Observer Research Foundation Mumbai

Ideas and Action for a Better India

Right to Education: Lost in translation?

By Aparna Sivakumar, Sanchayan Bhattacharjee and Shoumeli Das

The ‘Education for All’ Global Monitoring Report 2015 applauds India’s “exemplary progress in helping children gain access to pre-primary and primary education” and reaching gender parity in primary and lower secondary school enrollment.

One could attribute this to the “successful implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act” that came into force on April 1, 2010, and mandated free and compulsory education for children between six and 14 years of age.

Since the United Nations General Assembly first adopted the resolution for universal education in 1948 as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, India became the 135th country to enact a law that guaranteed education as a fundamental right to every child on August 4, 2009. Although a Constitutional amendment in 2002 had made education a fundamental right, RTE was the first legislation that laid down a procedure to ensure its delivery.

That said, more often than not, the RTE has been mired in controversy.

In a three-part series, we attempt to understand RTE, its implementation, misinterpretations, roadblocks and the way ahead. We would like to encourage our readers to be part of this debate and help us take the conversation forward. This is a run-up to a roundtable discussion on the RTE Act, to engage with more stakeholders including the government, that Observer Research Foundation Mumbai plans to hold in early July 2015.

The first part provides a brief overview of the Act, its provisions and an introduction to the bottlenecks in implementation, which we will explore in subsequent posts.

The key provisions of the RTE Act have been summarised in the following images.

What is Right to Education

What is Right to Education

What does the government's manadate of free education entail

What does the government’s mandate of free education entail

Responsibilities of schools and teachers to provide free and compulsory education

Responsibilities of schools and teachers to provide free and compulsory education

What is the 25% reservation all about?

What is the 25% reservation all about?

Formation of school management committees

Formation of school management committees

Easily accessible schools are must

Easily accessible schools are must

Responsibilities of the Centre and State

Responsibilities of the Centre and State

But why is it that even after five years, we are far away from fulfilling the lofty ambitions set forth by proponents of the RTE Act?

Is it that it is removed from reality in parts?

Is education not a priority for us?

Has the goal of “social integration” been lost in translation? Or was this utopian to ask for, in the first place?

By expecting the government to fulfill RTE, have the rest of us as a society become lackadaisical?

Are the rules ruling us, instead of enabling quality education?

Are the rules disincentivising innovations, good educators and schools?

Have all the States “ramped” up to take on the responsibility of educating its children?

Despite strict enrollment norms, why are there so many out-of-school children? Are we focusing on the more convenient parameters to measure RTE compliance? Are we missing the woods for the trees?

Does everyone understand the true essence and spirit of RTE?

What is it that we would do differently, if we were to rewrite the RTE with the experience of these five years?

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