With the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, completing three years of implementation, civil society organisations have urged the Centre and State governments to implement it with a focus on learning outcomes and ensure that all children attain well-specified goals over the next five years. Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, representatives of these organisations, which work to promote children’s right to education, said that three years since the bill was enacted, an ever-increasing number of children had access to education; but a large and growing amount of data pointed to the fact that the learning levels were unacceptably low, and improving schooling inputs had a very limited impact on improving learning outcomes.

They recommended that the clause mandating a 25 per cent reservation in unaided schools for children from the weaker sections be implemented in letter and in spirit, and the families of such students be reimbursed “out of pocket expenses” on books and uniforms.

According to Ashish Dhawan, States like Bihar had hardly made any reservation, while in Uttarakhand only 15,000 seats were filled in 2012-2013 as against the 25,000 available under the quota.

With the RTE’s enforcement deadline expiring on March 31 this year, enrolment data nationwide showed that government schools were losing students as parents opted for low-fee private schools, the representatives said. However, many of these private schools faced closure from April 1 if they failed to comply with infrastructure and teacher salary norms. These “input-based” markers of school quality, they argued, were not correlated to the quality of learning outcomes. “We, therefore, call for an approach to private school regulation based on transparency and disclosure of audited performance metrics, as opposed to input,” said Sridhar Rajagopalan. He was appreciative of Gujarat’s approach to recognising private schools on the basis of performance standards.

Some of the organisations represented at the press conference were Katha, Accountability Initiative, Educational Initiatives, Akshara Foundation, Pratham Books, Pratham Gujarat, the Centre for Civil Society and Gyan Prakash.

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