The recent report from Pratham on primary schools across five states has some implications on the implementation of RTE across the country.
- Currently the government measures enrollment of children in schools. This measure now proves to be incomplete and one needs to measure attendance of students.
- It also will be necessary to be able to make dip stick checks more than once a year for the same set of children. Though this will perhaps double the cost is the entire sample size is surveyed again, it might help get better data.
- Recruitment mechanism for teachers needs to be different than what is used currently. Teacher's ability to teach and connect with the children needs to have more weightage. Even training provided to the teachers needs to focus on improving teachers' ability to teach.
- The classrooms clearly need to be invested into and be made child-friendly.
- The Pratham report found that children and multiple grades are put together in the same classroom. Though this is clearly undesirable, this area might be more difficult to fix because it directly has an impact on finances available for improvement and growth of infrastructure.
- Libraries need to increase in size, more private libraries need to get roped into the system to get students to read books which are away from their regular curriculum.
Though on the first view, the budget appears to be great for education, a closer look shows a bunch more. To start with, the process of education and procuring of material to support a student's studies is just about to become costlier.
Notebooks and exercise books, earlier exempted from excise duty, will now attract 1% duty without CENVAT credit facility. Also, a general effective rate of 5% has been prescribed for these items and facilities and this includes items such as fountain pen ink, ball pen ink, geometry boxes, colour boxes and pencil sharpeners. This implies that the MRP of each of these items is just about to increase. Paper will also not be exempt from excise duty anymore, thus eventually make text books costlier as well.
Most of the direct sops to educational institutions have been provided to institutes in poll bound states.
The increase for RTE is actually an effective Rs 2,000 Cr only, since the budget had been increased by Rs 4,000 Cr last year.
More importantly, the increase in outlay for primary education is just a Rs 3,000 Cr which effectively is a mere adjustment for inflation. The much larger and disturbing trend is that of this total amount of Rs 29,000 Cr, Rs 18,000 Cr comes from Prathamik Shiksha Kosh - the non-lapsable fund where 2% education cess is collected. The ASER report that we talked about earlier shows in fact exactly the correct trend and perhaps is also a forecast (in a manner ) of the way elementary education will continue to be treated in our country.
Right to Education is a rather noble cause, but is it getting implemented right or are schools able to follow closely? It does not seem like at least in rural India. The basic framework, be it in terms of student to teacher ratio or even the basic infrastructure, is fundamentally weak.
Pupil to teacher ratio
|School Enrollment||RTE Std.||Number of Teachers on ground|
Per RTE, a school shall have an all weather building with the following facilities:
- At least one classroom for every teacher
- Office cum store cum head teacher’s room
- Separate toilets for boys and girls
- Safe and adequate drinking water facility to all children
- A kitchen where midday meal is cooked in the school
- Arrangements for securing the school building by boundary wall or fencing.
- Teaching learning equipment: shall be provided to each class as required.
- Library: There shall be a library in each school providing newspapers, magazines and books on all
|% of Schools with|
|Building||Office/Store/Office cum store||74.5|
|Drinking Water||No facility for drinking water||17.4|
|Facility but no drinking water available||10.5|
|Drinking water available||72.2|
|Toilet||No toilet facility||10.1|
|Facility but toilet not useable||38.8|
|Girls' Toilet||% Schools with no separate provision for girls toilets||29.3|
|Of schools with separate girls toilets, % schools where|
|Toilet not useable||14|
|Teaching Learning Material||Teaching learning material in Std 2||80.4|
|Teaching learning material in Std 4||75.9|
|Library but no books being used by children on day of visit||24.4|
|Library books being used by children on day of visit||38.7|
|Mid-day Meal||Kitchen shed for cooking midday meal||81.3|
|Midday meal served in school on day of visit||83.4|
It does clearly seem that there are miles to go before the current framework manages to catch up with what RTE prescribes or aims for. In an earlier post, we had mentioned the government's desire to get public sector units to fund many of these initiatives. The money could certainly come in handy to improve basic infrastructure, but teachers have to find it monetarily lucrative enough to remain in rural areas as well.
Hindi movie industry top rung actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra has joined the campaign for right of every child in India to go to school. Priyanka was appointed UNICEF national ambassador earlier this year.
The National award winning actress is lending support to the Awaaz Do campaign, and has voiced her support in a video message encouraging people to sign up on the campaign website. Priyanka said in the video “School was the best time of my life, I loved school. Every time I see kids going to school, it brings back such amazing memories of my own time,"
"Education can change lives. That's why I'm raising my voice for the 8 million children who are out of school... We've tried silence. It's now time to speak up for every child's right to be educated," she added.
The Awaaz Do campaign was launched nationwide in November to increase awareness of low schooling numbers in India. It is a fact that about eight million children in India, aged six to 14, still do not go to school.
Since the launch, more than sixteen thousand Indians have supported the cause, and signed up on the campaign website or by sending an SMS.
The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has issued a circular to all schools in the city to furnish details of admissions in the 2011-2012 academic sessions. This is to ensure and monitor the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. The RTE legislation promises free and compulsory education to children in the age group of six to 14 regardless of the socio-economic strata that they might belong to. The RTE also mentions that the school admission procedure should be “non-discriminatory, rational, transparent” and this recent circular is after schools (e.g. Mount Carmel, Anand Niketan) violated the requirement.
The circular says, "The commission would like to have the information in respect of children which your institution proposed to admit in class one in the academic session 2011-12."
Apart from Class I, the circular also asks school principals to submit details of pre-school / pre-primary class admissions and the number of children proposed to be enrolled in these classes in the new session.
The human resource development (HRD) ministry said on 25th November that under the right to education (RTE) act, admission procedures need to be "non-discriminatory, rational and transparent".
A ministry press release mentions that the schools need to adopt an admission procedure which is non-discriminatory, rational and transparent. The schools also are not to subject children and their parents to admission tests and interviews to socially profile children for an admission decision. We quote “With regard to admissions in class I (or pre-primary class as the case may be) under section 12(1) of the RTE Act in unaided and 'specified category' schools, schools shall follow a system of random selection out of the applications received from children belonging to disadvantaged groups and weaker sections for filling the pre-determined number of seats in that class, which should not be not less than 25 percent of the strength of the class”.
Each school (unaided or specified category) is required to formulate a polity under which the admissions take place for the remaining 75% of the seats.
The release also mentioned "This policy should include criteria for categorization of applicants in terms of the objectives of the school on a rational, reasonable and just basis. There shall be no profiling of the child based on parental educational qualifications. The policy should be placed by the school in the public domain, given wide publicity and explicitly seated in the school prospectus”.
Part of this regulation is what Mt. Carmel school at Anand Niketan violated, and thus got pulled up by the authorities as we mentioned in our previous post.
The Directorate of Education (DoE) pulled up schools that undermine its directives. Mount Carmel, Anand Niketan is one of them. This school has had to re-schedule its nursery admission schedule till further notice from the DoE, after it received a notice from them. The sales of forms were earlier slated for December 1 to 15. Per DoE directive, no school is authorized to commence selling of forms or declare dates for selling of forms without clear direction from the DoE.
On November 10, Mount Carmel, Anand Niketan, had announced its nursery admission dates without waiting for DoE guidelines. VK Williams, principal of the school had said, "We are a minority unaided school, so we have the liberty to decide our own schedule. We have also informed the DoE and have not received any objection yet."
Per DoE, no school can announce any dates for admission process till the RTE guidelines are notified and also that all schools have to follow a common schedule. Non-compliance to the directive will lead to action to be taken against schools which do not comply.
On Tuesday (Nov 23rd) Williams said, "We have decided to postpone the process after we received communication from the DoE asking us to do the same to maintain uniformity." The statement, of course, sounds rather hypocritical given that Mr. Williams had claimed his liberty given the school’s minority and un-aided status to defend his school’s earlier non-compliance. It is rather amusing to see principals and proctors of these types of schools claim their minority status so often.
India recently passed a Right to Education (RTE) legislation which ensures various measures for betterment of children and their rights.However Awareness remains low which CRY has tried to ameliorate by organizing a Festival in Bangalore. Children from different schools will act in various plays in different parts of Bangalore to raise awareness about the clauses of the Act amongst the citizenry
Beginning from Sunday, the theater festival will see children staging street plays in every nook and corner of the city and act out the importance of RTE Act. Busy thoroughfares and malls will be the target of the children’s campaign. The plays will also be performed on November 27 and 28 at three different places of Bangalore. About 90 children in the age group of 11-18 will be participating in the festival.
The schools participating in the festival include Bishop Cotton Girls’ School, Cathedral High School, CMR High School, Frank Anthony Public School, Genius Kids and Royale Concorde International School. “Though the RTE Act came into force on April 1, 2010, it is yet to be implemented. Many parents and teachers are not even aware of the Act and its clauses. Through the plays, we will highlight how the Act has to be implemented to change the very face of the Indian education system,” said Sahaya Teresa
NCERT most likely is the largest provider of text books in the country. All CBSE government schools use their books, and all private /unaided schools use their books. Each year, at the beginning of the academic session, there is a perpetual shortage of NCERT books. Each distributor that we have met so far has been moaning about the pain they have to go through to procure NCERT books. Every school we talked to this time including Vasant Valley, and Genesis Global has shown concern mentioning that their time tested distributors and publishers are unable to get NCERT books on time. And this is in Delhi. In Bangalore, its the usual every year story too.The situation as we understand, is the same in West Bengal, Orissa or any other state in the country.
The shortage gets reported in the newspapers every year (2004 report, 2007 report)without fail and 2010 was no exception. Distributors complained that they receive the books in installments and the first installment never more than 10-15% of their total requirement. The books are cheap (thankfully), but late. For distributors who cater to Indian schools outside the country (middle east, Africa for example), they need to airfreight the books thus adding to their operation cost, on top of low margins. Even with the multiple installments, the distributors do not manage to get more than about 80-85% of their total requirement. This obviously impacts the syllabus completion in schools adversely.
There must be hundreds of distributors who pick the books from NCERT. Given that, and there is a perpetual shortfall of 20-15%, it surely can't possibly be that difficult for NCERT to print more and early. If the government is unable to provide books, how will the forcible admission of extra students through RTE work well? Just that this gives rise to a different industry. Distributors mention that fake (or photocopied) versions of the books invade the market every year to make up the shortfall.