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Only 12% of schools RTE compliant: Whither 6% budgetary allocation for education?

By Ambarish Rai*
Despite Indian state’s commitment of 6% GDP on education, the Finance Minister completely ignored right to education for children and strengthening implementation of RTE Act which makes education a fundamental right in her budget speech. The Right to Education (RTE) Forum, which is a collective of different stakeholders in education, condemns this neglect of a legal entitlement, which is unconstitutional and demand for overall increase in the budget to ensure improvement in learning outcomes and overall enhancement of quality education.
The mention of a New Education Policy (NEP) is important; however, without financial commitment it will fail to plug the widening inequalities in school education which was aimed at removing pervasive lack of equality and quality in education through the normative framework adopted by the RTE Act.
This is incongruent with international frameworks and guiding principles on education. However without strong commitment of the state it is near impossible to achieve quality education for all children. Also, without clearcut financial provisions how the extension of RTE Act from pre-primary to secondary education can be realised.
Instead of an incremental approach, massive additional investments are, needed to ensure that education delivered meets the basic prerequisites of quality. Investment in online courses (SWAYAM portal), sports education through ‘Khelo India scheme’ etc., will only actualize if India is able to achieve universalisation of quality education. Without universalisation of education, planning for higher education to bring foreign student into Indian universities through ‘Study in India’ scheme is like building castles in the air.
India is long committed to spending 6% GDP on education. This was a recommendation of the Kothari Commission, formed part of both the UPA and the BJP election manifestoes and part of India’s EFA commitments internationally. However, India’s spending continues to fall short.
Indeed, India continues to spend below the global average on education (4.7% GDP, 2013). The need for increased allocation to education remains critical despite devolution of finances to the States. It is our experience that corresponding increase in state allocations have not happened to meet the gaps created. 
Without universalisation of education, bringing foreign student into Indian universities through ‘Study in India’ scheme is like building castles in the air
Further there is a need to assess the present educational scenario in the country, which failed to include children from marginalized groups into the school education system. As per Census 2011, 38 million children of 6-13 age group and 27 million children of 14-17 age group were out of school. This included 12.5 million Scheduled Caste and 7.9 million Scheduled Tribe children.
Alarmingly, of these 65 million children, more than 80 percent have never attended any educational institution. Girls are twice as likely as boys to have less than four years of schooling and nearly 40% of adolescent girls aged 15-18 are not attending any educational institution. Of the much larger number of children who are in school, most children study in schools where the environment is not conducive to learning.
Only 12% of schools are RTE compliant even after 10 years of RTE Act. It is further alarming that more than a lakh of schools have been closed under the garb of consolidation of schools for making schools RTE compliant and bringing better utilization. 
The government is talking about enhancing quality of education but 10.1 lakh posts of teachers still vacant. Hence, the Union government should focus on adequate public resource for strengthening the public school system including the implementation of the RTE Act, 2009 for building a strong foundation for quality education for all.
The specific areas which require urgent attention in terms of allocation of financial resources are:
  • Complete implementation of RTE Act, 2009 so that all children are in the neighborhood school as mandated in the RTE Act and adequate financing for its extension from pre-school till secondary education.
  • Investing in teachers, the biggest determinant of quality education. Filing teacher vacancies and strengthening teacher training and onsite support to teachers (eg. strengthening CRCs and BRCs) 
  • Ensuring adequate, timely availability of teaching learning materials including textbooks and libraries; fund transfers to parental accounts should not replace provision of textbooks and uniforms 
  • Ensure adequate number of institutions: Increasing the number of government secondary schools, strengthening the quality of preschools and Anganwadi Centres and open more crèches to ensure all of India’s children have access to quality education 
  • Invest more in the education of out of school children, migrants and child labourers, especially those in educationally lagging areas and from marginalized communities; greater emphasis is needed to ensure that education offered is gender transformative 
  • Special emphasis on girl’s education and gender responsive curriculum and teacher training so that they are able to continue school uninterruptedly till higher secondary education
  • Build capacities of district administrators, Panchayat Raj Institutes (PRIs) and School Management Committees (SMCs) to strengthen the process of bottom up planning 
---
*National convener, Right to Education Forum

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