RTE a blessing or a curse for education system

News Dated: 

The Right to Education (RTE) act which is introduced to chance the future of the children by making primary education a legal right for children in India, could also prove to the death bell of Budget private Schools that offers economic and quality education to children who belong to the weaker and disadvantaged sections.

The Right to Education

A significant legislation, which was enacted from April 1, 2010, requires that budget private schools will have to close down within a period of three years if they do not comply with the stringent eligibility conditions stipulated in the Act. This matter would come up for discussions in the one day national consultation on the RTE Act, being conducted by Centre for Civil Society (CCS) at India Habitat in Delhi.

Budget private schools

Budget private schools are which offers affordable education to children from slums and rural parts of the country. These schools are private schools which are unrecognized and have only the most basic facilities. According to section 19 of the act, all private schools should meet certain norms to ensure recognition. These norms include all-weather building, one class room for each teacher at the least, separate toilet for boys and girls, clean drinking water, playground and library. It also specifies the dimension of class rooms, norms for hiring and terminating and salaries for staffs and teachers.

The Right to Education Act has failed in dealing with private unaided schools. Rather than going for collaboration with private schools, the government is taking arrogant measure which will result in the shutting down of such schools. This is the observation made by most of those who run such private schools which offers education to weaker and marginalized sections of the community.

Requirement such as playgrounds are difficult to be met in cities where there is less space available. The condition of large number of government schools is pathetic and will be in no state to meet such norms. The government should take steps to upgrade the quality of the private schools rather than ensuring their shut down. There is an urgent need for a body which measures the quality to monitor the functioning of private schools and make them sustainable.

Shutting down budget schools will lead to supply demand mismatch

Estimates put the number of Budget private schools in India in the range of 300,000 and if these numbers of private schools are forced to shut down, it will lead to a serious problem of mismatch between demand and supply in the education sector.

CCS president Parth J Shah, the government policy has completely ignored the service provided by such budget schools. He added that the government is providing continued support to ailing government schools, but has introduced many regulation and licenses, which makes it impossible for private schools to function legitimately. In the case of Deepalaya, an organization which operates many schools for students from the slums in Delhi, the government has declined to grant recognition for the past 10 years. The reason they point out is that the school do not pay salary to its teachers as stipulated by the government.

Issues with RTE

A major problem with the RTE act is the provision of Essentiality Certificate (EC), which certifies the need for a school in a particular area. The requirement of a school in a particular area is decided by the Department of Education. By controlling the number of schools in an area, Essentiality Certificate develops a scarcity of schools in the area and thus permits the existing schools to exploit their customers.

The EC was declared void in Delhi as a result of the effort put in by CCS in December 2005. But still the Essentiality Certificate is a major hurdle for opening new schools in many states of the country. There is an immediate requirement to de-regulate and de-license the education system in India. If we need to provide education to millions of students across various parts of India, we have to have such budget private schools. If there are no enough schools to choose from, then parental choice becomes irrelevant.

The benefits of Budget private schools

The benefits of budget private schools when compared with government schools are multifold. In the case of private schools, the salary given to a teacher is much less than that of a teacher in a government school. So private schools are able to hire more number of teachers and thus achieve lower student to teacher ratio and reduce multi grade teaching. In addition to this, teachers in private schools are much younger than teachers in the government schools and are from the same locality.

More over, in private schools, teachers are punctual and regular, than teachers in the government schools as they are directly responsible to the students and parents. Experts in the field says that parents prefer to send their children to private schools rather than government schools as they teach English from lower classes when compared to government schools. Even though such budget private schools lack in superior infrastructure and facilities compared to government schools, the attendance rates and test score performance are much higher than that of the government schools.

Difficulties faced by Budget schools

Since budget private schools find it difficult to meet all the government requirements, it is quite hard for them to get recognized by the government. For instance, schools are required to have playgrounds and pay a salary of Rs. 20,000 or more. To maintain a playground and pay such a high salary will force the schools to increase their fee multifold, which the poor will not be able to afford. A reason why parents prefer to send their children to private schools is the absenteeism of the teachers in the government schools.

Rather than taking measures to close down private schools the government should realize their importance in the field of primary education and understand their situation. The government should take steps similar to what they have done in the case of our economy; de-license and de-centralize. The schools and other higher education institutions should be accountable to parents and not bureaucrats alone.