Editorial: Literate India – a Milestone or a Myth?

EDUCATION  stands for acquiring knowledge, skills, values, morals, developments and beliefs in different aspects. It is a continuous process of learning. Education is a fundamental human right that promotes individual freedom and empowerment and propagates important development benefits.

The Education system of India: History says:

Ancient India had the Gurukul system. In Gurukul system, anyone who wants to study can go to the Guru (teacher) house or his ashram and request to be taught. No age limits were proposed though in most cases, young age was mentioned as learning state. If the student is accepted by the Guru, he would then stay at the Guru’s place and would gain knowledge. The Guru would teach everything the student wanted to learn, from Sanskrit to Mathematics and to Metaphysics. All learning was closely related to nature and to a different feature of life and was not only confined to retain some information. Though the education would be divided on basis of class, cast and community.

Later, the modern day school system initiated. In which the school was divided into different sections. According to the age of the child and understanding level, the child is directed to the section of schools i.e, pre-primary, primary, high or higher secondary. According to their interest in different fields, they select different subjects and take a different opportunity and proceed towards different fields.

The Constitutional provision safeguards the Right to education:

The 86th amendment of the constitution in India in 2002 got inserted Article 21-A which is, free and compulsory education for all the children between 6 to 14 years old. This article made education a fundamental right for every child.

The right to education (RTE) act, 2009 under article 21-A, means that every child has the right to study in the school in a proper way such that it must satisfy essential rules and regulations and meet the need.

It’s about time, because India’s education policy has gone dangerously off track since the implementation of Right to Education Act (RTE). The law, which was designed to guarantee a good education to all Indian children between the ages of 6 and 14, was hailed as a landmark reform. But six years on, school enrollment has hardly improved, and actual learning has sharply deteriorated.

Article 21-A and RTE act came into force on 1 April 2010. The RTE act basically supports and encourages "free and compulsory" education. Here, free education means that none of the child is allowed to pay any fee or any kind of charges for completing and getting education except for the child whose parents are there who are capable of paying fees and affording all other kinds of expenses for their child related to studies. And compulsory education means that it is the duty of the government and concerning local authorities to check for proper attendance of the students, to ensure proper admission and also to take care for the fulfillment of fundamental education of every child. Here I mention RTE act elaborately.

The RIGHT TO EDUCATION (RTE) ACT, consist of the following measures:

Every child has the fundamental right to free and compulsory education. The RTE act makes rules for the non-admitted students to be admitted at a proper age to the specified class. It specifies different responsibilities to the local authorities and government to ensure to provide free and compulsory education. It also lays down rules regarding Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs). It also ensures that the employment of every teacher whether in urban or in rural areas is in a balanced way, and should maintain a proper ratio. It also lay down rules for maintaining the infrastructure of the schools, proper working hours for the teachers etc. It also suggests employing trained and well-educated teachers.

The Right to Education act also forbids some of the issues like:

Any type of mental harassment over any student or physical assault. Capitation fees, which means that the amount of fee taken by the institution which is more than the prescribed fee. It also prohibits the working of the school without its identification.

Now back to the point, With 41 percent of its population under the age of 19, according to the 2011 census, India is banking on the young to drive future economic growth. But its public schools where 70 percent of all children study are a disaster. In the 2009 PISA survey of the reading, math and science abilities of children in 74 countries, India ranked second-to-last, beating only Kyrgyzstan. Since then, it has refused to participate in the survey, and the RTE Act has only made matters worse.

The law required the establishment of free public schools in every neighborhood. It conditioned the licensing of private schools on minimum standards for physical infrastructure and staffing, including a ratio of pupils to teacher of no more than 30 to 1. It also required private schools which usually perform better than public schools to reserve at least 25 percent of their seats for disadvantaged children.

The RTE act wants to form an education system in which every child should be allowed to get education freely and he or she should be free from any kind of fear regarding harassment, unequal treatment etc. This act wants to establish the system in which full knowledge regarding subject and moral values should be provided and none of the child could be remained deprived of their fundamental and the most basic rights. However sensible these measures may seem, they have been ineffectual at best, and sometimes counterproductive.

The Literacy Rate in India:

If we see the data of the year 2001, the National Literacy Mission which was held in 2001 have given the data which shows that in India 64.84% of the persons were literate in which 75.26% were males and 53.67% were females. At that time the highest literacy rate was in the state of Kerala in which 90.86% persons were literate among them 94.24% were males and 87.72% were females. The lowest literacy rates were in Bihar in which only 47% of the persons were literate among which 59.68 were males and 33.12% were females.

For the year 2011 the literacy rates were 74.04%. In which 82.14% were males and 65.465 were females. So, we can see that there is surely an increase in the literacy rate. With school enrollment for children ages 6-14 already at about 95 percent in 2009, opening up more public schools hardly needed to be a priority. What’s more, the effort has failed largely because few parents have wanted to send their children to untested establishments. Since the implementation of the RTE Act, total enrollment in public schools has fallen by 11.6 million students (while private school enrollment has risen by 16.4 million students). By the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year, nearly 97,000 public schools in India had 20 or fewer students.

The RTE Act’s focus on lowering pupil-to-teacher ratios and improving physical infrastructure was also misguided. International research does not support the notion that either factor consistently leads to better learning. In India, children in public schools perform no better than children in low-fee private schools, even though public schools generally have better facilities such as playgrounds, as well as teachers with more training. The latest Annual Status of Education Report, a nationwide survey by the NGO Pratham shows that reading proficiency, for example, has declined overall since 2008 and more so in public schools than private schools.

Worse, the RTE Act’s requirement that private schools meet certain infrastructure standards has forced thousands of low-fee schools to close down even though such schools generally deliver better results than public schools. According to a study by the National Independent Schools Alliance in New Delhi, by early 2014, 4,331 private schools had been shut down and another 15,083 had received notice to close, displacing or threatening to displace about four million students. Absurdly, the public schools that many of these displaced children have been forced to attend do not meet the standards that forced the private schools to close down.

The RTE Act’s provisions protecting parents’ right to choose a school for their children have also been ineffectual. The law requiring private schools to set aside at least 25 percent of seats for poor and disadvantaged children calls for them to be selected by lottery and the government to reimburse the schools for students’ fees. But this measure has been difficult to implement partly because the poor administrative capacity of many states complicates the already cumbersome task of identifying which students qualify for assistance. Some state governments have also claimed that the money would be better spent trying to improve the quality of public schools.

The RTE Act has been a failure, in other words, and ongoing discussions over a New Education Policy, which is to be drafted, are a chance to undo the damage. The drafting committee, comprising four former bureaucrats and one retired academic, is currently taking expert opinion and culling suggestions gathered from some 275,000 people through public consultations. Its main priority should be to recommend the enactment of a Right to Learn Act that would supersede the 2009 RTE Act and focus on improving the quality of teaching, a well-recognized factor in improving learning.

Teacher training must urgently be strengthened. Instructors themselves often do not master the material covered in even basic language and math textbooks used in primary classes. Teachers currently are hired and supervised by district education authorities. That authority must be transferred to local school management, which is better placed to assess performance.

Government approval for private schools should be awarded based not on infrastructure or student-to-teacher ratios but according to minimum standards of actual learning. Funding for public schools should be allotted on a per student basis, as opposed to a lump sum to schools regardless of student enrollment, as is the case now; this would give public schools an incentive to retain students by ensuring a quality education.

Parents must also be given more information about the performance of the various schools in their districts so they can make more considered decisions about where to send their children.

Some steps that should be taken by the Government and local authorities and also by the parents for increasing awareness regarding education. In RTE "compulsory education" creates an important responsibility for the government as well as for the local authority to ensure admission of every child of the age 6-14 years. It is the responsibility of the parents to maintain proper attendance of their child. Fulfilling elementary education of each and every child falling under the age of 6-14 years. The government should try to maintain proper training facilities of the government teachers. It should ensure a good elementary education that should be according to the norms. It is the responsibility of the local authorities that the child belonging to the weaker section of the society and anyone who is disabled should not be discriminated from the other students.

There are certain responsibilities of the school and the teachers too.  The teacher appointed should perform the norms the under sub-section (1) of section 23. A teacher should be regular and punctual towards his duty. It is the responsibility of the school to maintain proper discipline, to make compulsory the elementary education and try to take care that every child is being treated well or not and gaining proper knowledge.

India must reorient its education policy to focus on improving students’ learning levels. Otherwise, it risks squandering the life chances of millions of children, as well as the entire country’s prospects at further economic progress. As compared since independence we can see that there is an increase in the literacy rate. But the increasing level is slow. So the government must make different rules and regulations, different types of norms, acts, articles to increase awareness among the people.


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