Skip to main content

RTE in remote areas? Govt of India "plans" to close down 2.4 lakh schools

By Srijita Majumder*
The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, came into effect on April 1, 2010, for the first time made it obligatory on the part of the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children from 6-14 years of age in India. The Act, despite its limitations, had progressive elements like neighbourhood schools, community participation, ban on corporal punishment, no detention, continuous and comprehensive evaluation and it hence it appeared that India was not far from achieving universal elementary education.
The Act also had timelines for implementation, input norms like pupil teacher ratio, adequate infrastructure and hence there were a lot of aspirations for its successful implementation within the given timeline.
However, on the anniversary of the Act, if we look at the status of implementation of the act, we get a rather dismal picture. Right to Education Forum, a network of over 10,000 CSOs across 19 states, has been tracking the implementation of the Right to Education Act since its inception and recent trends tend to suggest that the RTE Act is at a risk of dilution. Some of the major concerns of the RTE Forum:
Slow progress in the implementation of the RTE Act
The ruling party in their election manifesto of 2014 had committed to this, however, while in 2013-14, 9% schools in India were complaint with the RTE Act and in 2016-17 there has been a mere 4% increase with only 12.7% schools complying with the Act. Hence, it evident that what was promised has certainly not been delivered.
Declining expenditure on education as a share of GDP
The first education commission in India, the Kothari commission had suggested back in 1966 that at least 6% of the GDP should be allocated for education. However, in 2017, the spending on education was 2.7% of the GDP.
Millions of children are still not in schools
As per the census of 2011, there were 84 million children between age group 5-17 years who were not in schools, while the MHRD report (IMRB) states that in 2014, 6.64 million children were out of school.
Acute shortage of teachers
Teachers play a very important role in shaping the minds of children. However, only 34.4% schools in India having the requisite number of teachers as per RTE norms. Added to this, more than 18% teachers do not have professional qualification. The situation of teacher training is also abysmal. Maximum teacher training institutes being run by private entities.
Online training of teachers through Swayam portal has not been successful with teachers raising the concern that recordings of lectures are not helping to clear concepts as scope for interaction and engagement is missing.
School closure
Large number of schools have been closed down or merged under the pretext of rationalisation and this is a pressing concern in India. The government at present is planning to close down 2,60,000 small government schools and this will have adverse effects on children coming from sparsely populated areas, hilly terrains, confict zones and economically backward families.
Closing down schools or merging them will be a violation of section 3.1 of the RTE Act that ensure free and compulsory education in neighbourhood schools. Over the last few years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of private schools in India. While government schools increased in numbers by less than 2%, private schools increased by 24.28%. On the other hand, enrolment in public schools declined by 8.5%, in private schools it increased by 24.42%.
Removal of No Detention policy from the Act
The year 2019 began on a grim note with the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) of the Indian Parliament passing the second amendment Bill, 2017 in The Right to Education, 2009 on 3rd January, 2019, thereby allowing the states to detain children in class V and VIII or retain the no detention policy. The reason proposed behind scrapping the no detention policy on grounds of adverse effect on the learning level is not backed by any evidence.
However, on the contrary, there are evidences suggesting that since the introduction of no detention policy (2010), there has been a decrease in the rate of dropouts from 8.61% in 2006-07 to 4.34% in 2014-15, retention rate has increased by 9% and the transition rate from primary to upper primary has increased by 7%.
To address these issues and to make education a prime political agenda in the upcoming general elections, RTE Forum along with two other networks: Campaign against Child Labour and Alliance for the Right to Early Childhood Development have launched a national campaign and have released the “Public Manifesto for the Education of India’s children” with major demands that include:
  • Complete implementation of the Right to Education Act 2009 in letter and spirit. 
  • Extension of the RTE Act to include all children from birth to 18 years. A major limitation of the RTE Act is that it includes children from only 6-14 years, leaving out millions of children from its purview and hence the demand. 
  • Revise declining expenditure of education as a share of GDP and bring it to at least 6% of the GDP as recommended by the Kothari Commission back in 1966. 
  • Complete eradication of all forms of child labour up to 18 years. 
Apart from these overarching demands there are other demands like:
  • Strengthening of School Management Committees to ensure community participation in education
  • Address inequality of education and move from a multi-layered education system towards the creation of a common school system. 
  • Social inclusion and provision for safe and secure school environment
  • Curbing the increasing commercialisation and privatisation of school education and strengthen the accountability of private schools
  • Addressing the issue of out of school children 
  • Strengthening of grievance redressal mechanisms.
We still have a long way to go to achieve universalisation of school education in India. Political will and commitment for strengthening of public education through the implementation of the Right to Education Act 2009 seems to be the only way to ensure free, safe, equitable, quality education for all.
---
*Research and Documentation Coordinator, Right to Education Forum

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.

Oxfam on WB project: ICT 'ineffective', privatised learning to worsen gender divide

By Rajiv Shah 
A top multinational NGO, with presence in several developed and developing countries, has taken strong exception to the World Bank part-funding Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project in six Indian states – Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha – for its emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled approaches for teacher development, student assessment and digital platform for early childhood education.

Coal blocks for tycoons: Rinchi village tribals may be declared forest land encroachers

By Gladson Dungdung*
On June 18, 2020, the Government of India initiated the process for auctioning 41 coal blocks for commercialisation. These coal blocks are located in different states within India and most of them fall under Fifth Schedule areas. The Indian government claims that their decision to auction these coal areas is a big step towards making the country Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant) in the energy sector.