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India got independence in 1948 and since the people of India struggling to make primary education compulsory. Recently in 2009 in India, Elementary Education has become a fundamental right and has been included under article 21 A in Indian constitutions. But does this right provide education to all? Certainly not, there are many loopholes available in this right which detained children to take compulsory primary education. So this paper is presenting a policy level analysis of fundamental right to education in Indian with some possible suggestion to make this right available to all.
When I started thinking about why education is so important, I remembered my school years, the grounding years of anyone's education. I went down memory lane to remember all my teachers, my school subjects, the study and the play! I have seen many who hate going to school; I have had some friends who did not like the idea of studying in classrooms. Many of you must have unwillingly entered your school gates.... But all of us know this dislike never lasts long. We soon start loving school and it is when it is time to leave school that we are in tears.... What is school life all about? It is all about laying the foundation of our education. It is a place to understand why education is so important and how important it is! It is an institution, where we learn to read and write. School transforms kids into literate individuals. It is where we get our basics cleared and at the point of leaving school, we are all set to soar high in life, enter the new world in pursuit of our dreams.
But again why is education important? We will hear a lot of facts and figures today- but I want to start by asking you to use your imagination
A child who is not allowed to enter in the school. Hardly he entered and not allowed to sit in the class. And put on the work of corridors cleaning with broom and piece of cloth. Teased by the peers and finally thrown out of the school ( Jhoothan)
Now I want you to think of your own children, imagine if they had had to endure the same hardships. What if you child had never been to school? What if they had t work instead? How different would their future be? What would the rest of their life be like? What if they were living in a country with no social and economic security? The impact of not having education is even greater than this.
Unfortunately the story we have hear above is not unique-there are millions children of primary school age who face the same problems everyday-children who are in the school or not in the school.
Education is not only crucial in its own right-it is also vital in so many other areas. It is vital in your health, it is vital in escaping poverty, it is vital to establish social justice and equality and its impact is not just on individuals-universal education has a huge benefit for society. If everyone the country gets education it improves governance and accountability, it helps fight corruption and it can even help strengthen democracy and can make a nation socially and economically developed.
But bigger question is that-is education available to all? Above all things will take place only when everyone is educated, but are we? I do not think so.
Approximately 113 million children worldwide are currently not in school. Around a billion people are illiterate. In Europe, they generally live in relative poverty, and in developing countries like India, in extreme poverty. Throughout their lives, they are restricted in their ability to help themselves because of lack of education.
Education is a human right because it facilitates personal development and increases the likelihood of living in dignity. It drives social and economic development and is therefore the key to strengthening other human rights. In terms of development policy, this means that without education there can be no combating poverty, no economic progress and no sustainable development. Basic education in particular is indispensable. Read below lines carefully.
"I beg to place the following resolution before the council for its consideration.â€¦the state should accept in this country the same responsibility in regard to mass education that the government of most civilized countries are already discharging and that a well considered scheme should be drawn up and adhered to till it is carried out.. The well being of millions upon millions of children who are waiting to be brought under the influence education depends upon it..."
The above words are the part of the resolution which Gopal Krishna Gokhale moved in Imperial Legislative Council on 18th march, 1910 for seeking provision of 'Free and Compulsory Primary Education" in India. Irony is that one hundred years have passed but the right to education still remains a distant dream.
UN declaration given too much importance to the necessity of the education. According to UN declaration education shall aim at developing the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to the fullest extent. Education shall prepare the child for an active adult life in a free society and foster respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, and for the cultural background and values of others.
In light of above it was also felt that it is very important to make education free and compulsory and it was declared that child has a right to education, and the State's duty is to ensure that primary education is free and compulsory, to encourage different forms of secondary education accessible to every child and to make higher education available to all on the basis of capacity. School discipline shall be consistent with the child's rights and dignity. The State shall engage in international coâ€‘operation to implement this right.
It was not only UN who provide such importance to the necessity of education. The people of India raised their voice for universal public education as a part of the freedom struggle. The British imperialists simply denied their demand. But in 1870, the British legalized the free and compulsory education to every British. This was done to ensure the survival of the British Empire and maintain its hegemony on the colonies. In spite of our independence and all the tall talk of successive prime ministers who promise to turn our country into a knowledge super power, nothing substantial was done to ensure even this basic right to education. This is because of the 'feudal- capitalist' character of the State.
The right to education demand is alive even now in spite of every effort to belittle it. The judiciary, bureaucrats, and media have timely raised their voice over its necessity. It has become possible only due to sustained progressive struggles of people of India on this question and the judgment given by the Supreme Court directing the government to ensure that all the citizens of our country are provided this right.
In 2003-04, according to official estimates, about 52 per cent of children were out of school at the elementary education level. The corresponding share was higher at about 59 per cent for Dalits and 70 per cent for Adivasis. Even among children who enrolled, dropout rates were large; in 2003-04, the average dropout rate at the elementary level was about 52 per cent. In the age group of 5-14 years, there were about 13 million child workers as per Census 2001.
Due to the sustained pressure of the students and people's movement the central government was forced to introduce "Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill" in Rajya Sabha on the 15th December, 2008. And Now Right to Education has become the fundamental right (article-21(a)). And everyone is happy that now education for all will not be a dream, but is it true? I do not think so. There are many ambiguities and loopholes in the bill of Right to Education and with these shortcomings it has been passed by Rajya Sabha and now become fundamental right. So here I am trying to critically evaluate the bill of Right to Education. Because this is the time when we need to be more aware about our rights and we also should try to evaluate such rights in the light to equality, social justice, socio-economic development and above all in the light of human rights.
LET US UNDERSTAND BRIEFLY WHAT THIS BILL ENTAILS
Every child between the age of 6 and 14 years has the right to full-time free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school.
Children with severe or profound disability, who are unable to attend a neighbourhood school, have the right to be provided education in an appropriate environment.
A child cannot be held back in any grade or expelled from a school till Class VIII. Any expulsion requires an order of the School Management Committee (SMC), which will be given only after all other corrective measures have been exhausted, and parents/guardians have been heard. The local authority will take steps to enroll such a child in another neighbourhood school.
State schools and fully aided schools shall provide free education to all admitted children. Partly aided schools shall provide free education to at least such proportion of admitted children to the extent that government funds its annual expenses, subject to a minimum of 25%. Unaided schools and special category schools shall provide free education to at least 25% students; the government shall reimburse the school to the extent of the per child expenditure in government schools or the school fee, whichever is lower.
No child shall be required to appear at a public examination before completing Grade VIII. No child shall be awarded physical punishment in any form in school.
It is the responsibility of every parent/guardian to enroll his child/ward who has attained the age of 6 years and above in a school and facilitate her completion of elementary education (till Grade VIII). If a parent/guardian persistently defaults in discharging this responsibility, the SMC may direct him to perform compulsory community service by way of child care in the school.
Any person who has a grievance about the establishment, provisioning and management of a school may submit a written representation to the SMC/ local authority, which shall take appropriate action and inform the applicant within 90 days. If the applicant is unsatisfied with such action, she may submit a representation to such authority as prescribed (by the state/UT/central government), which shall take appropriate action and inform the applicant within 90 days.
It is very difficult to present the entire bill here but above points and more others are carrying many problems and ambiguities with them. Next section we will try to critically evaluate some of the provisions of the bill of right to education.
Let Us Understand the Bill of Right to Education in a Different Way
The bill does not talk about the education for eunuchs (third sex). Bill provides free and compulsory education to the children of the age of sex to fourteen. And it defines child as a male or female child of the age of six to fourteen. It clearly shows they have excluded the community of eunuchs completely. Again school doors for this community are closed. It also means this community is not human because we believe education is necessary for the development of human beings and as we have excluded this community again.
The Bill seeks to provide education through a combination of government schools, aided schools and unaided (private) schools. I believe that the 'common school system' should have been adopted instead of the 25% quota in private schools. That is, all children from all strata of society in a locality should go to the same set of schools in that locality and receive free education. I believe that this will (a) improve the overall standards in government schools as the influential upper strata of society pushes for higher standards (b) reduce the disparity of opportunity among children, and (c) lead to a better society as children from different sections mingle from an early age.
Every child has a right to education of "equitable quality". The term 'equitable quality' is not adequately defined. The Bill specifies norms for physical infrastructure (number of rooms, teachers, toilets etc) but does not outline expectations on learning outcomes. Given the no detention policy, there is a risk that the child progresses through to Grade VIII without acquiring necessary competencies. Some studies indicate that the current system has not ensured learning outcomes.
Though the Bill prohibits any person from preventing a child from participating in elementary education, it does not adequately address the issue of child labour. A child who both works at home and attends school faces the problem of 'double burden'. For example, the Bill ignores the issue of sibling care which deters elder siblings (typically girls) from attending school.
The Bill says that children with "severe or profound disability, [who] cannot be provided elementary education in a neighborhood school, shall have the right to be provided education in an appropriate alternative environment as may be prescribed".
Whereas the Bill has detailed the norms required of a school (teacher-pupil ratio, buildings etc), it is silent on the facilities needed to enable children with disabilities to attend school (such as ramps, Braille readers, etc).
In this Bill, "disability" has the meaning assigned by the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, which does not include such other disabilities as defined by the National Trust Act, 1999 (autism and cerebral palsy). Also, this definition does not include children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia who require special attention and teaching methods.
The CABE committee note assumes 2.7% of children to be disabled, and 0.3% to be severely disabled. An amount of Rs 2,000 per child per year in the former case and Rs 50,000 in the latter case is assumed to be required to meet the educational costs of these disabled children .
The Bill states that if a parent/guardian fails to enroll his child in school, the SMC may impose a penalty by way of compulsory child care. Since the responsibility for ensuring schooling for all children lies with the local authority, it may be appropriate for the local authority (rather than the SMC) to be given the responsibility of penalizing such parents.
It ignores children who are below 6 yrs. of age. Several studies on early childhood have shown that 3-6 yrs. is the time when children need to be exposed toliteracy-rich environment to enhance their literacy growth, and children who experience schooling for the first time at the age of 6 yrs. are clearly at a disadvantage. In the face of such evidence, it is necessary that RtE talks of Pre-School Education and its convergence with mainstream education.The Bill also ignores children who are above 14 yrs. and have had no access to education. It is widely known that children drop out of education to become wage earners because of poverty. If the Bill is serious about the intention of making all
children educated, it is necessary to bring children below 16 into the realm of education.
While the clause requiring private schools to reserve 25% seats for free quota is
significant, the basis on which one can get admission in this quota is notmentioned.
Unlike for private schools, the process of attaining recognition for state schools is not prescribed. The bill does not mention the course of action that State schools will have to face, in case of failure to adhere to minimum norms for quality mentioned in the schedule. There does not seem to be any penalty on the government specified for failing to meet its obligations.
While the bill specifies a PTR of 1:30 for primary schools whose enrollment is within
120 students, it arbitrarily lowers standards for schools whose enrollment exceeds
that limit. There should be a uniform PTR for all primary schools which should
not exceed 1:30.
While ensuring that every child who traverses through the elementary education system acquires a certificate of completion, the Bill fails to guarantee that a child has acquired competencies deriving from said education process. No standards are set for learning outcomes. A case of guaranteeing graduation but not education. Failure of the child to attest to acquisition of competencies is also not flagged for remedial action and/or systemic enhancements. The bill should also define a framework to measure the quality of education imparted.
The Bill is silent on the aspect of actual competence of and quality of monitoring by the national and state commissions for protection of child rights. While the provisions provide that an aggrieved person may lodge a complaint with the local authority, there is an obvious problem in this clause, since the very same body that is responsible for ensuring protection of the rights of the child is also made responsible for deciding upon a complaint against it.
The Bill provides that no child will be evaluated as 'failed' up till 8th standard. However, this is hardly an effective solution to the dropout rate, which can be remedied only by providing schools with a child friendly environment where learning is interesting and motivating. How will stratified schools and schools dependent on para teachers provide such an environment?
No financial statement is attached with the Bill. The amazing reason provided for this gap is that it is not possible to estimate the expenditure required to implement this law. Can the government which could not even come up with a budget estimate in the last 3 years, be serious about implementing the Bill? But the truth is otherwise. Actually, the fund estimate was prepared in 2008 and approved by the Planning Commission and MHRD, and passed on to the Ministerial Secretariat. Why has it been kept under wraps? The only reason is that if made public, it would reveal several expenses (such as wages for Para teachers) which would expose the Bill's bluff.
According to the Indian Constitution, Fundamental Rights are those rights upon whose violation one can approach the judiciary and file a case against the government. But in an extraordinary provision in this Bill, in case of complaints against violations by private schools, one must first seek the permission of an authorized government officer. In other words, the Government will continue to protect the powerful private schools. Further, the Bill states that in case there is a violation of rights or provisions by an officer has happened "in spite of good will and good intentions," no case can be filed against the said officer! If this is not a crude joke with the idea of the very definition of 'fundamental right,' what is?
So we have to understand that the education is the mean through which everyone can become more aware and empowered to use and celebrate their other human rights. In this light right to education become one the very important human right and necessity of the society and for the dignity of human life. So let us hold our hand together to make every child educated not only literate.
Something Which is Needed
In this regard and to provide education to all something more comprehensive steps are needed. We need to understand bill of right to education in broader global perspective and for that we have to find out the solution to implement this bill at more conscious level and we have to think about it at four levels- Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability and adaptability.
Availability- obligation to ensure compulsory and free education for all children in the country within a determined age, rage up to at least the minimum age of employment. Obligation to respect parental freedom to choose education for their children, observing the principle of the best interests of the child
Accessibility-obligation to eliminate exclusion from education based on the internationally prohibited grounds of discrimination ( race, colour, sex language, religion, opinion, origin, economic status, birth, social status, minority or indigenous status, disability). Obligation to eliminate gender and racial discrimination by ensuring equal enjoyment of all human rights in practice, rather than only formally prohibiting discrimination.
Acceptability-obligation to set minimum standards for education, including the medium of instructions, contents and methods of teaching, and to ensure their observance in all educational institutions. Obligation to improve the quality of education by ensuring that the entire education system conforms to all human rights.
Adaptability-Obligation to design and implement education for children precluded from formal schooling (e.g. refuge seeking or internally displaced children, children deprived of their liberty, or working children) obligation to adapt education to the best interests of each child, especially regarding children with disabilities, or minority and indigenous children. Obligation to apply indivisibility of human rights as guidance so as to enhance all human rights through education, such as the right to marry and raise a family or the right to freedom from forced and child labour.
Many Questions but No Answers
Is education or schooling being make compulsory?
What will be compulsory? To attend school? To attain a given level of education? What should the provision say?
What should be free? Will the guarantee to provide free education apply to private schools?
What is to be the position regarding alternative schooling? How will flexibility be incorporated, where needed by the child?
What if a state government were to register every child in a distance education programme?
What if the school is unrecognized? What about certain types of Madarsas?
How will monitoring be done of who is going where, and which child is not attending school?
What about home tutoring?
How will it be determined that the child has attained education up to a certain level?
Provision of infrastructure?
What should be provided for children without parents-abandoned children, neglected children, run away children, street children?
What provisions are needed for working children?
All these questions do not have any clear answer. Bill of Right to Education is not clear about all above question and carry may ambiguities.
So in the context of realities of the lives of children of the poor, this would mean that the legislation should deal with more than just the provision of schooling facilities and incentives. Rather, it should concern itself with a large array of issues ranging from making schooling accessible and available, to making the contents and processes of education acceptable to all. It should make it a duty of the providers of education to find ways and means of making education more accessible and acceptable to all children.