‘Extend RTE to cover entire spectrum of school education’

Concerned over the neglect of children's education in election manifestos, the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, a collective of national education networks, on Thursday urged the people to start questioning politicians on their efforts to promote education at every given opportunity during the run-up to the polls.

A call to this effect was given at the National Stocktaking Convention on RTE Implementation here with participants maintaining that bijli-sadak-paani (BSP) alone cannot be the indicators of development. Education should also be considered as an indicator; in fact, it should be made the prime development agenda.

Another demand raised at the day-long meeting pertained to extending the RTE to cover the entire spectrum of school education from pre-primary to higher secondary. Criticising the public-private partnership model of development in school education, the participants said the focus must be on strengthening the public system of education. Handover of government schools to private players must end and every effort ought to be made to strengthen the government system of education, the forum demanded.

The meeting drew participation from 18 States across the country and the refrain of most participants was that government funding for the RTE was inadequate. While the figures provided by the government in Parliament in the last session put the provisional expenditure on education as a percentage of the GDP at 4.17 per cent during 2011-12, the forum said the figure continued to be around 3.3 per cent.

Dwelling on the Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh (the fund created by the Centre to finance elementary education), the report on the status of the implementation of the RTE noted that the fund — which began as a measure to inject additional amounts to supplement government's own support — has become more of a substitute.

All States and political parties have been found equally guilty of ignoring the RTE and treating it like any other scheme of the government instead of a fundamental entitlement of children. Only 10 per cent of the schools were found to be complying with the RTE norms.

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