Panamalai R Guruprasad
On April 1, the Government of India made the Right to Education Act, a law. As with all similar acts in our country, many questions have to be answered if the Act has to be implemented in a fair manner.
RtE is an effort by the Government of India to comply with the Dakar Summit agreement drawn 10 years ago when several NGOs working the field of education and ministries of education from 164 countries including India met and committed to expand educational opportunities for all children by 2015. But it is questionable whether RtE will meet even half the goals set at the Dakar summit. While the Dakar agreement maintains that educational opportunities must be made available to all children, the RtE completely sidelines the pre-school age children by focussing only on those children in the 6-14 age group. Let us hope that our government will continue looking at pre-school children and consider them as important as children in the 6-14 age bracket.
If RtE has to be effectively implemented school managements, local governments and the parental community have to work together. In this context, it is worthwhile to know what other countries have done so that we can adapt the processes here.
In this article let me document as to how active participation from parents, teachers and children can be sought by school managements so that they know how far their organizational objectives are being realized in terms of quality education for all children.
In 2007, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Government of Cambodia, established a policy to develop a “Child Friendly Schools Program” which was to be adopted by all primary schools in that country. The policy reflected important dimensions of educational development such as equity, quality, and active participation of all stakeholders within the school and the communities in which they functioned. The ministry stressed on the need to develop a tool using which school directors could monitor and evaluate the level of child friendliness of their schools. The necessary tool took the form of a document called “School Self Assessment (SSA) Form”.
In 2008, the SSA Form was implemented as a pilot project in one province in the country. As Technical Advisor to the Inspectorate of Education at the ministry, I was asked to bring in improvements in the existing School Self Assessment Form, in response to which, I developed a set of three questionnaires targeted at the most important stakeholders within the school, viz. teachers, parents and students. The questionnaires enable the respondents to study each item and select an option. The tool incorporates a Lickert type rating scale and is easy to handle.
As we can see, the forms contain almost all relevant indicators including those on gender. One of the most important aspects of these forms is that the respondents do not need to reveal their identity anywhere in the forms. This ensures confidentiality and transparency.
Once the forms are filled in, a responsible school professional can collect data and quantify them to arrive at specific perception level of each stakeholder category. The forms can be used in many ways to identify and enhance the level of child friendliness in school systems. Such methods of data collection and follow-up can help all concerned professionals, in contributing to the objectives of RtE in a fair manner.
The author is currently a freelance writer and has formerly been the Technical Advisor to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Government of Cambodia. He can be reached at email@example.com.