Education is one of the many things that can develop a nation in a big way. Education gives the people of a nation, the life to live. Without education, there is the lack of basic Right to dignity. Unfortunately in our country education has been in the periphery of the few Have’s. They have kept it among themselves for quite a good time. After independence, the government tried to do work in the field of education, but it was too little. Right to education was passed in 2009, but it was too late.
In the intervening years since Independence, elementary education has grown into a multi-headed monster of sorts, with its own caste system of service-providers — government ordinary, government elite, private-elite, private-run but government-funded, and so on. It has provided children of the privileged classes a springboard to greater privilege, while doing nothing to eradicate child labour or provide poor children with even basic literacy, let alone the broader gains of education.
Broadly, the vast majority of the population, both rural and urban, sends their children to government-run schools as these are free, that is, they do not charge fees. However, given that the quality of education in these schools is usually quite poor, the fast-increasing middle class prefer to send their children to privately-run schools.
If one were to identify the single most important achievement in the field of education by the government in the post-Independence era, it would have to be putting a school within the reach of almost every child — 98% of habitations now have a primary school within 1 km.
But the question that one sees on the eager faces that run to school each morning is: so, we are in school — now what?
SETTING UP OF SCHOOLS – IS THAT ENOUGH……..?
When we would look at the scenario in Delhi, we would see that on paper the status of schools are there quite prominently. For the implementation of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, on an average, there is a school at the vicinity of approximately 90 % of the population in the radius of one kilometer.
But, the basic infrastructure is lacking in most of the government run schools which I came across in my field work visits. The idea of education is not to make just basic literates, but instill an idea of broad thinking, give them hope through education, and keeping in mind that since majority of the students come from weaker section of the society, make them self confident so that through the help of wings of education, they achieve the skies of their dream.
I met a lot of students during my field work visits, and every single one of them had dreams, dreams to better up their life with the help of education. But, in reality, the government schools are not interested in their dreams, their will to fight back against the evils of poverty through education. Sadly, the school administration is just happy enough to abide by the regulations only and not doing any concrete for the welfare of the students.
When it comes to political class, education is just an election slogan. They are least interested in the welfare of school students, bearing in mind the fact that, students are not bonafide voters.
The students of government run schools are not prepared for the cut throat competition outside the schools. Where, the elite students get every possible help and guidance, the students of government run schools are prepared as marathon sprinters in a 100 meter race.
PROBLEMS: SOLVE THEM WITH THE SAME LEVEL OF THINKING THAT CREATED THEM
ADMINISTRATION : The involvement of those sections of the community that have a stake in a better education for their children, that is, the urban poor, needs to be mobilised. Of great importance in this situation is increased awareness among parents, especially poor parents, about whether they are being short-changed. A climate is slowly developing in which parents feel that they can demand accountability from the system that promises to educate their children, and can have a say in what and how their children are taught. The Act mandates 75% membership of parents in the school management committee. This is the most hopeful sign of change. But, in reality SMC meetings are only conducted on paper. The parents who are members of SMC are not even informed about the meetings. Mostly, the members of SMC come from economically weaker sections of the society, and majority of them are daily wage earners. Is it high time, that the members of SMC be paid so that they can function properly without any economic burden? Most of the SMC members are ignorant of their rights. The dissemination of power is imperative here, but the steps should be taken with the most conscience approach.
CREATIVE INPUTS IN CURRICULUM DESIGN: The second area where the involvement of non-government agencies will prove critical is in evolving a curriculum and pedagogy suitable for local needs and demands, while keeping in mind the important issue of equity in educational opportunities. The old established State institutions for educational research have repeatedly shown themselves to be incapable of genuine innovation, being by and large content with periodically bringing out further batches of ‘old wine in new bottles’. Community-based organisations and people’s movements may not on their own be equipped with the technical expertise and the broader national and international perspectives needed to develop an appropriate curriculum and pedagogy for local needs within the larger mainstream. Specialist technical support organisations, along with colleges and departments of education and social work in universities, have a crucial role to play in this area.
The era of Macaulay, needs to come to an end. It is high time we need thinkers than clerks.
GREATER TRANSPARENCY: The first priority is to place before the public a clearer picture of the situation, ensuring better critical analysis of the realms of reassuring data that is constantly being generated by the government’s new Educational Management Information Systems machinery. Claims of the phenomenal success of various schemes for improving enrolment and attendance, of amazing improvements in learner achievement, and of increased involvement of the ‘community’ rarely stand up to even the most cursory critical study. It is imperative that the real picture, howsoever grim it be, should be in the public domain.
CORRUPTION POSSIBLE : Finally, a deeply disturbing aspect highlighted by many school managements is that the RTE Act, by giving absolute power to the Education Department and local bodies to make or mar schools, will become the ideal tool for large-scale, systemic corruption. Even when there was no specific law against unrecognised institutions, the ubiquitous school inspectors had to be “appeased” despite the school doing nothing illegal. Now with the RTE Act in force, the inspectors will have a free rein to force school authorities to do their bidding — a grim portent for the future. It is not difficult to foresee a large number of undeserving schools getting recognition and a good number of meritorious schools shutting down. Summing up, the RTE Act in its present form will neither promote its prime objective of ensuring completion of elementary education of every child of the age six to 14 years nor meet the commitment of ensuring quality primary education. At best, it is a statement of good intent.
ON BETTER GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS: An outrageous aspect of the RTE Act is that it treats the better government schools as more equal than the others and seeks to insulate them from the upheavals triggered by the Act. By all accounts, the only government schools of a reasonable standard are the Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas which the Act has brought under the “specified category.” Significantly, these schools are exempt from accommodating children who seek transfer from schools which have no provision for completion of elementary education. An Act that claims to strike a blow for equal educational opportunities for all children has no business to accord preferential treatment to these schools.
RTE ACT ALSO MOCKS PEOPLE: RTE Act is garnished with farcical, unworkable statements of good intent. For instance, Section 4 directs that where a child is admitted to a class appropriate to his age, he shall, in order to be on a par with others, have a right to receive special training. Section 11 , which takes the cake for sheer impracticability, directs that “with a view to prepare children above the age of three years for elementary education and to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years, the appropriate government may make necessary arrangement for providing free pre-school education for such children.” This country does not have the wherewithal to provide primary education to all and yet the Act envisages universal pre-school training facilities also being set up.
NO FAIL POLICY: This is one policy which shows the short sightedness of the government. Government proposed for not failing of the students, which made both teachers and the students indifferent towards their duties. The teachers have now no accountability as there is no record which can show their inefficiency. No Fail policy has more demerits than merits, its crippling the young minds by its lackluster approach.
IS 25 PERCENT RESERVATIONS IN PRIVATE SCHOOL FOR EWS REALLY WORKING?
The RTE, Act, 2009 clause , mandates for private schools to admit quarter of their class strength from weaker section and disadvantaged groups . The constitutional validity of this clause was challenged in the apex court of country. However on 12, April 2012, a bench of Chief Justice S .H. Kapadia, Justice K. S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar upheld the constitutional validity of the Act.
In response to the Supreme Court order, HRD minister Kapil Sibal said, “I am very happy that the court has set all controversies at rest. One of the biggest controversies was on whether the 25 percent reservation applies to private schools or not… that controversy has been set to rest .”
Reacting to the 25 percent reservation Krishna Kumar (2012) penned down “most ambitious among its objectives is the social engineering it proposes by guaranteeing at least 25 percent share of enrolment in unaided fee-charging schools to children whose parents cannot afford the fee.” Both Krishna Kumar and Kapil Sibal did not give in depth critical insight to the provision. The questions like, what will be the mechanism of selection process of 25 percent children from ‘weaker and disadvantaged sections’. Some private schools are very reputed and provide very high quality of education and some are either at par with government schools or little ahead. There is a hierarchy of private schools which are stratified in quality education. Who will go where what will be the criteria for that? Furthermore Indian society is patriarchal in nature; boys are even served good food in comparison to girls how one can expect parents or guardians will send a girl child to these private schools, if at all they agree to send a girl child to school. The reservation benefits will go to a particular gender of society. This will further reinforce and reproduce gender bias and social inequality in society. Thus RTE itself creates a vacuum for “reproduction of culture”.
The importance is the enrollment shown in schools was higher than what actually it was. This was done to get mid-day meals for more and more children so that teachers can save some money to bear other hidden expenditures and avoid wrath of authorities for poor enrollment. Despite employment of Resource Persons and Zonal Resource Persons by Delhi Government in the department of school education ,who are obliged to ensure smooth and normal functioning of schools, such kind of loopholes are observed, how can the government ensure that private schools will follow the provision of 25 percent reservation.
The Act and the Rules require all private schools (whether aided or not) to reserve at least 25% of their seats for economically weaker and socially disadvantaged sections in the entry level class. These students will not pay tuition fees. Private schools will receive reimbursements from the government calculated on the basis of per-child expenditure in government schools. Greater clarity for successful implementation is needed on:
• How will `weaker and disadvantaged sections’ be defined and verified?
• How will the government select these students for entry level class?
• Would the admission lottery be conducted by neighbourhood or by entire village/town/city? How would the supply-demand gaps in each neighbourhood be addressed?
• What will be the mechanism for reimbursement to private schools?
• How will the government monitor the whole process? What type of external vigilance/social audit would be allowed/encouraged on the process?
• What would happen if some of these students need to change school in higher classes?
DRAFTING OF RULES ACCORDING TO THE NEEDS OF THE STATES
Even though state rules are likely to be on the same lines as the model rules, these rules are still to be drafted by state level authorities keeping in mind contextual requirements. Advocacy on the flaws of the Central arrangements, and partnerships with state education departments, could yield improvements in at least some States. Examples of critical changes which state governments should consider are: giving SMCs greater disciplinary power over teachers and responsibility of student’s learning assessment, greater autonomy for schools to decide teacher salaries and increased clarity in the implementation strategy for 25% reservations. If even a few States are able to break away from the flaws of the Central arrangements, this would yield demonstration effects of the benefits from better policies.
ENSURE PROPER IMPLEMENTATION
Despite the flaws in the RTE Act, it is equally important for us to simultaneously ensure its proper implementation. Besides bringing about design changes, we as responsible civil society members need to make the government accountable through social audits, filing right to information applications and demanding our children’s right to quality elementary education. Moreover, it is likely that once the Act is notified, a number of different groups affected by this Act will challenge it in court. It is, therefore, critically important for us to follow such cases and where feasible provide support which addresses their concerns without jeopardizing the implementation of the Act.
The right to education act has proved to provide for a lot of help to the have’s not section of the society. But, is it enough?
It is proving to create an army of just basic literates than intellectually sound. The government schools are basically defeating the basic purpose of education. Education provides the ultimate confidence and a sense of self-reliance in the minds of the young people, but the education imparted by the government schools are running short on this ideal.
The era of Macaulay has to come to an end. Just teaching them numbers and alphabets would not prepare them for the cut throat competition. It is essential that they be ready for ever changing global learning process. Creativity need to be instilled in them.
The basic school curriculum has evolved from colonial times; ‘what is to be taught’ remains in essence a colonial view, deliberately disassociated from whatever knowledge and skills already existed in India. It is hardly surprising therefore that a large proportion of what is taught is completely alien and alienating to the average Indian child. And while the hapless middle-class child doggedly goes through school anyway, because she/he has no choice, the poor child, the first-generation learner, often takes the easy way out and stays away.
It is the basic fundamental rights of the children to get education, and not only just education, but a quality education. It is saddening the government spends more on toilets than on education. “Child is the father of man”, the sooner, we understand the true meaning of this saying, the better.
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Annual Status of Educational Report (2010): “Annual Status of Educational Report ( Rural) , assessed 21April 2012: http://www.pratham.org/aser08/ASER_2010_Report.pdf
2. Bernstein, B (1973): “Class Codes and Control: Applied Studies towards a Sociology of Language”, London, Routledge Kegan Paul.
3. Boourdieu,P (1977): “ Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction”, In Karabel, J and A. H, Halsey, (ed), Power and Ideology in Education.OUP
4. Economic and Political Weekly (2012): “The Right to learn: Two Years after the Right to Education Act, the government needs to focus on quality”,16 April, Vol XLVII No 16.
5. Kumar, Krishna (2012): “Let a hundred children blossom: A classroom reflecting life’s diversity will benefit children of all strata while enriching teaching experience.”, The Hindu, Delhi,20 April 2012.
6. Madan, Amman (2003): Education as Vision for Social Change, Economic and Political Weekly May 31, 2003 pp.2135-2136
7. Sibal, Kapil (2012): “Admitting kids from weaker sections while not lowering quality of teaching will be difficult for pvt schools, but it can be done: RTE Can Be A Model For The World” The Times of India, New Delhi, 20 April.