Education has always been accorded an honored place in the Indian society. Education is one of those rights that enable the full realization of a person’s potential and inclusion in society by enabling citizenship and growth. Right from the freedom movement our national leaders had realized education as a powerful instrument of social, economic and political change. Since Independence we have made impressive progress in educating our children and RTE marks the epitome of government initiatives to make education for all possible.
We have come a long way in improving the literacy rates which was a meager 30% during Independence to 75% in 2011 and that too enormous progress in women education. The 2011 census conducted by the government of India listed the official literacy rate for Jharkhand to be 67.63% (Male 78.5% and women 56.2%)The enrolment ratio which was a staggering 80% has almost reached 100% in 2011.The number of out of school children decreased from 25 million in 2003 to an estimated 8.1 million in 2009.But above these numbers is the fact that RTE has become a fundamental right and education has received the right impetus which it lacked in early post freedom years.
Notwithstanding our achievements in education we must not forget that we have still a long way to go and achieve our goals working under the frameworks of RTE.Over 80% of our population studies in government school and so makes the right implementation of RTE in government schools all the more important. The percentage of children studying in Government schools in Jharkhand is a little over 80%.Today the government is spending a meager 3% of the total resources on education.India currently has the highest number of illiterates than any other nation in the world. Only 15% of the Indian students make it to high school of which 7% make it to graduation. By the age of 10 there is almost 40% drop out in schools. In a recent survey almost 40000 teachers have not been trained. A Jagran report dated 16th Nov. 2011 presents a dismal performance of 93% of candidates failing to clear the test for primary teachers in Jharkhand.
RTE’s policy on safeguarding the education rights of minorities is worth mentioning in the context of Jharkhand where a good number of children come from the tribal background.RTE has also beautifully laid down the framework on teacher pupil ratio, teacher-classroom ratio, facilities to be provided in schools and many other parameters which provide a bench mark for government schools. The latest ASER report lays down the Right to Education indicators for Jharkhand. The result shows some encouraging figures like over 87.5 % schools follow proper teacher to pupil ratio norms,82% of these have proper school buildings and in 76.4% schools the mid-day meal was served on the day of the visit. But there are few concerning figures which states that almost 50% of schools do not meet classroom to teacher norms,61% do not have separate toilet for girls and 49% schools do not have library facility.
This post is not an attempt to criticize the government and neither is it to speak against RTE.In fact I am sure that most people don’t know that primary education now is a fundamental right. I want to discuss few parameters under RTI and debate on the outcome of the same. But before we delve into the details of RTE it is of utmost importance to understand the history behind RTE.Shockingly it took 21 years for the act to be passed since its inception in 1988.The government’s half hearted attempts and consequent failures necessitated the Supreme court’s intervention to make education compulsory for every student up to the age of 14.This judgment then obliged the government to come up with RTE.
RTE guarantees free primary education for children from the age of 6-14.It also focuses on making schools available at every places at a convenient distance for children to come. One of the best provisions is that it takes care of the underprivileged children. Any child will admitted to a class as per his age and in case of lack of prerequisite knowledge the child will be given special care.It sets clear norms on teacher student ratio, infrastructural needs of a school and the role of the SMC’s.The act talks of wholesome growth where every child is taught to identify with the society and there is no provision for tests or detaining students.
But the big question is that does this act guarantee quality education? The very base , the teachers are not well equipped to deliver quality. Not only is there lack of teachers but also thousands of these are untrained. There is no clear curriculum stated and there is no provision for growth measuring of the child. The act clearly lacks a monitoring mechanism for the proper functioning of the government schools. I am only talking of the meaningful education aspect of RTE and a clear study of it brings out flaws in many other aspects too. I feel a conspiracy here where the government is just trying to make things look good on paper.
I have a particular liking for a restaurant in Kolkata. I am a very ordinary person and I go to ordinary places and it is here at a ordinary hotel I converse in English with the waiters and also the guard.A driver who can put in bits and pieces of English earns more than his English illiterate counterpart. Education opens up doors for livelihood and it is through livelihood that the economic conditions of the poor will improve. We have a big challenge in our hands and for that the government has to be more realistic in its approach. Enrolling 100% children has been at least achieved on paper but there is a daunting task of retaining them which is only possible by showing them a path and motivating them to a better future but above all taking responsibility that through the education the child earns a living in future.