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Updated: February 21, 2010 02:53 IST

“Free education of equitable quality our motto”

Liffy Thomas
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Anil Sadagopal> Photo: R. Ravindran
The Hindu Anil Sadagopal> Photo: R. Ravindran

For 22 years, Anil Sadgopal was a field-level activist in Madhya Pradesh promoting development programmes in rural education. Notable among them was the Hoshangabad Science Teaching Programme (HSTP) and his stint as science teacher in the villages of Hoshangabad district where he brought in an experiment and environment-based pedagogy in teaching. At 69, there is no stopping this botanist-turned-educationist-turned-political activist who continues to fight for proactive educational reforms, the latest being on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 or RTE Act 2009.

Anil Sadgopal, who was recently in the city, spoke to LiffyThomas.

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“Universal primary education can't be achieved in India if we are to go with the current multi-layered school system where we classify schools as government-run or private,” says Anil Sadgopal, who has been travelling to build a nationwide campaign in support of the common school system.

The most important feature of the common school system is its equitable quality of education for all types of schools — private, private-aided or government.

Terming the Right to Education Act 2009 as a farce, Mr. Sadgopal says a public-funded school system with minimum pedagogic norms and standards must be implemented as opposed to encouraging privatisation of education.

He is not alone in his fight for a public-funded education system. He cites an example of how a group in Hissar, Haryana, holds a dharna every Saturday against privatisation of higher education.

His many previous assignments, including as member of the National Policy on Education Review Committee in 1990, made him read between the lines of draft policies. “In the Elementary Education policy of 1986, I developed the method of deconstructing policy documents, which I continue with the current Right to Education,” says the former professor of education at the University of Delhi.

According to him, the Act is a diluted version of free education as, besides tuition-free education, it does not talk about direct or contingent expenses such as miscellaneous fees, cost of textbooks, transport, to name a few. A rally, under the banner All India Forum for Right to Education, to be held in New Delhi on February 24, would address such exclusions in the Act, he says. “Free education of equitable quality from KG to PG is our motto.”

The doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology envisages a common school system, where each community runs its own complex of elementary and high schools within a said framework of equal rights for all children. This has to be extended across India to develop India neutrally, says Mr. Sadgopal, as he leaves for his next destination, with a jhola and bunch of files accompanying him.

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