RTE Forum came into being in the follow up to the passage of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE Act) in 2010. Presently it has its state forums in 19 states. Participants from across the Nation will gather to discuss and share their experiences of working for children’s right to education.
The RTE Forum is a collective of civil society organizations, teachers unions, educationists and intellectuals working to strengthen the public school system in India and particularly to ensure the implementation of the RTE Act, 2009. The Forum has state chapters in nineteen states. The teachers’ unions collaborating with it are All India Primary Teachers and All India Secondary Teachers Federations. The Forum is supported, among others, by UNICEF, UNESCO, Oxfam, Save the Children and Action Aid. The Secretariat of the Forum is located in the Council for Social Development, New Delhi.
The RTE Forum organises every year a National Stocktaking Convention on a report prepared by it on the status of the implementation of the RTE Act. The Convention provides the single largest platform to participants from across the country to come together, share their experiences and the multiple challenges they face in making education a reality for the children they work for.
The RTE Act was a milestone in the history of elementary education in India as it reflected a shift to a rights-based approach towards education. It prescribed basic norms and standards for all schools to comply and cater to the educational and overall needs of all children in schools, irrespective of their caste, class or gender. However there was an immediate need to implement the Act completely within the stipulated time frame and include pre-primary and higher secondary school education within the ambit of RTE Act 2009. It further required calculating the adequate financial resources for implementing the Act holistically. This was extremely critical for meeting the twin needs of quality and equity in school education. Despite more than 7 years of enactment of the Rte Act, it is unfortunate that the Act has been implemented in a fragmented manner. It improved infrastructure partially and led to improvement in enrolment of children. However the compliance rate of schools remained below 10% even today. Two third of the children in the country are still dependent on government schools for their children. These children mostly come from extremely poor and deprived families where parents have no option but to send their children to government schools.
Recently, Govt. of India has placed a regressive Amendment Bill in the Parliament for withdrawal of No Detention clause of RTE Act which can lead the dilution of the spirit of RTE Act, RTE Forum made a presentation to the Parliamentary Standing Committee against this move; Bill is still pending in Parliament for discussion. We need to raise our voices collectively against the dilution of RTE Act,2009 and to protect children's Fundamental Right to Education provided by the Indian Constitution. Further The Union human resource development (HRD) ministry decision to merge its three flagship education development programmes — Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and CSSTE (Centrally Sponsored Scheme on Teacher Education).There have been media report regarding the government plans to merge the above schemes. The government has issued orders to initiate integration of administrative structures of SSA, RMSA, and CSSTE and is planning to merge the three schemes starting from the coming financial year. This decision, therefore, is going to be a progression of the administrative level to that of the budgetary and programmatic level which may have severe implications on the implementation of the Act 2009.
The Forum has been consistently tracking the progress made and advocating for strengthening the Public System of Education in the country to ensure free, compulsory & equitable, quality education for all children from pre-primary to higher secondary. This stocktaking will be the eight in this series.
The forthcoming National Stocktaking Convention will take place in the background depicted above. This would be an appropriate occasion to share and learn other’s views on this important subject with the Nation.
The Convention is divided into 7 sessions. The Inaugural Session will bring speakers who have worked on education and child rights to comment on the highlights of the Stocktaking report 2017-2018. The second session is on National Vision for Elementary Education planned keeping the new developments and challenges faced in actualizing children right to education in the country and suggest recommendations and strategies to make the Campaign a success. The Campaign will primarily focus on complete implementation of RTE and inclusion of pre-primary and secondary education for ensuring quality education to all children. It will be launched in the National stocktaking Convention and will run through 2019 till 17th Lok Sabha election. Educationists who have been working both at implementation and policy level on education will speak in this session.
This will be followed by four parallel sessions on Inclusion and Equity: Safe and Secure Environment, Inclusion of pre-primary and secondary education, Commercialization of Education and Quality education. In the concluding session, activists from different movements will share their views on the campaign and how a god synergy could be developed between people’s movement and other agencies (state and non-state) to amplify people’s demands for universalization of school education as a constitutional right to all children.
Representatives from 15 states will take part in the convention. The composition is diagrammatically presented below:
- A national level campaign to make education a prime agenda in the 2019 elections
- To build synergy between different agencies (TAs, SMCs, parliamentarians, NGOs, movements, media) to amplify people’s demand for universalization of school education
- To chart a National action plan to influence political parties for implementation of the Act 2009 and include pre-school and secondary education within the legal entitlement.