Right To Education

December 27, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Education is the most potent mechanism for the advancement of human beings. It enlarges, enriches and improves the individual's image of the future. Education is one key feature which distinguishes humans from animals.

Right to Education (RTE) is a very basic right of which large Indian population has been deprived of. Imagine if this very basic right was brought in place before and implemented well too, India could have been pictured better. But better late then never. The landmark Bill for Right to Education (RTE) has been passed as The Right OF CHILDREN EDUCATION TO FREE AND COMPULSORY EDUCATION ACT, 2009.

Let us first understand, what is Right to Education Bill all about? The major clauses of this Bill are as below:

  1. Every child between the ages of 6 to 14 years has the right to free and compulsory education.
  2. The government schools shall provide free education to all the children and the schools will be managed by school management committees (SMC). Private schools shall admit at least 25% of the children in their schools without any fee.
  3. The National Commission for Elementary Education shall be constituted to monitor all aspects of elementary education including quality.

Proper implementation of this bill can give a tremendous boost to India in the long run, both socially and economically. So, lets look into RTE from both these aspects.

Social Perspective:
Indian Parliament approved the legislation to make education compulsory and free, providing hundreds of millions of children with schooling. This bill promises to provide a school in every neighborhood, within next three years of the acts implementation, without making payment of fees or undergoing entrance tests. Initiative of Government of India is largely welcome by all sections of society. Though late, this is a brilliant step taken by the Government. Even though its framework has been decided, a lot of action needs to take place before this bill can be put to practical use and start showing results. In this act, there has been an attempt to check three major problems that our rural schools suffer from: crumbling infrastructure, high rates of teacher absenteeism and vacant posts. These problems need to be addressed before a new mechanism is put in place. First and very basic step in this direction should be to bring the existing infrastructure up to its potential. If there is no mechanism in place to take care of infrastructure, no new schemes / policies would prove to be of any help to society or economy. If you remember the Television commercial "aao school chale hum" on Doordarshan, the commercial was a great hit, but practically didnít prove too effective. Time will tell how realistically this bill will be brought into implementation, as still after 23 years of hard work and efforts, statistics for Child Labour indicate that we are yet to conquer a lot. We hope to see some positive results this time.

Financial and Economical Perspective:
With 440 million Indians under the age of 18, the Finance Ministry said in its annual survey of the economy last year, if skills were developed effectively, the country could "harness a demographic dividend." If it failed to expand its talent pool, India would face a growth-sapping "demographic nightmare," the ministry said. The law "will help the country fill its shortage of skilled workers". These are a few glimpses of sayings from Government sources. Government, as a machinery understands that they require skilled talents to overcome the shortage. Thus, overcoming this shortage, by providing quality and complete education, India can fulfill its dream of becoming Economic Superpower of the WORLD. India has made huge strides in getting children into school at the primary level over the last decade. However, only education, and that to up to the age of 14, does not make one fit for gainful employment. In India Shining and Bharat Drowning, Das and Tristan Zajonc of Harvard University surveyed 6,000 students from schools in two states - Orissa and Rajasthan. After nine years of education 30% to 40% of enrolled children were unable to pass an international benchmark defining basic mathematical knowledge, they found. Thus, RTE makes it a mandate to provide a Quality Education. In order to keep the financial burdens off its shoulders, Government has mandated to reserve atleast 25% of seats in private schools for poor children. Government proposed schools to be managed by school management committees (SMC). Another course of action to make education a fundamental right in the true sense, can be to implement the Neighbourhood School concept, as envisaged by the Kothari Commission in 1966, which stipulated that only children living within a certain distance from the school be admitted there. The thrust was on public schools and on making all of them equally good, so that a child need not travel far to receive quality education. As of now, we spend only 3% of GDP, which is far below when compared to US, or even Malaysia. As a result of hard work and effort, Public schools like the Kendriya and Navodaya Vidyalayas have been a success. Their models should be replicated for other schools as well.

The key features hence put forth in the act are provided below.

  1. Legislates provision of free and compulsory elementary and secondary education
  2. Provides for a school in every neighborhood
  3. Provides for a School Monitoring Committee - elected representatives of the community to ensure proper functioning
  4. Mandates that no child in the age group 6-14 shall be employed

All these steps lays the foundation for the development of a common public school system that can provide quality education to all the children, thus preventing exclusion of socially and economically disadvantaged population.

Ritesh Narula


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