1. Why only 6 – 14; why not 0 – 18 years
According to several activists, “The Bill allows only children between the age 6-14 to get the privileges, which we think is so shallow.”
They think that leaving out early childhood care and education, and senior schooling seriously limits the right to education. They explain: “0 to 6 years is considered to be the formative years in the child’s upbringing. We don’t see a reason why a child of this age group should be excluded. And India has signed the U.N. charter which states clearly that free education should be made compulsory to children of 0-18 years old.”
The act excludes 157 million children below six years of age and children between 15-18 years.
2. Disabled left out of education Bill
The chances of 20 million children with physical and other disabilities to get the right to education has been jeopardized, as the Right to Education Bill excludes them. Although the earlier draft of the Bill had made specific mention of children with disabilities, the Bill tabled in the Lok Sabha has erased those references, activists say.
Activists say that India was the one of the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in October 2007, which says “State parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education or from secondary education on the basis of disability.”
3. Requirement of qualified and trained teachers
The elementary education part of our system already suffers from shortage of teachers and a fairly large number of teachers of this segment are untrained. To get trained and qualified teachers within stipulated period is not only going to prove a Herculean task but appears to be almost impossible. A gradual and systematic influx of teachers would have been better approach.
Teachers will be at the core of implementation of RTE that seeks to work towards a heterogeneous and democratic classroom where all children participate as equal partners. There are 57 lakh posts of teachers at primary and upper primary level.
Currently, more than 5.23 lakh teacher posts are vacant. To bring the pupil-teacher ratio to 30:1 as prescribed by the RTE Act, 5.1 lakh additional teachers are required. Already, there are 5.1 lakh schools with a pupil-teacher ratio of more than 30:1. On top of that 5.48 lakh untrained teachers at the primary and 2.25 lakh at upper primary level have to acquire necessary qualification within five years of the RTE Act coming into force.
The states with high percentage of untrained teachers and inadequate teacher education capacity are: Assam (55.13% untrained teachers), Bihar (45.5%), Chhattisgarh (31.32%), J&K (43.34%), Jharkhand (32.16%), Uttar Pradesh (25.87%) and West Bengal (32.15%). States like Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand have very low percentage of untrained teachers. They also have adequate capacity for teacher education.
4. No standard definition of teacher qualification
The existing elementary teacher education programs (known variously in different parts of the country as JBT, D. Ed., PTC, BSTC, etc) lack a bench mark and proper definition. Teachers trained for secondary classes (classes IX, X, XI, XII) are considered eligible to teach middle classes (VI, VII, and VIII). But teachers trained to teach the elementary classes are only eligible to teach classes I – V. Even the Supreme Court has accepted this argument.
Now the TRE Act is for the kids in the age group 6—14 studying in classes I – VIII. So a clear definition of teaching eligibility is required so that a teacher can teach all these eight classes. This will also help administratively as well as keep teachers motivated.
5. Reservation of seats in unaided private schools
The act talks about 25% seat reservation in private/public unaided school for lesser privileged children. The fees of these students will be borne by state government. The fee will be reimbursed at government rate. There will be a wide gap between the cost of education per child and the reimbursement by the government. Who will bear this deficit portion ?obviously the remaining 75% of the students. For a certain class of society who provides education to their kids in these private school already by stretching their means this extra burden might prove too much. It’s like providing benefit to one at the cost of other. Would improving the standard of the government school be not a better and more justified option?
6. Status of poor kids in the private schools
A glaring question is: how interested are the parents of the poor kids to send them to the private schools even if the education is free of cost? The kids will be suddenly exposed to a different living standard. Will they be treated with dignity and equality by their peers and teachers? Will it not be traumatic for the poor kids to cope with that?
Moreover, what about the overhead expenses such as uniform, books, stationery, etc of attending a private school? The chances are high that the parents themselves would feel intimidated at the thought of sending their kids to private schools.
7. Input oriented Act
The Act is deemed to be excessively input-focused rather than outcome-oriented. The bill guarantees for the admission of the children, but does not promise the quality of education.
8. Admission according to age but no facility for bridge courses
The act stipulates that the child should be assigned the class according to age, which is a good step because wasted years can be saved; but no bridge course is suggested that can prepare the child to adjust to the admitted class.
9. Automatic passage to next class may be counter productive
The Act will create a system with no incentive for students to try to improve themselves, or to behave with a modicum of restraint. It compromises their ability to withstand pressure and compete harder in order to excel. This will create a generation of drifters who have never tasted hard work or competition.
And what happens when the kids turn 14? Leaving aside some notable successes, there will be millions who have just gone through the system without gaining much – and valuable formative years of life wasted.
10. School recognition
Section 19 of the Act requires all schools except government schools, to meet certain norms and standards relating to infrastructure, pupil-teacher ratio, and teacher salaries on the basis of which they are required to get recognition within three years. This clause penalizes private unrecognized schools, although they provide similar, if not better, teaching services compared to government schools, while spending a much smaller amount. They are susceptible to extinction in three years.
11. School management Committee
The Act requires every government and aided school to form a School management Committee (SMC) which will be most comprised of parents and will be responsible for planning managing the operations of the school. SMC members are required to volunteer their time and effort. This can be a burden for the poor parents. And for the aided schools, the SMC rule will lead to a breakdown of their existing management structures.
Read to Learn About the Salient Features of the Act