In 1951, the Indian Constitution had promised universal primary education by the beginning of the next decade. But, it did not happen by 1961. Despite several projects that were launched subsequent to the National Policy on Education (NPE, 1986 and 1992), the aim of universal enrolment, retention and achievement in elementary education has remained unfilled. Currently, efforts are underway through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to provide universal access to elementary education, while quality of education is still elusive.
The idea of right to education (RTE) and neighbourhood schools was first mooted in 1964 by the Kothari Commission. It is necessary for teachers to become literate about the new constitutional provision as a law in the area of elementary education. Consequently, elementary education for children in the age group 6 to 14 will be free and compulsory under the law and will be deemed a fundamental right. Since, 25% of the seats in private schools are to be reserved for poor children in their vicinity, it is quite essential for all teachers and other school functionaries to become literate about the RTE provisions.
‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill’, is listed to be taken up in Rajya Sabha in the current session of Parliament. The implementation will be a joint responsibility of the State, teachers and parents for educating children with judicial intervention. The Centre and the states will be required to spend Rs 2 lakh crore for the successful implementation of the Bill and to ensure elementary education of reasonable quality.
The Bill proposes that both government and private schools across the country do not fail students for poor performance until they complete elementary education up to grade eight.
Educators believe that kids do not necessarily learn out of fear of tests and examination. Instead, they learn if you provide them with a supportive learning environment and right kind of learning experiences.
On passing of the Bill and its becoming a law, it will have the following implications for schools:
- Schools will not fail or dismiss students. Expelling non-performing children would invite penalty.
- Examinations will be optional by emphasising continuous and comprehensive evaluation with additional remedial coaching.
Currently, more than 50% students drop out of schools without completing eight grades due to poor quality of schooling.
The Bill envisages that the education system is of a reasonable quality in order to support the new rules. Some feel that the Bill is very demanding on the schools and teachers and they would require to be adequately trained to ensure quality.
Getting ready to ensure RTE
Thus, the schools and teachers will be bound by law to be sensitive towards children, and to perform, and deliver. Therefore, there is dire need for school teachers to discuss and debate the implications of RTE. When quality of education becomes the main issue, the quality standards for different school inputs, processes and outputs need to be defined so that facilitative learning and formative or criterion–based evaluation would be required to become central to children’s schooling. The criterion for educational quality is generally seen as ‘80% of children achieving more than 80% marks’ in a valid end-of-the session test all over the world.
The ABC of right to education
A: Assuring and ensuring quality of elementary education for all.
B: Bill of RTE introduced in Parliament in 2002, to be taken up for hearing in the current session of the Parliament.
C: Children in the age group 6-14 years are to receive education.
D: Development of children in cognitive, psychomotor and effective domains.
E: Equity in education, i.e., gender and social equity.
F: Free and compulsory education.
G: General education for all, i.e., no specialisation at elementary school level.
H: Healthy and supportive learning environments in schools.
I: Integrative, inclusive and compensatory education.
J: Jacking up the law-enforcing machinery against violation of RTE provisions.
K: Kothari Commission mooted the idea of RTE in 1964.
L: Learning to be regarded as innate human potential.
M: Management panels of the elementary schools to have parents as members.
N: National commission on elementary education set up.
O: Optimum facilities and support structure being provided.
P: Private tuitions by teachers to be prohibited.
Q: Quality standards to be articulated.
R: Reservation of 25% seats in private schools for poor children.
S: State and system to be held accountable for safeguarding RTE.
T: Teacher accountability for performance and delivery of teaching services.
U: Universal quality elementary education is the mandate.
V: Vacant post of teachers not to exceed 10% of total sanctioned posts.
W: Waited for 44 years since 1964 for having a law-bound RTE.
X: X-raying the education system periodically to diagnose its health.
Y: Yes to child protection and rights.
Z: Zero defect strategy for quality.
The author is Senior Fellow, Centre for Unfolding Learning Potential, Jaipur. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.