The Right to Education, despite its coming into effect 17 years after a Supreme Court ruling that citizens have a fundamental right to free education, is a welcome move. The Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, 2002 added a Fundamental Right to free and compulsory Education for all children aged 6-14 years, a Directive Principle to the State to provide Education and a Fundamental Duty asking every citizen/guardian to provide opportunities for education to their children. The RTE spells out the responsibilities of the central and state, parents, teachers and civil society to make the right to free education a reality. But what is the roadmap for its implementation?
The various critical factors are as follows:
1. A right full of wrongs
In point of fact, the Right to Education Bill calls for the “closure” of unrecognized ‘budget schools’ and on the other hand RTE, a right full of wrongs, ensures that every child will be enrolled in a school in his or her neighborhood! Like the goats’ locked up horns in the childhood tale “The Two Goats”, these two contradictory policies might get struck in a deadlock and ultimately fall apart.
Moreover if we let the burden of the society fall by an absolute mandate over the unaided and minority private educational institutions, the budget schools would fail to meet the recognition criteria. The two-storey premises would then pass off as houses in residential colonies and with no alternatives in place, children would either slog their daylight hours in hot furnaces shoveling charcoal in the maw more like the already existing 60 million child laborers in India or try hard to figure out the texts themselves. It would unquestionably be a roller coaster ride for government schools to accommodate millions abruptly!
2. The missing point!
The draft Bill doesn’t make any provision for seeking action against the government authorities. It’s a law without teeth, the authorities can’t be hauled up in court for violation.
3. Education in isolation…
The government cannot look at education in isolation. The availability of schools, even good schools, cannot ensure that every child will have an education. There are other socio-economic issues that play a role and the success of the Bill depends on changes in developmental policies and the education system.
The government has to realize that poverty, illiteracy and child labour are part of a triangle paradigm. The children who aren’t going to school are the ones who are or go on to become child laborers.
4. Is it a right to certification?
The Act states that every child between the age of 6 and 14 is guaranteed free and compulsory education but there is no prescription as to learning outcomes of children in different classes. The Act also provides that no child will be detained in any class between class 1 and 8
Superficial assurances like no child shall be held back, expelled or made to give boards until elementary education certificate has been attained sound good but without any roadmap and availability of resources, it is worth questioning, “Are we providing for a right to education? Or a right to CERTIFICATION?”
5. The bigger questions !
Why don’t the industrialists, big timers and money wrappers like IPL invest in the cause of education? Should not the government formulate the policy of giving rebates in the taxes of industrial houses? Why is the government running after the private schools to bear the socio-economic burden of the nation alone? Will not the government schools have their last laugh?
As it is not possible to put into practice the utopian thought and establish a completely classless society; it is indeed, thereby, improbable for this right to be implemented in totality without any downbeat implications. The Right to Education Act, based on the very frivolous grounds and principles of the cosmetic effect of development, will shuffle and scuffle through many an obstacle, some intrinsic and some created, but a beginning has been made.