What is Right to Education Act?
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, or Right to Education Act (RTE), was hailed as a landmark bill in 2009 when it was passed by parliament August 4 2009. The Act dictates that all children between the ages of 6 and 14 are entitled to free and compulsory education. The Act also states that 25 per cent of admissions in all private unaided schools will be provided free of cost to children from underprivileged homes in neighbouring areas. The Act will apply for only Class 1 students this year.
Supreme Court upholds Act
On April 12 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the RTE Act and made it clear that its would be implemented across the country. The court, however, exempted private unaided minority schools (such as schools run by religious institutions) from the Act stating that it would “infringe the fundamental freedom” of such schools. The Karnataka government, through its Budget, hd also stated that the RTE Act would be implemented from the academic year 2012-2013.
State government issues rules
The state government published the rules for the implementation of the RTE Act on April 28. Some salient features:
All private schools qualifying under RTE should start a separate bank account which would be subject to regular audits by the government. The state would fix a per child expenditure (which is the total recurring expenditure incurred by the state on elementary education divided by total number of children enrolled in such schools), which would be reimbursed to the schools.
Protection of child rights
The rules state that the Commissioner of Public Instruction be in-charge to making sure children hailing from underprivileged backgrounds will not be discriminated against or segregated. The deputy director of public instruction (DDPI) or the local authority will have to ensure that “no child is subjected to caste, class, religious or gender discrimination” under their jurisdiction.
The Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) will monitor and inquire into grievances and complaints of violations of child rights.
A 14-member council called Karnataka State Advisory Council for Elementary Education will also be instituted with the commissioner for public instruction being the member secretary of the council.
DSERT the “academic authority”
The department of state educational research and training (DSERT) will be the academic authority in the state for all schools adopting the state curriculum.
The Block Education Officer (BEO) will have the right to question schools in the case of any school violating any of the provisions.
Problems posed by RTE
The management of many private schools feel that not enough time has been given for a smooth implementation of the Act. The admission process for most schools has already been completed for the upcoming academic year. Increasing the class size by 25% at this point either would mean that the student-teacher ratio goes up or the facilities available for students would not be available for everyone
One of the biggest fears held by parents with children starting at the elementary level is that the fee structure would go up for the rest of the 75% of students. This is a fear also aired by several private school federation bodies, who maintain that schools will have to increase fees substantially. “The government will be setting per-child expenditure according to its own expenditure but this will not take into account the water bills, electricity bills, uniforms and other expenses,” said Sudi Suresh, secretary of the Karnataka State Private School Management Federation (KSPSMF). According to experts, the per-child expenditure set by the government is likely to be around Rs9,000, and the average annual fee structure for some prestigious schools in the city is around Rs60,000.
Neighbourhood school concept
Yet another problem brought to the table by the KSPSMF during a recent meeting organised for private school managements was the confusion over the definition of neighbourhood schools. “In rural areas and districts, there are not too many schools but in cities, there are several in every area. So which one should qualify as a neighbourhood school? And what happens when there aren’t enough children to complete that 25% quota? Will those seats be left empty?” Suresh wondered.
Who gets admission?
While the Act states that children coming from underprivileged backgrounds are entitled to get free admissions in private schools in their neighbourhood, it does not specifically define in monetary terms as to what constitutes “underprivileged”.This has made the admission process in many schools all that more difficult. However, primary and secondary education minister, Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, has said that the definition of “poor” would be provided soon after consultation with the social welfare department.
There are also fears amongst academicians that classrooms would be split into two worlds when the academic year begins. Child psychologists fear that the 75% of students coming from relative affluence would be able to afford school supplies and some luxuries as well, which may not be possible for the children from underprivileged backgrounds.
Many schools require students to access Internet to research and do homework and this might also prove to be hindrance to those who don’t have access to these facilities at home. “Getting both set of students inside a classroom without prior homework and preparation from the school administration would prove to be disastrous,” said child psychologist Divya Paul
Problems of by poor families
While middle class and upper middle class parents worry about the possible hikes in fees, families in poor areas worry that if they were to use this clause to obtain free education, their children might be discriminated against. One fear is that the children would be muscled out of school and not be allowed to take part in extra-curricular activities.
December 12, 2002
The Right to Education (RTE) Act is born. Constitution amended (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 to allow free and compulsory education to all children in the 6-14 age group, as a Fundamental Right.
The first draft of the Free and Compulsory Education for Children Bill is posted online by the government inviting comments and suggestions from the public. A revised version of this Bill, re-titled Free and Compulsory Education for Children Bill, is re-posted online in 2004.
The Right to Education Bill, 2005 as drafted by the Central Advisory Board Committee (CABE) was introduced to give effect to the Constitution (Eighty-Sixth) Amendment Act.
Finance Committee and Planning Commission reject the Bill claiming lack of funds.
Nearly six years after the amendment, the Bill is cleared by the Cabinet. On August 4, 2009, the Right to Education Act is officially passed by Parliament. Key provisions state that 25% of admissions in all private schools will be provided free of cost to children from underprivileged areas. Then Union human resources development minister Kapil Sibal says that the move is about the State’s obligation to provide compulsory education. “This is a historic opportunity as there was never such a law in the last 62 years since Independence,” he says.
April 1, 2010
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act as enacted by Parliament comes into force. “We are committed to ensuring that all children, irrespective of gender and social category, have access to education. An education that enables them to acquire the skills, knowledge, values and attitudes necessary to become responsible and active citizens of India,” says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
March 21, 2012
The Karnataka state budget announces that the RTE Act would be implemented in the state across all schools for the academic year 2012-2013.
April 12, 2012
Supreme Court upholds the validity of the RTE Act and makes it clear that the Act would be implemented across the country. However, unaided private minority schools are exempted from the Act.
April 28, 2012
The Karnataka government posts online the rules on the implementation of the RTE Act. The document is titled - Karnataka Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education, 2012. The rules get a cold reception from the management of private schools as they say that the government drafted the rules without consultation from “stakeholders”.
May 1, 2012
A day-long meeting is held among various associations of private schools who claim that the implementation of the Act for this year would be “impossible.”
May 3, 2012
Primary and secondary education minister Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri meets representatives of private schools managements. The government promises to look into the grievances of the private schools and come up with solutions in a few days. (Source: DNA)