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Updated: April 14, 2013 21:11 IST

The passing of a deadline

Kiran Bhatty
Comment (16)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

The Right to Education Act seems suspended in a vacuum, with the government doing virtually nothing to ensure that the norms stipulated by it were met by March 31

Three years ago, when the Right to Education came into force, there was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm across the country. It was heralded as a historic moment; for the first time, quality norms for a range of issues including infrastructure, teacher education, classroom transactions and assessment were laid down.

Three years on, however, as the deadline of March 31, 2013 for meeting these norms has come and gone, the prognosis is dispiriting. The Act seems suspended in a vacuum, as policy and planning appear to operate in a world of their own, often parallel to the mandate of the Act.

By all available evidence, RTE has failed its first exam.

ASER Report

First we had the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) which showed — yet again — that learning outcomes in government schools are not just unacceptably low, but declining, that too in the time since the RTE Act was passed. Then came the budget and allocations to the education sector which did not budge from 3.5 per cent of GDP despite the 6 per cent recommended by the Kothari Commission more than five decades ago and reiterated in the Common Minimum Programme nine years ago. In fact, the actual State-wise requirements to fully implement the RTE are still to be estimated! And finally the RTE deadline itself was accompanied by reports of how scores of schools across the country had failed to meet the mandatory norms. And not just private schools, or unrecognised schools, but regular government schools under the purview of the very government that amended the Constitution making elementary education a Fundamental Right and passed an Act that stipulated a basic set of norms that all schools must abide by.

And yet, these failures appear to have made little difference as far as policy, planning or even political posturing are concerned.

The ASER findings were unveiled by the Minister of Human Resource Development himself; a scheme of 2500 “model” schools to be implemented under a Public Private Partnership format in defiance of RTE was announced and the Central Advisory Board of Education committee decided to “not extend the RTE deadline” — two days after the deadline passed.

While, on the one hand, this brazen defiance of the law seems completely inexplicable, on the other, it is completely compatible with the way basic education has been treated by successive governments since the very beginning.

Despite the lip service paid to education in recent years, the ground reality has rarely gone beyond the rhetoric. Even the legal stipulations do not seem to have propelled the government to act with greater responsibility. The passage of the RTE Act was meant to reinforce the government’s primary obligation towards provision of elementary education. But neither the political class nor the bureaucracy appears to be mindful of its responsibilities or legal obligations.

In a recent PIL, the Supreme Court, taking cognisance of the deplorable state of basic facilities in schools, directed all State governments to ensure that the situation was rectified in accordance with RTE norms by end-March 2013. Eighteen State governments filed affidavits claiming they had already met the norms six months ago! Even a casual visit to government schools in any of these States will reveal the falsehood of these claims. Now these States, along with all others who have not even filed the affidavits, stand in contempt of court — in addition to a violation of the RTE Act. It puts a huge question mark on the much-acclaimed, rights-based approach being adopted.

Poor enforcement

In fact, the record of the government seems to suggest that while it has sought political capital from the passing of the Act, it has done little to ensure its enforcement. Why else would it allow the deadline to pass without even the pretext of some action? Why else would it continue to “implement” the Act through a Centrally-sponsored scheme (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) operated through a “society” when the legal obligations on “enforcing” the Act rest on the “state”? Why else would it continue to stipulate highly centralised, standardised and inflexible financial norms when States are at different levels of RTE compliance and hence have very different needs in terms of meeting the requirements? Why else would it fix no accountabilities within the system and have no grievance redress mechanism so that violations can be systemically dealt with? Why else would it give no teeth and minimal resources — human and financial, not even a member in charge of education (the only vacant spot in the Commission today) — to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the agency responsible for monitoring RTE? Why else would the government make no attempt to bring the local authorities (Panchayati Raj Institutions and urban local bodies), given huge responsibilities for implementing and grievance redress in the Act, under its purview? Why else would it not spread awareness about the Act and its entitlements among the people? The stipulated deadline in the Act has passed, but is there a deadline for when we can expect some answers to these basic questions?

Body politic weaker

While educationists, activists, parents and others are still keen on making the RTE work, the body politic has gotten weaker. Without the bulwark of institutional capacities, without a clear fixing of accountabilities, without a robust and reliable response mechanism within State structures, the energies of the people cannot be sustained or harnessed. The point of legal guarantees, of the rights-based approach, is to provide a structure that will ensure there are no violations. Unfortunately, the government has yet to start creating this, even as the deadline is over and gone. If the government has any conscience, it must treat the passing of the Act as only the beginning of the story of provision, not the end.

(Kiran Bhatty is Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research)

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Our government tried to implement RTE as it implemented MGNREGA in
UPA-I term. But failed to do so as it was surrounded by various scams
throughout its tenure, which was a major factor in deciding the fate
of various policies. I think ADHAAR scheme will also not provide the
satisfactory results to the public as govt. started it very late, and
making speedy arrangements to implement it. It should have tried to
implement RTE in its final lap of last tenure instead of making new
policies. It would be a far better alternative for the UPA-II to gain
some respect otherwise.

from:  Sohit Jatain
Posted on: Apr 15, 2013 at 00:29 IST

The article is appropriate and sending a warning signal of our further declining educational system. The main beneficiary of Right Education Act (RTE) is the children of rural poor and tribal who lives in the hinderlands where deficiency in the service provision and general backwardness compound the aleady existing status of poor schooling. If we looks from the begining itself, the implementation of RTE was not satisfactory. In various tribal belts of central India, the appointment of teachers, improvements in the school infrastructure as per provided in the RTE guidelines are any where in progressive path. A system adopted is to fullfill the vacancies by selecting 12th and above studies youths from the village throgh a common entrace test and based on the marks scored and vacancies the post of teachers were filled. Most of the appointed teachers are without undergone any teachers training, School Management Committee is just on paper, parents still appeared as not aware.

from:  Appade Rajeevan
Posted on: Apr 14, 2013 at 16:47 IST

Our planners are good at day dreaming they do not think how to give a right shape in time bound frame.We hardly monitor the funds allocated and their utilization.The only agency in India is CAG and its integrity is also brought under scanner by our esteemed politicians. We must review the aspects of implementation.It is time to review on the structure of education system and the infrastructure up gradation during past three years. Just take the case of 25% reservation norm created by the Government and just announced Rs8000/-(or so) for public sector schools to which our then education Minister was very much inclined to oblige rather a favour to certain class but all of it seems to have miserably failed. We need to fix responsibilities for the present status along with a consideration to the fact what for Government makes schemes and specially when our quality of education has been under fall.

from:  Kuldeep Saxena
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 21:59 IST

We are going to implement RTE but till now we are facing lack of
infrastructure in school and large gape between teacher student
ration but along with i want another thing that going into school
that student without getting enough knowledge enrollment in next
class because teacher can only assess them but not have power to
fail them and parent who have not enough knowledge do not know what
is good or bad. So must concentrate on quality education along with
RTE.

from:  satender
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 17:04 IST

My farm worker'son is studying in a a nursery school paying rs10000 for ukg. i foot the bill for The boy. I have told him That he can put his son in a big school without tuition fees.
How he can be helped? The real problem is to create awareness in rural areas and a Mechanism for the poor to get admissions in the school for thei children

from:  Pnatarajan
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 15:19 IST

This had been the attitude of Indian rulers for thousands of years
since the inception of BHARATH. The main reason behind this behaviour
is to make sure not everyone learns or understands the scenario around
them. Because education is "first" identity of an individual. If that
is denied, that person would never be able to challenge the ruler,
which in turn will push the person into poverty.
Its not just "right to education" which is required, but the way
people are educated must also change. We need more than what this
useless UPA is proposing.

from:  John
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 14:56 IST

Even if the schools are shut down for not meeting infrastructure norms,
would that really have any effect on quality? Instead of allowing an
inspector raj to flourish, why not allow all kinds of schools to operate
then have a standardised all-India examination every 3-4 years to ensure
that children are learning at a relatively uniform rate in line with
their age and class.

from:  Kaushiki Sanyal
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 14:24 IST

Unless we people take the risk of sending our kids to government schools, we can't
ask any accountability to anybody. Many educated people ignore government
schooling. It's a social issue and active participation from every member of the
society is needed.

from:  tukuna patro
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 13:37 IST

Mr Kiran Bhatty has raised few eloquent question, which I believe will
be remain unanswered, before the political class. He has written the
content with so much verve I must appreciate. We should not make
fizzled the RTE ACT".
If we could inject fresh blood into the system then we can get rid of
the amiss system.Now India need youth movement, what has been seen in
U.S during post war to make better pay and working condition,to make
RTE ACT flourish.The RTE has been floundered since a long time now its
time take initiative by our own to make our education system
resilient.

from:  Prasannajeet Mohanty
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 13:07 IST

When RTE came into force Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh addressed the
nation and declared that education is the key to progress, empowers the
individual and enables a nation. Any neglect in the implementation of the
of the RTE act especially with respect to aspects that leads to the
improvement in infrastructure, teacher education, classroom transactions
and assessment will keep India in the chains of all social evils.

from:  Fr.Dr.Thomas P.J
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 12:30 IST

A FLOP SHOW IN RTE TOO . If the intention of RTE is only to get votes and not giving thr right to education of equal quality , this will be the result . UPA takes ideas from NAC about the welfare schemes which are people`s friendly to project it as a pro-people govt but while implementation , the Congress use these schemes to line the pockets of thir party machinary . Time has come for the people of the country do responsible voting , otherwise we will prove ourselves to be the sheep herds as described by Katju .

from:  Nuthakki Radhakrishna
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 12:08 IST

Most of the hue and cry about the Right to Education Act in last few years was about the 25% quota and much less about government school where 90% of children study. The act clearly mentions punitive actions such as cancellation of recognition for private schools if they fail to meet stipulated RTE norms and thereby regulates functioning of private schools, does not mention any mechanism to make government school accountable. NCPCR also can only suggest and recommend and that sense does not have much power. The RTE act in its very nature does not address way to make the largest education system i.e. the government system accountable to meet its own provisions laid down by State in form of the Act.

from:  Deepika
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 11:55 IST

It is high time, the Indian ruling elite understood that high sounding
laws on paper alone, cannot change things on the ground.

We can have unlimited laws like - right to health, right to nutritious
food, right to quality entertainment, right to fitness etc, but so
long as the governance machinery is not funded and controlled suitably
to roll these rights these laws are not worth even the paper they are
printed on.

Let us end this obsession with making endless laws. Instead focus on
increasing funding (through more revenues) to build a wonderful social
infrastructure, that will ensure that we have basic education, basic
healthcare for all the deprived citizens.

Making more and more laws will only make some armchair intellectuals
and lawyers get some employment, and they will not serve any other
meaningful purpose.

from:  Ramki
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 11:31 IST

It shows a lack of political will to work for the nation. It seems, they
just want to work for themselves. Obsessed with increasing enrollment
ratio, they are less concerned about the dropout ratio because of the
non availability of supportive infrastructure. Government, often, seems
to me, devoid of any wisdom as well as vision.

from:  Hemant Singla
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 08:38 IST

Many questions without answers!

from:  Zubair Ahmed
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 06:57 IST

The answer to Ms Kiran Bhatty's queries is simple: There is no political will to provide quality education to all children. The provision for 25% reservation in Private schools for deprived sections is an open admission of the Government that it cannot provide quality education in its schools. People should know that Government schools are run with their money and they have got a duty and a right to take such measures as are necessary to make them deliver the goods.

from:  SS Rajagopalan
Posted on: Apr 13, 2013 at 05:00 IST
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