Our state is yet to achieve its target of free and fair compulsory education for a child in the age group of six to fourteen years as the state has failed to achieve the target & done little in implementation of Right to Education (RTE) Act. The legislation already has completed little more than four years, but not all the directives are properly implemented. The state Department already had made it mandatory to pass ‘Teachers Eligibility Test’ and conducted TET examinations for aspirant teachers to be able to teach classes 1 t0 8, no detention policy or not failing students up to standard eight. Some areas needs to be highlighted – collection of capitation fees, corporal punishment, admission screening procedures including tests of the aspiring students and reservation of 25% of seats at the entry level except for unaided minority schools for students from economically weaker sections and disadvantageous groups. The RTE Act, further set the guidelines to all schools for infra structural facilities within the stipulated frame of three years.
Four years after the implementation of the RTE Act, the status of the schools do not reflect a rosy picture. The Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCFPC), which is the nodal monitoring Body, expressed concerns and lamented that the provisions of the RTE Act are yet to be implemented in true spirit. There is a gap between various clauses prescribed in the act and actual implementation. The physically challenged students either are remaining deprived from mainstream education or inclusive system; sometimes they have to knock the Honorable Court to intervene in their entry level. The schools further are not well equipped with infra-structural facilities as most of the schools still do not have ramps, separate toilets for girls and boys, play grounds, and special teachers/educators or adequate teacher to maintain teacher –pupil ratio. The state has failed to ensure that all schools have facilities for students with special learning needs. It has become more important with the ‘no failing students’; the teachers have misunderstood the non-detention policy as ‘no examination pattern’. The schools have not yet received the government resolution related to new evaluation system and teachers are confused to apply the Continuous and comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) pattern at the elementary stage. Due to lack of coordination between the education department and teachers, the non-detention policy may become a potential threat to the overall growth of the children as there is a fall in the ‘learning outcome’. Student’s ability to read or write/solve simple mathematical problems is falling drastically.
Last year the Supreme Court has taken an important step towards universal education by ruling that “Provisions of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantageous and weaker sections is ,therefore, not merely the responsibility of schools run or supported by the appropriate government , but also of schools which are not dependent on government funds’, it further added that “ The right of a child should not be restricted only to free and compulsory education but should be extended to have quality education without any discrimination on social, economic and cultural background”. All these are possible with proper implementation of RTE clauses in a war footing.
Dr. Utpala Konwar is Professor of National Council of Educational Research and training, New Delhi-16.