The Right to Education (RTE) Act, implemented on April 1, 2010, entails the fundamental right of children aged between 6 and 14 to compulsory and free education. It is the first legislation meant to hold the government accountable for children’s admission and fulfilment of rudimentary education. However, time and again, this Act has been blamed for its righteous yet inherently flawed input-based approach and has indeed proven to be impracticable in terms of its implementation- on multiple fronts.
Source – The Medium
First, the RTE Act’s no-detention policy, coupled with the lack of skilled teachers, leads to poor learning outcomes. RTE’s no-detention policy actually works against its aim of ensuring a stress-free environment for students and better learning outcomes, by counterproductively reducing their overall motivation for learning- it reduces the significance of education for them, along with the pressure to meet minimum standards.
Furthermore, to make matters worse, the reins of crucial elementary education have been given in the hands of qualified, paraprofessional teachers in a large number of schools. These teachers, although qualified according to the TET’s minimum 60% passing criteria, and the rote-learning-based assessment, do not have necessary soft skills, access to quality training, and are neither as ‘well educated’ nor as ‘well-paid’ in comparison to regular teachers.
Consequently, according to surveys, in some schools 50% teachers who are present do not engage in activities that necessitate teaching and 25% of them are not even present in the first place. Subsequently, the no-detention policy, along with these paraprofessional teachers, engenders poor outcomes of learning. For instance, according to the Annual Status of Education Report 2014, 75% Class 3 children failed to fluently read a Class 2 textbook and perform 2-digit subtractions.
Second, non-compliance with the RTE Act’s excessively stringent, and even unfeasible norms, can potentially force unrecognised but competent, low-fee private schools, to shut down. Schools, under certain circumstances, find it nearly impossible to meet the RTE Act’s rigid standards, such as infrastructural standards, in order to attain official recognition. For example, schools situated in crowded, urban areas are unable to subsume a playground, thereby fail to meet the Act’s infrastructural standards and remain unrecognised.
Additionally, the Act endorses the closure of these unrecognised schools, without evaluating the reasons behind their non-compliance or the quality of education they provide. These schools mainly consist of better, low-fee private schools that operate with objectives to provide education that is affordable for low-income families and to ameliorate outcomes of learning through the recruitment and training of community teachers internally.
Therefore, the forced closure of these schools would derail these schools from their mission of providing quality education at low cost, compel parents to admit their children to governments schools with subpar learning outcomes. Most importantly, it would deny the children the right to education, which would in-turn defeat the entire purpose of the RTE Act’s implementation.
Source – Oxfam India
Subsequently, India’s New Education Policy (NEP 2020) aims to take on an outcome-based approach, in an attempt to do away with the RTE Act’s input-based approach. However, instead of doing away with RTE’s input based approach, it seems to be focusing on doing away with the legal authority of the RTE Act itself. Not only does it fail to guarantee engagement and completion of ‘quality’ education as a right, but it also puts up a facade of effectiveness through its terminology; it fails to recognise the actual roots of impoverishment and exclusion.
The NEP 2020 claims that it will focus on the mere universalisation of education. This claim is counterintuitive and damaging- universalisation of education in no way suggests that primary and secondary education is a legal right, and thereby fails to invoke the RTE Act, while diminishing its authority to create a legislative ecosystem that obliges schools both legally and constitutionally.
In addition to that, it also warrants the use of “‘alternative models of education” enabled through “multiple pathways” including non-formal open schooling provided by central and state driven institutes. Herein, the NEP 2020, fails to acknowledge the existence of numerous unaffiliated schools that can not only easily avoid being subjected to the rules and regulations outlined by the RTE Act, but can also function at their whim- they can choose to limit enrolments or even examinations to certain classes, mainly those which that are guaranteed to win laurels for their image and publicity.
Next the NEP 2020 states that the restrictions imposed upon each school “will be loosened” to enable “suitable flexibility” in terms of taking “its own decisions based on local needs and constraints”. However, instead of working towards the betterment of existing government schools in the country, it fosters “public philanthropic partnership”, a convenient guise for the government’s callout to private organisations and investors to set up more private schools. Establishment of more private schools would in-turn inhibit the RTE Act’s aim of fostering ‘social integration’ of the children belonging to disadvantaged and weaker sections.
Most importantly, the NEP 2020 fails to consider the importance of incentivisation of teachers in addition to their training. Rather than aiming to provide efficient incentives to intrinsically motivate teachers, it has introduced prolonged probations and a track for keeping a check on their tenure, which would most probably make the teachers feel even more restrained professionally.
In this way, even with NEP 2020’s goal to provide better training of paraprofessional teachers-which is a rhetoric that is hard to believe, given the failure of past policies that focussed on resolving the same issue- teachers would continue to remain unmotivated, unenthusiastic, while paving way for poor learning outcomes.
Source – The Telegraph India
All in all, while the RTE Act in itself is flawed, owing to its excessive input-based approach, it undeniably mandates primary and secondary education as a legally enshrined right in the Constitution of India. The NEP 2020, ought to work towards fixing the RTE Act, instead of implicitly diminishing the legal authority vested in it, by recognising its faults efficiently, which its current legal endorsements fail to do.
Written by- Ashrika Paruthi
Edited by- Radhika Khandelwal