A Critique ofIndia’s Right to Education Act: AJAY SHAH, ON APRIL 2nd, 2010 + ONE YEAR REPORT OF GOI
The `Right of Children to Free andCompulsory Education Act 2009′ (RTE Act)came into effect in April 2010.In understanding this Act, backgroundknowledge is required. Hence, we start with ahistorical narrative, outline key features of theAct, describe its serious flaws, and suggestways to address them. 2
Historical narrative Article 45 under the Constitution stated that The state shall endeavor to provide, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years. Universal elementary education remains a distant dream. Despite high enrolment rates of approximately 95% as per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2009), 52.8% of children studying in 5th grade lack the reading skills expected at 2nd grade. 3
Historical narrative Free and compulsory elementary education was made a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution in December 2002, by the 86th Amendment. In translating this into action, the `Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill’ was drafted in 2005. This was revised and became an Act in August 2009, but was not notified for roughly 7 months. 4
The reasons for delay in notification can bemostly attributed to unresolved financialnegotiations between the National Universityof Education Planning and Administration,NUEPA, which has been responsible forestimating RTE funds and the PlanningCommission and Ministry of Human Resourceand Development (MHRD). 5
From an estimate of an additional Rs.3.2trillion to Rs.4.4 trillion for theimplementation of RTE Draft Bill 2005 over 6years (Central Advisory Board of Education,CABE) the figure finally set by NUEPA nowstands at a much reduced Rs.1.7 trillion overthe coming 5 years. For a frame of reference,Rs.1 trillion is 1.8% of one year’s GDP. 6
Most education experts agree that this amount will beinsufficient.Since education falls under the concurrent list of theConstitution, financial negotiations were alsoundertaken between Central and State authorities toagree on sharing of expenses.This has been agreed at 35:65 between States andCentre, though state governments continue to arguethat their share should be lower. 7
The Right to Free and Compulsory Education 8 Act, 2009
Overview of the Act The RTE Act is a detailed and comprehensive piece of legislation which includes provisions related to schools, teachers, curriculum, evaluation, access and specific division of duties and responsibilities of different stakeholders. 9
Overview of the Act Key features of the Act include: 10• Every child from 6 to 14 years of age has a right to free and compulsory education in a neighborhood school till completion of elementary education.• Private schools must take in a quarter of their class strength from `weaker sections and disadvantaged groups’, sponsored by the government.
• All schools except private unaided schools are to be managed by School Management Committees with 75 per cent parents and guardians as members.• All schools except government schools are required to be recognized by meeting specified norms and standards within 3 years to avoid closure.On the basis of this Act, the government hasframed subordinate legislation called modelrules as guidelines to states for theimplementation of the Act. 11
A critique THE RTE ACT HAS BEEN CRITICIZED BY A DIVERSE ARRAY OF VOICES.MHRD WAS PERHAPS KEEN TOACHIEVE THIS LEGISLATION FAST.
What were the difficulties? 13 Inputs and Outcomes School Recognition School Management Committees (SMCs) Teachers 25% reservation in private schools Greater clarity for successful implementation on several issues
The most important difficulties are: 14 Inputs and Outcomes The Act is excessively input-focused rather than outcomes-oriented. Even though better school facilities, books, uniforms and better qualified teachers are important, their significance in the Act has been overestimated in the light of inefficient, corrupt and unaccountable institutions of education provision.
School RecognitionThe Act unfairly penalizes private unrecognizedschools for their payment of market wages forteachers rather than elevated civil service wages. Italso penalizes private schools (of the poor) forlacking the infrastructural facilities defined under aSchedule under the Act. These schools, which areextremely cost efficient, operate mostly in rural areasor urban slums, and provide essential educationalservices to the poor. 15
Independent studies by Geeta Kingdon, JamesTooley and ASER 2009 suggest that theseschools provide similar if not better teachingservices when compared to governmentschools, while spending a much smalleramount. However, the Act requiresgovernment action to shut down these schoolsover the coming three years. 16
• A better alternative would have been to find mechanisms through which public resources could have been infused into these schools.• The exemption from these same recognition requirements for government schools is the case of double standards — with the public sector being exempted from the same `requirements’. 17
School Management Committees (SMCs)By the Act, SMCs are to comprise of mostly parents,and are to be responsible for planning and managingthe operations of government and aided schools.SMCs will help increase the accountability ofgovernment schools, but SMCs for governmentschools need to be given greater powers overevaluation of teacher competencies and studentslearning assessment. 18
Members of SMCs are required to volunteertheir time and effort. This is an onerousburden for the poor.Payment of some compensation to membersof SMCs could help increase the time andfocus upon these.Turning to private but `aided’ schools, thenew role of SMCs for private `aided’ schoolswill lead to a breakdown of the existingmanagement structures. 19
Teachers Teachers are the cornerstone of good quality education and need to be paid market-driven compensation. But the government has gone too far by requiring high teacher salaries averaging close to Rs.20,000 per month. These wages are clearly out of line, when compared with the market wage of a teacher, for most schools in most locations in the country. A better mechanism would have involved schools being allowed to design their own teacher salary packages and having autonomy to manage teachers. 20
Teachers A major problem in India is the lack of incentive faced by teachers either in terms of carrot or stick. In the RTE Act, proper disciplinary channels for teachers have not been defined. Such disciplinary action is a must given that an average of 25 percent teachers are absent from schools at any given point and almost half of those who are present are not engaged in teaching activity 21
Teachers 22School Management Committees need tobe given this power to allow speedydisciplinary action at the local level.Performance based pay scales need to beconsidered as a way to improve teaching.
25% reservation in private schools 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. 23
Greater clarity for successful implementation is needed on: 24• 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?
• For reimbursement to private schools, what will be the mechanism ?• 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 students need to change school in higher classes? 25
Moreover, the method for calculation of per-child reimbursement expenditure (which is toexclude capital cost estimates) will yield aninadequate resource flow to private schools.It will be tantamount to a tax on privateschools. 26
Private schools will end up charging more tothe 75% of students – who are paying tuitions– to make space for the 25% of students theyare forced to take. This will drive up tuitionfees for private schools (while governmentschools continue to be taxpayer funded andessentially free). 27
Reimbursement calculations should include capital as wellrecurring costs incurred by the government.By dictating the terms of payment, the government hasreserved the right to fix its own price, which makes privateunaided schools resent this imposition of a flat price.A graded system for reimbursement would work better,where schools are grouped — based on infrastructure,academic outcomes and other quality indicators — intodifferent categories, which would then determine theirreimbursement. 28
What is to be done? 29 Drafting of State Rules One Year Report Assisting private unrecognized schools Ensure proper implementation Awareness Ecosystem creation for greater private involvement
What is to be done?• 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. 30
Drafting of State RulesEven though state rules are likely to be on the samelines as the model rules, these rules are still to bedrafted by state level authorities keeping in mindcontextual requirements. Advocacy on the flaws ofthe Central arrangements, and partnerships withstate education departments, could yieldimprovements in at least some States. 31
Examples of critical changes which state governmentsshould consider are: giving SMCs greater disciplinarypower over teachers and responsibility of studentslearning assessment, greater autonomy for schools todecide teacher salaries and increased clarity in theimplementation strategy for 25% reservations.If States are able to break away from the flaws of theCentral arrangements, this would yield demonstrationeffects of the benefits from better policies. 32
Assisting private unrecognized schoolsSince unrecognized schools could face closure inview of prescribed recognition standards withinthree years, we could find ways to support suchschools to improve their facilities by resourcesupport and providing linkages with financialinstitutions.Moreover, by instituting proper rating mechanismswherein schools can be rated on the basis ofinfrastructure, learning achievements and otherquality indicators, constructive competition canensue. 33
Ensure proper implementationDespite the flaws in the RTE Act, it is equallyimportant for us to simultaneously ensure its properimplementation. Besides bringing about designchanges, we as responsible civil society membersneed to make the government accountable throughsocial audits, filing right to information applicationsand demanding our children’s right to qualityelementary education. 34
Moreover, it is likely that once the Act isnotified, a number of different groups affectedby this Act will challenge it in court. It is,therefore, critically important for us to followsuch cases and where feasible provide supportwhich addresses their concerns withoutjeopardizing the implementation of the Act. 35
AwarenessMost well-meaning legislations fail to makesignificant changes without proper awareness andgrassroot pressure. Schools need to be made awareof provisions of the 25% reservations, the role ofSMCs and the requirements under the Schedule.This can be undertaken through mass awarenessprograms as well as ensuring proper understandingby stakeholders responsible for its implementation. 36
Ecosystem creation for greater privateinvolvementFinally, along with ensuring implementationof the RTE Act which stipulates focusedreforms in government schools and regulationfor private schools, we need to broaden ourvision so as to create an ecosystem conduciveto spontaneous private involvement. Thecurrent licensing and regulatory restrictions inthe education sector discourage well-intentioned `edupreneurs’ from opening moreschools. 37
Starting a school in Delhi, for instance, is amind-numbing, expensive and time-consumingtask which requires clearances from fourdifferent departments totaling more than 30licenses. The need for deregulation is obvious.Please support our efforts towards ensuringRight to Education of Choice through some ofthe activities suggested above. Jai Ho! 38
Further Reference52317267-1-year-of-the-RTE SCRIBD
Foreword 41We place before you, at the end of this first year of RTEimplementation, a statement of where we stand with respect to• enrolment,• teacher-related and• infrastructure indicators.We hope over the years to be also able to include material onhow States are addressing the issue of quality in teachinglearning.
We stand committed – in partnership with theStates – to institute reform in the elementaryeducation system so that every child realizesher/his right to full time elementary educationof satisfactory and equitable quality in a formalschool which satisfies the essential norms andstandards. – Kapil Sibal 42
The challenge is to ensure that all children, activelyparticipate in learning, build on their experiences,and complete their education to grow into self-confident and self-assured adults.Our classrooms will no longer represent ahomogenous group of children. Our classrooms willhave to change to cater to children from veryheterogeneous backgrounds. 45
The challenge before us is to tailor ourteaching practices to suit children withdifferent abilities and experiences, andensure that every child achieves his or herbest potential. 46
Many children will be first generation school-goers,coming from families who have not had theopportunity of schooling. Many would have workedas child labour, or may have been migrating withtheir parents in search of livelihood. All of themwould have had varied and wide ranging lifeexperiences: grazing goat and cattle, working indhaabas, or in agricultural activities in the field or asdomestic help or caring for younger siblings. 47
Oh! The 25 per cent? How do U know, they 48 may be found Good! It will not be enough for us to merely enroll these children in schools, and assume that we have achieved children’s right to education.
NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR PROTECTION OF CHILD RIGHTS – INDIA _ Shanta Sinha 49India manages the largest network of State run publicinstitutions in the world today reaching out to themaximum number of children in schools. Over 0.9million schools, 3.6 million school teachers cover 143million children in the 6-14 years age group and thelargest noon meal program in schools covering 131.69million children. It has the largest immunizationprogram and nutrition program with 1.4 million earlychild care (anganwadi) centers covering over 80million children.