Education Provided By The Government

The quality of education provided by the government system remains in question. While it remains the largest provider of elementary educationaldepartments in the country forming 80% of all recognized schools, it suffers from shortages of teachers, infrastructural gaps and several habitations continue to lack schools altogether. There are also frequent allegations of government schools being riddled with absenteeism and mismanagement and appointments are based on political convenience. Despite the allure of free lunch-food in the government schools, which has basically turned the schools into a “dhaba” and school teachers to “chefs”, many parents send their children to private schools. Average schoolteacher salaries in private rural schools in some States are considerably lower than that in government schools. As a result, proponents of low cost private schools, critiqued government schools as being poor value for money.

Children attending the private schools are seen to be at an advantage, thus discriminating against the weakest sections, who are forced to go to government schools. Furthermore, the system has been criticized as catering to the rural elites who are able to afford school fees in a country where large number of families live in absolute poverty. The act has been criticized as discriminatory for not addressing these issues. Well-known educationist Anil Sadagopal said of the hurriedly-drafted act:

“It is a fraud on our children. It gives neither free education nor compulsory education. In fact, it only legitimizes the present multi-layered, inferior quality school education system where discrimination shall continue to prevail.”

For me this new topic was like Ramayana being recited in the house, although Ramayana was still Hindi, but this was complete alien…it was Wednesday afternoon and the family members were all taking rest when I decided to run away from that house, and then actually did…but when was back home I was scolded brutally by my father who said ‘here comes one more, person with his mouth wide open, good for nothing creature’. After few days, I was as well enrolled in local village school, which served lunch to every student who attended the school. But the food wasn’t easy here too, every pupil was made to cook food and wash dishes, the left out time was utilized in fulfilling the desires of the school teacher. I did everything in the school but study.

But my sister was not as lucky as me, although for sake of attending school, she was only enrolled in there but the reality was that she hardly attended any classes due to engagement in the household work, as that was more important and education for marriage than that what was written the school books. The only day we had a feast was when inspection was on the calendar. I did wanted to study but my pockets didn’t allow me, I always pondered but couldn’t make out what was wrong with my school when compared to those big ones in the cities but the answers were nowhere for me……

THINGS WHICH CAN BE DONE FOR THE IMPROVEMENT.

The RTE Act has been passed; the Model Rules have been released; financial closure appears in hand. Does this mean the policy process is now impervious to change? Even today, much can be achieved through a sustained engagement with this problem.

Drafting of State Rules

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 students 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.

Assisting private unrecognized schools

Since unrecognized schools could face closure in view of prescribed recognition standards within three years, we could find ways to support such schools to improve their facilities by resource support and providing linkages with financial institutions. Moreover, by instituting proper rating mechanisms wherein schools can be rated on the basis of infrastructure, learning achievements and other quality indicators, constructive competition can ensue.

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.

Awareness

Most well-meaning legislation’s fail to make significant changes without proper awareness and grassroot pressure. Schools need to be made aware of provisions of the 25% reservations, the role of SMCs and the requirements under the Schedule. This can be undertaken through mass awareness programs as well as ensuring proper understanding by stakeholders responsible for its implementation.

Ecosystem creation for greater private involvement

Finally, along with ensuring implementation of the RTE Act which stipulates focused reforms in government schools and regulation for private schools, we need to broaden our vision so as to create an ecosystem conducive to spontaneous private involvement. The current licensing and regulatory restrictions in the education sector discourage well-intentioned ‘entrepreneurs’ from opening more schools. Starting a school in Delhi, for instance, is a mind-numbing, expensive and time-consuming task which requires clearances from four different departments totaling more than 30 licenses. The need for deregulation is obvious.

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