Kumar Ratan – Neu Delhi
PoliTeknik: Can you please tell our readers, what is the constitutional status of Right to Education in India?
Ram Pal Singh: India being the signatory to Dakar declaration made elementary education a fundamental right by amended the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) during 2002. Act, 2002 to include Article 21A which states as under:
“21A. The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.”
The enforcement of RTE Act (April 2010) came after sustained popular mobilization by a wide range of civil society organizations and networks, including teachers’ unions. The Indian Constitution now provides free and compulsory education for children between the ages of 6 and 14. It aims to bring out-of-school children into the formal education system, and there is a special effort to include children from disadvantaged groups and those with disabilities.
PoliTeknik: How is the implementation of RTE Act 2009 in India?
Ram Pal Singh: The implementation of constitutional amendment and Right to Education Act 2009 is still sluggish and not all the children are in the schools. The DISE (District Information on School Education) data is a surprising report which reveals that the progress of elementary education is dubious and there is something inherently wrong in the enrolment of children. The ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act’ seems a far dream for all the children of this country.
PoliTeknik: Has India achieved the goal of universal elementary education?
Ram pal Singh: No India has not achieved the goal of Universal Elementary Education so far. As per National Coalition for Education (NCE), estimate over 34.5 million children covered by the RTE Act were not enrolled in school.
PoliTeknik: In your opinion why enrolment of children is increasing in private schools in India, even if private schools does not adhere to RTE Act completely?
Ram Pal Singh: The government schools are having vacant position of teachers, poor governance and deployment of teachers in non-teaching activities results in Govt schools less attractive to parents. This is resulting in gradual increase of enrolment on private schools
PoliTeknik: What are the factors contributing to quality education?
Ram Pal Singh: Conducive learning environment in government run schools is highly essential for effective learning to take place. All of you know that presently Government schools particularly primary and upper primary schools are ailing from inadequate infrastructure, shortage of teaching workforce, non-availability of electricity connection, etc. Schools in backward areas are even more deficient in terms of facilities for the more vulnerable groups. Further, there is lack of equity. The weaker is the group, the more neglected is its education. Unfortunately the present system rather removing inequalities is further increasing the gap between education of children belonging to rich families and education of children from the disadvantaged groups of society. There can be no quality education without equal education for all.
PoliTeknik: What is your view on privatization of education in India?
Ram Pal Singh: India is no exception to the world-wide trend of educational privatisation, the growth of private schools, and the rise in corporate involvement in public and private schools. Today, India is an emerging market for global corporations like Pearson, international chains like Bridge International Academies, corporate foundations like Dell and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and international consultants and venture capital firms encourage and invest in for-profit commercial ventures in the school sector especially targeted at low-income and working class communities that represents, for them, a vast untapped market.
PoliTeknik: What is All India Primary Teachers’ Federation (AIPTF) concern on privatization of education?
Ram Pal Singh: Elementary Education being the state responsibility is being shifted to private players who are running schools for profit. We believe that creation of multiple strands of schooling for the fees paying rich and the poor, would amount to allowing a certain class of society monopolizing opportunities. This vision of equal opportunity is a universal right recognized by multiple international treaties that India is signatory to, and cannot be seen as limited by the right of adults, political or business groups.
PoliTeknik: What do you suggest for strengthening Government education system in India?
Rampal Singh: First of all the government should be implementing RTE Act 2009 in words and spirit. There is need of recruitment of permanent teacher with respected amount of remuneration, so that they could pay more interested in delivering proper education to the children. Government should build more and more school at the easily accessible distance and do not let private group to perform the job what government should perform.
The new education policy should be made in line with commitments of SDG 4. There should be sufficient budgetary allocation for elementary education. For this recommendation of Kothari Commission should be accepted by Government of India.