National Consultation on RTE: SDG and implementation of RTE Act 2009

The national Consulatation was held in Lucknow, 20th December, 2016: RTE Forum and State Collective for Right to Education (SCoRE) organised a “National Convention on Right to Education: Sustainable Development Goals and Implementation of RTE Act, 2009 at ICCMRT Hall, Lucknow.

Background

The Right to Education Act 2009 made elementary education a legal entitlement for all children India has reached at a stage when the provisioning of free and compulsory elementary education has become a fundamental right – a part of right to life. It is also widely recognized that right to education is a pre-condition for a citizen’s ability to exercise other fundamental rights. Subsequent to the recognition of right to education as a fundamental right in a Supreme Court judgment,  the Constitution of India was amended to insert Article 21-A in it. The amendment provided that the government will enact a legislation to implement it. Consequently, the Right to Education Act (RTE Act) was passed unanimously by the Parliament in 2009 and entered into force from April, 2010. Behind the RTE were two national education policies of 1968 and 1986 as amended in 1992 and the recommendations of a number of committees and commissions set up both before and after India’s independence, to make elementary education free and compulsory.

It ensured that all children should have eight years of free and compulsory education in the country. The Act proved vital in reaffirming the importance of equitable and universal Education to all children at the national level.

However even after six years of the Act, it is extremely disturbing to find that the Act failed to meet the mandated targets within the time limit. Less than ten per cent schools are RTE compliant across the country. In the current context teacher education is provided by private institutions and there is no regulation on quality of training. This is having immense impact on the quality of education provided in schools. There is an urgent need emerging to strengthen public education system in the country. 34 per cent of schools in Uttar Pradesh are private schools. More than 90 per cent teacher training institutions are run by private institutions. 20 per cent of total teachers are contractual in nature. The demand for 6 per cent of GDP and 25 per cent of state budgets is a staggering 3.5 per cent of GDP and approximately 15 per cent of state budgets is spent on education in UP.   

The SDGs especially SDG 4 is a welcome step towards strengthening national commitments towards ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

–     Target   4.1 - By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.

–     Target   4.2 - By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.

–     Target 4.6 - By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, and achieve literacy and numeracy.

It has been well documented that millions of children are still out of school, that thousands of additional schools are yet to be built, and that lakhs of teachers remain to be recruited and trained. In a stocktaking report released by RTE forum even after six years of commencement of the RTE Act, there is a shortage of 9.4 lakh teachers in government schools (5.86 lakh in primary schools and 3.5 lakh in upper primary schools). A similar picture is observed at secondary level. A recent MHRD report shows about 1,05,630 government elementary and secondary schools in the country are single teacher schools, with Madhya Pradesh emerging as the worst state where 17,874 of the institutions have just one teacher. Poor allocation on training of SMC which is an important part of the Act does not build the SMC’s capacity to make a School development Plan as per school’s need.( As per  DISE, 2014-15,  most of the states are spending less than one percent of SSA budget on community mobilization and training of SMC members. A major cause for this massive derogation from the legal obligation under the Act is inadequacy of resources for expenditure on school education.

Training of teachers is an imperative for quality education. The official data shows approximately 83 percent of teachers have professional qualifications and about 6.3 lakh teachers do not have professional qualifications. The District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETS), conceived as teacher training and curriculum development institutions, have failed to live up to their roles. Studies have shown that 17 percent of the DIETs do not have their own building, 40 percent do not have their own hostel facility while 70 percent have no librarian. There is also about 80 percent vacancy in faculty positions in some states.  Most of the DIETs are situated in isolated locations. Staff and faculty members are not adequately trained. Training programs lack innovation and the faculty members have not undergone any capacity building in the last 5 years. This reflects in the result of Teachers Eligibility Test (TET), an essential criterion for teacher recruitment started in 2011 under RTE Act. However, in India only 15 percent of the candidates managed to clear the examination (Hindustan Times, 2015). Private teacher training institutes constitute 92 percent which acts primarily as business houses instead of providing constructive teacher training.

India failed to meet the Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education by 2015. In one of the largest states of the country Uttar Pradesh only 44.3 percent schools received textbooks, 13.2 percent schools have computers, 25 percent schools don’t have a playground, acute shortage of functional toilets especially for girls are concerns which require urgent attention. Increasing single teacher schools with 21638 schools in UP alone is affecting quality of school education to a feverish extent and deteriorating teacher training quality along with ad-hocism in teacher recruitment is adding to the gravity of the issues. The new sets, of UN SDGs (Sustainable Development goals) 2015-2030 to which India has committed universalization of education up to secondary level needs extension of RTE accordingly.  

Further what is required for achieving these ambitious goals is to solidify and strengthen community and local institutions for bridging the gaps and proving free and compulsory 12 years of school education. Strengthening joint collaboration of key stakeholders will be able to respond to the key challenges that may arise in the coming years and raise the profile of the issue of universalization of education as a human rights concern. Additional human and financial resources are needed, as well as organised coordination by way of more clearly defined political commitments reassuring implementation of RTE and making pre-school-secondary education a legal entitlement.  

Observations

Mr. Ambarish Rai; Convener- RTE Forum welcomed everyone. In his address mentioned that It is evident that, even after six years of enactment of RTE Act, its implementation status is very poor with less than 8% (6.4% in UP) of RTE compliant schools. Even though, at present government does not have any planned roadmap for its effective implementation. Without strengthening RTE Act, 2009 and its complete implementation within a new time limit, it will be difficult to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs). In context of UP, we demand that the state government must enhance its budget on education up to 25% of State budget. Education has to be made a political agenda and should be in the priority of the Nation’s development indicators. We can use the opportunity of upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and other states to draw the attention of political parties for their public commitment on education and mobilize masses for the same. Approximately 45% students are moving towards private schools which is a big issue for civil society as well as state govt. to think upon and take necessary action. WE have prepared a 15 Points manifesto which will be shared with different political partices so that they can incorporate them in their political manifesto.

Speaking on the occasion Ms. Juhie Singh, Chairperson; SCPCR said “Commission has been formed with the prime objective of ensuring rights of children and will ensure grounding of RTE Act in the state. Teachers of Government schools are committed and dedicated towards their expected role and responsibilities. There are several people passed from govt. school are successful in their life. Commission members are making spot visits to different districts so that no child shall be left of their rights. In this move active participation of all SMC members are required. In case of any denial of rights or complaint related to children any parent can approach us easily. SCPCR will act on the complaint immediately and try to resolve that as soon as possible. SCPCR is very prompt and serious for ensuring effective implementation of ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act. No child of the age group between 6-14 years will get denied of their rights.

Addressing the participants, Prof. Muchkund Dubey; former foreign secretary, GoI mentioned that to achieve Sustainable Development Goal, its pertinent to put conscious efforts in achieving Goal 4 which emphasizes on Inclusive and Quality Education and equal opportunity of learning to every child. He added that Right to Education Act should be core focal point of New Education Policy to implement it in its true sense. Both the deadlines (2013 & 2015) for compliances of provisions of Right to Education Act has been completed, Govt. need to be serious and prepare an action plan with a revised deadline to ensure all the provisions of RtE Act. He said that no country in the world can be a superpower or developed without making its all citizens well educated. At present India is very far from several developed and developing countries in terms of its expenditure on education of total budget. The government must enhance and ensure its budget appropriately to implement all the indicators under RTE Act in all schools with a new timeframe.

Mr. Sharad Chand Behar (IAS) - Former Chief Secretary- MP in his address mentioned that we have moved from Millennium Development Goal to Sustainable Development Goal, still lots need to be done and for that a robust action plan is required. 

Prof. Roop Rekha Verma; Ex- VC; Lucknow University emphasized that govt. should focus on a road map for common schooling system. For fulfilling the provisions of Right to Education Act, it is very crucial that all the stakeholders come together in a participatory mode.  

Mr. Ram Pal Singh; All India Primary Teachers’ Federation, mentioned that teacher plays a critical and key role in ensuring quality education to all children. Teachers must be qualified, dedicated and devoted in ensuring quality education. But at present, more than 10% schools are single teacher school; PTR is very poor and doesn’t fulfill the provision mentioned in RTE Act.  Teachers are being engaged in non-academic activities reflecting devastating effect on quality education. Teachers are integral part of education system as provider of education. Teachers must get a supportive and enabling environment under which they can give their best to the students and the society.

Dr. Niranjan Aradhya; educationist and activist, National Law School- Bangalore said that the new education policy being framed by the central government lacks its focus towards implementing the RTE Act in full spirit. It doesn’t address the basic concerns of disadvantaged and deprived sections of the society who need quality education with equal opportunities. He said that education is a tool for social change and upliftment and we can achieve real development of the society and the country only by making education inclusive for all. We have to strengthen our SMCs and developing appropriate linkages of communities with schools, teachers and education.  

Among other eminent speakers Ms. Tahira Hasan; All India Progressive Women’s Association; Ms. Renu Shukla; President- Anganwadi Supervisors Association; Mr. Kapil Dev Kesari; Dalit Action Group; Mr. Rama Kant Rai; National Coalition for Education; Dr. Veena Gupta, Educationist has also shared their views. In the occasion nearly 250 representatives from different districts of Uttar Pradesh which included members of SMCs, civil society organizations, social activists, educationists were present.

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