RTE Act: Miles to Go Before We Sleep
The quality of education imparted, especially in the critical developmental years, lays the foundation for the holistic growth of an individual. Every child is born with an innate cognitive ability which needs to be sharpened and enhanced. A sound education system should be capable of churning out a generation of such empowered, inquisitive, ‘educated’ students. In the primary grades a student is supposed to acquire basic abilities for reading, writing and calculating. Also, the importance of observational learning and the capability to construct new ideas and concepts or to solve real life problems cannot but be over emphasized.
It is well known that the Right to Education Act (RTE) has not yielded desired results. It focuses on access to education and enrolment for all but there are concerns about quality being neglected. It brings us to the inevitable question as to what comprises quality education. It is an education system that helps a person to adapt herself to her environment and allows her to rationalize, analyze, synthesize, hypothesize and above all, question and explore. It should include the identification and cultivation of talent and equip each person to perform her role effectively as both economic and political participant in an organized society.
The RTE Act in its five years of journey has failed to raise the abysmal educational standards. A discussion and analysis of the education system will open a pandora’s box. A sound educational policy needs to be based on the diagnosis and cure for all such problems along with objective information and analysis. This would not only be important for the policy makers in developing judicious plans and monitoring frameworks but also help us, as members of civil society, engage in meaningful public debates. Achieving RTE goals requires medium to long term planning, bold administrative decisions, a renewed focus on improving standards of education in schools, besides infrastructure and support services. It requires serious systemic reforms and a strong vision for change at the school and classroom level.
The deteriorating quality of education especially in the government school system has been an issue taken up by Common Cause during a number of consultations and brainstorming sessions held with like-minded organizations. This special issue covers a gamut of themes, from some insights by Anita Lodhi into the challenges faced by children with disabilities to a discussion on the status of implementation of this Act by Ambarish Rai of RTE Forum. We have a thought provoking essay by Amartya Sen, in which he touches upon a range of significant issues such as the problems of the unschooled and the overlooked and the value of mid day meals for better learning outcomes. Dr. Divya Jalan of Good earth Foundation in her piece provides an inspiring account of the successful Bodh Initiative in Quality education.
There is an interesting insight by Shailendra Sharma of Pratham who writes about the negative consequences of overambitious curriculum resulting in flat learning trajectory in the primary schools of our country. Avani Kapur of Accountability Initiative reflects upon the lessons learnt from the ground based studies of real expenditure. Vincy Davis, also of the Accountability Initiative contends that the Right to Education Act’s successful implementation lies in the hands of its foot-soldiers – education officials. Syed Rafath Parveen, a teacher, reveals in her article the shocking attitudes of fellow teachers and officials towards students from the Economically Weaker Sections. The themes thus covered are diverse, touching upon multiple components of RTE Act, status of its implementation and attitudinal changes desired.
We are optimistic that the different perspectives and ideas on education will help us formulate a common ground to initiate our next plan of action for concrete results. We also sincerely hope that this issue serves as a ready resource for schools, community groups, research organizations, policymakers, educationists, and above all, non professionals who wish to do something to change things.
*Ms. Anumeha is a Senior Research Analyst in Common Cause.