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Right to Education Act "undermines" public education, promotes school privatization

By Our Representative 
In an unusual scathing attack on the Right to Education (RTE) Act, passed by Parliament in 2009, renowned academic and educationist Anil Sadgopal has said that five years of its implementation has clearly shown that the law is nothing but a means to privatize India's education system. In a recent critique, forwarded to Counterview by Shiksha Adhikar Manch (Right to Education Forum), a Bhopal-based non-profit body, Sadgopal said Act is merely "meant to help corporates, NGOs and religious organizations to profiteer."
Especially referring to section 27 of the RTE Act, Sadgopal, in an article in Hindi, says, the law sets up "extremely poor criteria for teaching in government schools" in order to "demolish the whole idea of public education". Thus, it allows the government to take “non-teaching work from its school teachers.” But on the other hand, “it allows private schools to raise fees at will, allowing those running them to go ahead with open loot". He adds, "Clearly, teachers in private schools will not be required to do any non-teaching job."
Referring to the provision of the RTE Act which wants private schools to set aside 25 per cent quota for the economically backward sections, Sadgopal calls it an eyewash, equating it with "jhunjhuna" (a rattle meant for infants), pointing out, "As one can see, the idea of providing 25 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections is already proving to be a big flop. And this is what the establishment has cherished all along."
Even if the 25 per cent quota is implemented in its full letter and spirit, says Sadgopal, it would mean only 6 to 7 per cent being admitted in private schools, while rest of nearly 90 per cent children would be required to go to government schools. Calling the quota an illusion and a myth, he insists, “it is meant to divide people -- large section of government school children, on one hand, and a handful of children admitted in quote in private schools, with parents living in an illusionary world, on the other."
"The actual purpose of the 25 per cent quota is to ensure that people do not unitedly protest against privatization of education. Through this, the law only seeks to legitimacy to private schools, even as undermining government schools", Sadgopal says, adding, "One can see this happening around us. Over the last five years, in Greater Mumbai alone, the municipal corporation has auctioned 1,174 schools in order to trigger the public-private partnership (PPP) model in education. In Madhya Pradesh over 1.22 lakh schools are being handed over to private hands.”
"Clearly", says Sadgopal, "Once the schools go over to private hands, they would decide on fees structure. They would in fact become part of the real estate market.” Thus, in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, elsewhere, private schools flourish are flourishing and government schools are being closed down. In fact, private schools numbers have gone up by “four times.”
Pointing out that “there is no provision in the law to fix fees to be charged from children”, Sadgopal says, they are “being forced to pay in the name of providing poor quality books, costly school bags, uniform, tie, socks, shoes, and so on.” Meanwhile, “there is a huge hue and cry over the failure of government schools”, which, Sadgopal suggests, is nothing but an effort to undermine government schools.
“There is an effort to flood data on how government schools are devoid of basic facilities like drinking water, toilets and other basic needs”, he says, adding, "Lakhs of vacancies of school teachers are allowed to remain unfilled. New appointments are being made only on contract. Those who are being appointed do not have adequate ability to teach or are even uneducated."
In a separate statement, Shiksha Adhikar Manch has said, "A pernicious myth around the Right to Education Act, 2009 has been created that in last five years this Act has not been properly implemented. This myth tends to wipe out from common discourse the anti-constitutional, anti-child and anti-education character and neoliberal agenda of this Act."
Pointing towards the manner in which Sadgopal’s article, which challenges the myth of RTE Act, was published in a Hindi daily "Nai Duniya", the statement says, "Curiously, the editor made the most drastic change in the very title of the article, changing its entire meaning and reducing it to the question of RTE’s poor implementation!"

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