals of various schools across the county, teachers and students. The session included an interactive session with Prof. Sen during which he dwelt on an array of issues. The participants discussed future course of action to improve elementary education in India. Madhav talked on the need for educational initiative in rural India. He said that there is need for employing the rural unemployed in educational sector. In this respect, the educational initiative of the the NGO Pratham, was mentioned by him. But there is need for scalability of the Pratham initiative, he said. Anil Bordia, talked about the need for working with the Anganwadi workers. He mentioned about the Lok Jumbish. There is need for contribution by the citizens, he said. Education should not be made absolutely free, he added.

During the conference it was mentioned that the National Sample Survey is one of the the best surveys conducted by the Government of India, which provides a different picture than the statistics provided by the Department of Education. Motivation of teacher is extremely important for having a good quality education system. There is the need for developing a transparent and accountable institutions in the area of education. The focus of the discussion was on the mid day meal scheme and the purposes it serves.

During the post lunch session, group discussions (comprising more than 15 groups) were held, which revolved around several topics. Suggestions were provided by various groups on various topics, which include: ensuring better school adoption system, bridging gaps in education in rural India, developing teacher skills, team learning, etc.

 
* The article have been jointly written by Narinder Bhatia, Anaam Sharma and Shambhu Ghatak
 
 

Editorial                                                                      TIMES OF INDIA

School For All

3 Nov 2008, 0032 hrs IST

 

India’s greatest wealth lies in its human resources. Universal schooling of decent quality could be the single biggest move it makes towards future

 

prosperity. Towards this end the government has mooted a Right to Education Bill which promises free education for every child in the 6-14 age group. But it remains cagey about details, citing the Election Commission’s model code as the reason for not disclosing the full text.

Education requires substantive, not just symbolic action. Merely passing laws, without sustained political attention that plugs yawning financial and administrative gaps in the school sector, is going to fail. One of the problems of taking a purely legislative view is to define who will be held responsible if a child doesn’t attend school. Will it be the local body, the state government, the Centre, the child’s guardians? There is plenty of scope for passing the buck, and we don’t have the full details of the Bill.

A related problem is to set out clearly who will pick up the bill for universal education, estimated to cost Rs 55,000 crore a year to implement. It’s supposed to be split between Centre and states, but the precise formula for doing so — and whether states are on-board with the scheme — is unknown. The most controversial provision of the Bill is to drag the private sector in, by imposing an obligation on private schools to take in at least 25 per cent of its students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Their fees will supposedly be paid by the government, a promise it’s unlikely to keep. Providing free education for all should be unambiguously the government’s responsibility. Countries haven’t made rapid strides towards universal literacy by palming off the responsibility on the private sector. That will stunt the growth of the private sector rather than lead to universal literacy.

The private sector, however, can act as a force multiplier and take some of the government’s burden off if the right incentives are given to it. For that to happen, it must be allowed to run on private sector principles. Corporates should be encouraged to set up their own chains of branded schools, which would both serve their human resource needs and disseminate quality education across the country.

To draw in the best professionals it’s necessary to legitimise profits in education and provide autonomy to the private sector. The government should also envisage private-public collaborations where it throws in some combination of money, land, scholarships and tax breaks, but leaves the management of schools in professional hands. Out-of-the-box thinking is called for to provide education the big bang it sorely needs.

 

Right to Education Bill introduced in RS

16 Dec 2008, 0424 hrs IST, ET Bureau
 
NEW DELHI: Almost six years after Parliament passed the 86th Constitutional Amendment, the Centre on Monday introduced the Right of Children to
 
Free and Compulsory Education Bill in the Rajya Sabha. The 86th Amendment made free and compulsory education for children between the age of 6 and 14 years, a fundamental right.

The proposed legislation provides a blueprint for systemic reforms in the elementary education. It is aimed to provide quality education. It promises to counter the growing lobby for the privatisation of school education. The legislation is a step towards the common school system, first proposed by the Kothari Commission.

However, the passage of the Bill is not expected to be easy. The biggest hurdle will come from the growing and influential private players in education sector and their votaries among the country’s political leadership.

The statement of object and reasons clearly explains the aim of the legislation: “The proposed legislation is anchored in the belief that the values of equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society can be achieved only through provision of inclusive elementary education to all. The provision of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantaged and weaker sections is, therefore, not merely the responsibility if schools run or supported by the appropriate governments, but also of schools which are not dependent on government funds.”

The private school lobby has consistently called for the opening up of the education sector, allowing “for profit” organisation to play a role on the grounds that government schools can’t provide quality education.

The Bill makes it mandatory for private unaided schools to set aside 25% of their annual intake at the entry level (standard I) for disadvantaged children in the school’s neighbourhood. This effort is in keeping with Article 15(5), which allows the state to make special provisions for advancement for disadvantaged groups. In keeping with Article 29 and Article 30, minority institutions will be exempt from this exercise.

The Bill also bars capitation fees, making it a punishable offence with fines “up to ten times of the capitation fee charged”. It also makes screening of students a punishable offence, fees would be as high as Rs 25,000 for the first contravention, and Rs 50,000 for subsequent contravention. none of this is expected to sit well with the private school lobby.

Despite the unanimous support for the move to make the right to education a fundamental right, the enabling RTE legislation hasn’t had an easy passage. Work on the RTE was started by the NDA government soon after Parliament passed the constitutional amendment in December 2002. The first delay came when the NDA was voted out of power in May 2004. Work on the RTE was then taken up by the Kapil Sibal’s committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE).

The Sibal draft slated the financial implications, estimated by the then National Institute of Education Planning and Administration (NIEPA), at a minimum of Rs 3,21,196 crore to a maximum Rs 4,36,458.5 crore over six years. This is where the proposed legislation ran into trouble.

The question of funding was to hold up the bill for the next four and half years. Over the next four and a half years, the ministry of human resource development worked to bring down the financial implication of the bill. Finally, bringing it down to Rs 48,000 for a four-year period.

Strangely enough, the Bill in its final form does not have any explicit financial implications. The financial memorandum simply states: “It is not possible to quantify the financial requirement on this account at this stage.
However, the expenditure on provision of funds by the Central government would be met from the Consolidated Fund of India through annual budgetary provision”. The question then is why was the bill delayed, when the financial implications were never part of the legislation.
 

Bill on free and compulsory education introduced in RS

15 Dec 2008, 2250 hrs IST, TNN
 

 

NEW DELHI: Children from even the poorest families can hope to study in good schools with the government on Monday introducing a bill in Rajya
 
Sabha for free and compulsory elementary education with a provision that schools will have to keep aside 25% seats in class 1 for such students.

Minister of state for human resource development M A Fatmi introduced a bill which seeks to provide for free and compulsory education to all children between 6-14 years.

According to the `Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008', every school will have to earmark at least 25% seats in class 1 for free and compulsory elementary education.

The bill seeks to do away with the practice of schools taking capitation fees before admission and subjecting the child or parents to any screening procedure.

The bill also seeks to ban private tuition by teachers and ensure that no child is subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment, warning that whoever contravened the provisions would be liable to disciplinary action.

At the same time, the bill said it shall be the duty of every parent or guardian to admit the child to a neighbourhood school for elementary education and added that no child should be denied admission for lack of age proof.

Seeking to carry out radical changes in the primary education pattern, the bill states that no child shall be required to pass any Board examination till completion of elementary education.

Noting that the goal of Universal Elementary Education (UEE) continued to remain elusive, the statement of objects and reasons said, "The number of children, particularly children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections, who drop out of school before completing elementary education remains very large."

The bill warned that if any school failed to fulfil the norms, its recognition would be withdrawn and if any person still continued to run the school, he or she would be liable to pay upto Rs 1 lakh fine.

No school, other than a school established, owned or controlled by the government or the local authority, shall, after the commencement of the Act, be established or will function without obtaining a certificate or recognition from such authority, it said.

The bill said that no teacher shall be deployed for any non-educational purposes other than the population census, disaster relief work or duties relating to elections to the local authority, assembly or Parliament.

"Provision of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantaged and weaker sections is, therefore, not merely the responsibility of schools run or supported by the appropriate governments but also of schools which are not dependent on government funds," the statement said.