The Kerala government has demanded an incentive from the Centre recognising the achievements the State has made in education sector while implementing the Right to Education Act (REA).
Welcoming the UPA government’s initiative, State Education Minister M.A. Baby said that before taking a major policy initiative of national significance, States should have been consulted in tune with the federal spirit.
“At least a State like Kerala, which is a role model for the entire nation in education, should have been consulted before bringing in the Act,” Mr. Baby told PTI here.
“It is an irony that we (Kerala) are often the victim of surpassing the national targets in education in the matter of devolution of funds from the Centre. Even in the case of REA, much of the targets set by it has already been achieved. So, there is a possibility of the State failing to get funds earmarked for the programmes under it,” he said.
This anomaly, however, could be rectified by providing special incentive to Kerala which could be used for quality improvement and strengthening infrastructure in education sector, Mr. Baby, also a member of CPI-M Central Committee, said.
The State had already succeeded in providing “free and universal education” up to 16 years against the goal of free and universal education up to 14 years set by REA, he said.
“Now, our target is to provide free education up to higher secondary (Plus-Two) level for which steps have already begun,” he added.
Mapping of panchayats that did not have higher secondary schools had been carried out and steps have been taken to upgrade government high schools to higher secondary level in 224 panchayats, Mr. Baby said.
Stating that the LDF government had adopted a scientific and need-based approach in sanctioning additional seats in Plus-One courses, he said 26,000 additional seats were created in the Malabar region, considered to be backward in education field.
Mr. Baby said the Right to Education Act was a major step forward in achieving the goal of universal education by fulfilling a key fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution.
In this regard, he said Kerala was the first to recognise the right to education and implemented programmes to secure the goal as early as 1957 when the first Communist government came to power in the State.
On the REA’s impact on Kerala, he said many provisions of the present Act would work against the State’s interests by creating additional expenses and administrative problems.
For example, the clause that insists on unaided institutions setting apart 25 per cent of seats at the entry level for local students would create serious complications in Kerala where government, State-aided and unaided institutions are situated close to each other, Mr. Baby said.
Another lacuna was that there was no clarity on fund sharing and it appeared that the Centre was slowly withdrawing from its responsibility of funding education, Mr. Baby said.