It will take India, RTE compliance, says report

Following U-DISE data the study goes on to say that India is far from being able to provide secondary education to all because there is a severe shortage of school infrastructure

Prajanma Das

The share of schools that comply with the Right To Education guidelines have increased by a mere 3.7 per cent during Modi sarkar, says a report on RTE implementation released on Wednesday. Implementation of RTE has risen marginally from 9 per cent in 2013-14 to 12.7 per cent in 2016-17 according to the Unified District Information System for Education data, said a study by The RTE Forum, a coalition of over 10,000 organisations across 20 states. This boils down to an average of 1 per cent per year. At the current rate of progress, the report says, it will take India 87 years to make every school compliant with its very minimalistic quality norms.

The Bhartiya Janta Party’s Election Manifesto for 2014 — Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat…. Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas — made a hoard of commitments on education. Consequently, this report, compiled in collaboration with various civil society organisations, is particularly focused on understanding what was promised and what was delivered under the same. “The Right to Education forum demands that education should be a prime political agenda for all parties to address poverty and social injustice in India,” said Geeta Verma, Team Leader, Education, CARE India who was an active contributor to the report.

Following U-DISE data, the study goes on to say that India is far from being able to provide secondary education to all. “There is a severe shortage of school infrastructure. The number of schools also decrease sharply beyond the upper primary level. In 2015-16, for every 100 elementary schools (Classes I to VIII) in rural India, there were 14 schools offering secondary (Classes IX-X) and only six offering higher secondary grades (Classes XI-XII),” reads the report. “It has not helped that so many secondary schools are privately-owned, fee-charging schools. At the elementary level, only 5 per cent listed in the official statistics are private unaided schools while 40 per cent schools offering secondary or higher secondary grades are private, unaided institutions.” The report further says that this increasing reliance on high fee-charging, private education at each level of education stacks the odds against universal education and leads to dropouts, more in the case of girl students.

Other vulnerable groups such as children with disabilities are also adversely affected. Only 1.16 per cent al level are specially-abled while the share dips to 0.26 per cent at secondary and 0.25 per cent at the senior secondary level.

The report added that the BJP’s 2014 manifesto made a commitment to give utmost priority to address the acute shortage of teachersand researchers, quality of education and research, and also the employability factor associated with most of the courses. “There has only been a minor reduction in the number of schools failing to comply with the RTE norms for the student-teacher ratio. While recruitments have been made, this has not been commensurate with the actual need. There are 92,275 government schools at both elementary and secondary level which have only one teacher to teach all the subjects (Satya Pal Singh, Minister of State for Human Resource Development told the Lok Sabha in January 2019),” it further states. There are 900316 posts of elementary school teachers that are still vacant while 107689 posts are vacant for secondary school teachers.

The BJP manifesto also promised that the content and process of school education shall be thoroughly reviewed to make it dynamic, stress-free, and attractive as well as responsive to the emerging national needs. But the reality seems to be different. A process of assessment of the NCERT curriculum led to the proposed reduction of the overall curriculum by 10-15 per cent even though the MHRD aimed to reduce it by half. Of these, the social science curriculum is expected to see the biggest cuts.

CBSE has developed guidelines and circulars for conducting examinations and appointments of scribes for children with disabilities according to the new Persons with Disabilities Law. However, most schools are yet to find out how to adapt the curriculum to provide quality education to children with disabilities who have different learning requirements.

The BJP before forming the ruling government also said that it will make technology-enabled products affordable for students, use technology to reduce the burden of books on children and that digital learning and training will be used extensively and they will make all institutions and schools enabled in a phased manner. But there has not been a significant improvement in computer access for students. There was rather a marginal decline in the early years of the government. “However, the use of Information and Communications Technology has received considerable emphasis in the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan in 2018 which might be expected to have incrementally addressed some of the challenges in terms of access to ICT at the school level,” states the report. 

However, the budget allotted for ICT integration has been limited. With half the schools lacking electricity and less than one school in five having a single functional computer, the expectation of a digital revolution sweeping the Indian education system has not materialised either. “Availability of an electricityconnection is not synonymous with availability of electricity since many schools lack a budget for electricity bills. ICT is extremely important for many students with disabilities who use other forms of communications. For example, blind children benefit greatly if they have access to ICT as do children who use alternative and augmentative communication,” adds the report.

E-libraries (including for the ones for the visually disabled), National Digital Library and resources like the Shagun Portal have been launched by MHRD and the materials uploaded have been used as well. “NCERT has furthermore introduced a National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER). ‘e-pathshala’ is another platform which contains e-resource for the students and teachers. The e-resources for students include e-books for all subjects from Classes I to XII, e-contents (i.e. audio, video, interactive object, text images, maps), question banks, e-courses in various subjects etc. The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghathan (KVS), under ‘Project e-Prajna’ has given 5076 students in 25 Regions Touch Tablets pre-loaded with e-Contents of Maths and Science Subjects and teachers in these schools have been trained for classroom transaction,” says the report.

The government spent a major part of its tenure ensuring a Swatch Bharat and there has been a considerable improvement in the availability of basic hygienic facilities in schools. There has also been some improvement in the availability of toilet facilities for girls.  “Greater efforts, however, must be made to ensure that these are accessible, clean and usable by students with disabilities,” recommends the report.

In 2014, the Ministry of Human Resource Development had issued detailed guidelines on the safety and security of children. A Manual on Safety and Security of Children in Schools had also been developed by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) along with mass sensitisation of teachers. As per CBSE’s Affiliation Bye-laws, before affiliation is granted, a school is required to submit a certificate from the competent authority to the effect that the school building is safe. “Despite the above, many of the schools are unsafe. Safety and security measures against sexual and other forms of abuses that children in general and children with disability in specific are highly inadequate,” the report points out.