HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BILL
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The 86th Constitution Amendment Act added Article 21A affirming that every child between the age of 6 and 14 years has the right to free and compulsory education. The Right to Education Bill seeks to give effect to this Amendment.
This page is organised as follows: The highlights of the Bill and the key issues to be considered are listed briefly first; the details of each are presented thereafter. Click here to see the highlights in details, and here to see the detailed analysis of key issues.
Government schools shall provide free education to all admitted children. Private schools shall admit at least 25% of children from weaker sections; no fee shall be charged to these children. Screening tests at the time of admission and capitation fees are prohibited for all children.
Government schools will be managed by School Management Committees (SMC), mostly composed of parents. Teachers will be assigned to a particular school; there will be no transfers.
The National Commission for Elementary Education shall be constituted to monitor all aspects of elementary education including quality.
KEY ISSUES AND ANALYSIS
(Read this section in detail)
Some experts criticize the Bill for not implementing the 'common school system' whereas others believe that even the 25% free seats required of private schools is not justifiable.
There is a concern that assigning teachers to a specific school will affect their chances of promotions and job security.
The Bill appears to be ambiguous on its applicability to schools administered by minorities.
The Bill needs to provide greater clarity regarding the rights of children with disabilities and how these will be implemented.
There is mixed evidence on the ability of SMCs in improving quality of schools and learning outcomes of children.
This Bill will cost the exchequer between Rs 3,21,000 crore to Rs 4,36,000 crore over six years in addition to the current expenditure on education. This is estimated to be an increase of between 1.1% and 1.5% of GDP.
The Supreme Court in the case Unnikrishnan vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (1993) ruled that the right to education is a fundamental right that flows from the right to life in Article 21 of the Constitution. Following this ruling, the 86th Constitution Amendment Act, 2002 added Article 21A, stating, "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 86th Amendment also modified Article 45, which now reads as "The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of 6 years". The Right to Education Bill, 2005 seeks to give effect to the 86th Constitution Amendment.
- Right of Every Child
Every child between the age of 6 and 14 years has the right to full-time free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school.
Non-enrolled children of age group 7-9 years have the right to be admitted in an age-appropriate grade within one year of the commencement of the Act, and of age group 9-14 years have the right to be provided special programmes that will enable them to attend such grade within three years.
Children with severe or profound disability, who are unable to attend a neighbourhood school, have the right to be provided education in an appropriate environment.
A child cannot be held back in any grade or expelled from a school till Class VIII. Any expulsion requires an order of the School Management Committee (SMC), which will be given only after all other corrective measures have been exhausted, and parents/guardians have been heard. The local authority will take steps to enroll such a child in another neighbourhood school.
- Responsibility of the State
The State shall ensure availability of a neighbourhood school for every child within three years. In case of non-availability, free transport or free residential facilities shall be provided. The state/UT government shall determine every year the requirement of schools, facilities, and their locations; establish additional schools as required; deploy teachers and create facilities for their training.
The State shall develop a mechanism to monitor enrolment, participation and attainment status of every child, and take corrective steps wherever required. Information in this regard will be made available in the public domain, including on an on-line basis.
- School Admissions
State schools and fully aided schools shall provide free education to all admitted children. Partly aided schools shall provide free education to at least such proportion of admitted children to the extent that government funds its annual expenses, subject to a minimum of 25%. Unaided schools and special category schools shall provide free education to at least 25% students; the government shall reimburse the school to the extent of the per child expenditure in government schools or the school fee, whichever is lower.
No school can conduct any screening procedure of any child or parents at the time of admission. Children will be selected for admission in a random manner. Capitation fees are prohibited.
- School Management
All non-government schools have to be recognized by a Competent Authority or shut down. The Bill specifies certain norms (such as teacher-student ratio, physical infrastructure etc) to be fulfilled by all schools as a pre-requisite for being recognized.
All State and aided schools are required to form School Management Committees (SMCs) with at least 75% of the members being parents/guardians, and the other members representing teachers, the community and the local authority. SMCs will manage the school, including the sanction of leave and disbursal of salary to teachers. The SMC/local authority shall also have the power to assess teachers' performance and impose minor punishment.
Teachers of state schools will be appointed to a specific school, and teachers already serving will be assigned to a specific school within two years. They will not be transferred from the school so assigned.
The teacher has the duty to transact and complete the curriculum, regularly assess the learning level of each child, provide supplementary instruction if required, and apprise every parent/guardian about the progress of learning and development of the child.
Teachers are prohibited from giving private tuitions. Teachers shall not be deployed for any non-educational purpose other than census, election and disaster relief duties.
- Content and Process
Schools and academic authorities formulating curriculum shall conform to the values enshrined in the Constitution. Schools should operate in a child friendly and child centred manner.
No child shall be required to appear at a public examination before completing Grade VIII. No child shall be awarded physical punishment in any form in school.
- National Commission for Elementary Education (NCEE)
NCEE shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Minister for Human Resources Development and Leaders of Opposition in the two Houses of Parliament.
NCEE shall monitor all aspects, including quality of education. It will act as Ombudsman for this Act.
- Other Major Provisions
No person shall prevent a child from participating in elementary education. No person shall employ or engage a child in a manner that renders her a working child.
It is the responsibility of every parent/guardian to enroll his child/ward who has attained the age of 6 years and above in a school and facilitate her completion of elementary education (till Grade VIII). If a parent/guardian persistently defaults in discharging this responsibility, the SMC may direct him to perform compulsory community service by way of child care in the school.
Any person who has a grievance about the establishment, provisioning and management of a school may submit a written representation to the SMC/ local authority, which shall take appropriate action and inform the applicant within 90 days. If the applicant is unsatisfied with such action, she may submit a representation to such authority as prescribed (by the state/UT/central government), which shall take appropriate action and inform the applicant within 90 days.
The state/UT government may form a State-level Regulatory Authority for inquiring into grievances which remain unredressed even after the steps mentioned above.
A child shall be admitted in Grade I only after attaining the age of five years and ten months before the beginning of the academic year.
The Bill specifies penalties for persons and schools contravening the provisions regarding capitation fees, screening tests, recognition and preventing children from participating in elementary education.
The central government shall provide financial assistance to state governments in accordance with such formula regarding sharing of costs as determined in consultation with state governments. The state government shall provide financial assistance to local authorities.
Though the draft Bill does not specify cost implications, a paper by the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) committee indicates a tentative estimation of total additional costs between Rs 3,21,000 crore and Rs 4,36,000 crore over six years.
PART B: KEY ISSUES AND ANALYSIS
Objectives of the Bill
The Bill has a clear objective that every child between the age of 6 and 14 years has the right to elementary education that is (a) free, (b) compulsory, (c) of equitable quality, and (d) available in her neighbourhood. This education will be available between Grade I and VIII, and provided at a recognized school satisfying specified norms. The Bill implies that there will be no non-formal schools and teachers will have to possess qualifications as defined in the National Council for Teacher Education Act, 1993.
Delivery of Education
The Bill seeks to provide education through a combination of government schools, aided schools and unaided (private) schools. Some educationists believe that the 'common school system' should have been adopted instead of the 25% quota in private schools. That is, all children from all strata of society in a locality should go to the same set of schools in that locality and receive free education. They believe that this will (a) improve the overall standards in government schools as the influential upper strata of society pushes for higher standards, (b) reduce the disparity of opportunity among children, and (c) lead to a better society as children from different sections mingle from an early age.
Another school of thought says that private schools have contributed significantly to the current educational apparatus in the country. These include not only the 'elite' private schools but also the non-elite private schools including unrecognized schools. Some micro-studies indicate that private schools constitute a significant proportion of schools in some poorer urban areas, and dismantling this infrastructure may be undesirable and impractical. Indeed, a number of non-elite private schools may be more cost efficient than government schools.
The Bill states that private schools have to provide 25% seats for weaker sections until Grade VIII. There is no obligation for continuation of education of such children in higher grades.
There are implementation issues with respect to the requirements of no capitation fee and no screening. The Bill states that private schools can be set up only after certification from a 'Competent Authority'. Critics argue that these may be laudable objectives but could offer scope for corruption by officials who will oversee these aspects. These rules could lead to interference in school management and an 'inspector raj' by the local authority.
Quality of Education
Every child has a right to education of "equitable quality". The term 'equitable quality' is not adequately defined. The Bill specifies norms for physical infrastructure (number of rooms, teachers, toilets etc) but does not outline expectations on learning outcomes. Given the no detention policy, there is a risk that the child progresses through to Grade VIII without acquiring necessary competencies. Some studies indicate that the current system has not ensured learning outcomes.
- Schools Established by Minorities
This Bill will be subject to Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution which provide the right to minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. The Bill needs to clarify whether the right of minorities to establish and administer schools is subject to the requirements of this Bill, including recognition norms, no-screening policy, 25% quota for weaker sections, etc.
- Child Labour
Though the Bill prohibits any person from preventing a child from participating in elementary education, it does not adequately address the issue of child labour. A child who both works at home and attends school faces the problem of 'double burden'. For example, the Bill ignores the issue of sibling care which deters elder siblings (typically girls) from attending school.
- Children with Disabilities
The Bill says that children with "severe or profound disability, [who] cannot be provided elementary education in a neighbourhood school, shall have the right to be provided education in an appropriate alternative environment as may be prescribed".
Whereas the Bill has detailed the norms required of a school (teacher-pupil ratio, buildings etc), it is silent on the facilities needed to enable children with disabilities to attend school (such as ramps, Braille readers, etc).
In this Bill, "disability" has the meaning assigned by the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, which does not include such other disabilities as defined by the National Trust Act, 1999 (autism and cerebral palsy). Also, this definition does not include children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia who require special attention and teaching methods.
The CABE committee note assumes 2.7% of children to be disabled, and 0.3% to be severely disabled. An amount of Rs 2,000 per child per year in the former case and Rs 50,000 in the latter case is assumed to be required to meet the educational costs of these disabled children .
Monitoring and Evaluation
School Management Committees
SMCs will monitor and oversee the working of the school, manage its assets, utilise grants to disburse teacher salary and for the upkeep and development of the school, and monitor teacher performance (including granting leave, providing regular assessment reports, and imposing minor punishment).
The evidence in Karnataka for the performance of School Development and Monitoring Committees is mixed. International experience with SMCs does not present conclusive evidence of improvement in quality of schools . It is arguable whether all SMCs would have the capability to manage the assets of the school and carry out administrative functions such as disbursement of salary etc. Also, the constitution of SMCs does not mention women members or term of office for members.
The Bill states that if a parent/guardian fails to enroll his child in school, the SMC may impose a penalty by way of compulsory child care. Since the responsibility for ensuring schooling for all children lies with the local authority, it may be appropriate for the local authority (rather than the SMC) to be given the responsibility of penalizing such parents.
Teachers will belong to a school-based cadre. They will not be transferred to another school. The system of school based cadre has implications for the career progression of teachers, as well as on job security (for example, in a scenario where a school closes down on account of a reduction in the number of children in a habitation).
The teacher is expected to approach the SMC/local authority for redressal of grievances. The teacher does not have a redressal mechanism if he has a complaint against the SMC or the local authority.
The CABE report suggests that the implementation of the Bill will require an additional amount between Rs 3,21,000 crore and Rs 4,26,000 crore over six years -- an annual average of Rs 53,500 crore to Rs 72,700 crore in addition to the Rs 47,100 crore that is being spent on elementary education currently (2003-04) . The amount budgeted to be raised by the Education Cess in 2005-06 is Rs 6,875 crore, and assuming this grows at the nominal GDP growth (assumed at 12.2% by the CABE Committee for its calculations), it would cover just 15-20% of the additional requirement.
Estimates of additional funding requirements
The report also points out that state governments may be fiscally constrained from funding incremental expenditure as required to implement the provisions of this Bill, and the entire burden may have to be borne by the central government. This would imply an estimated increase of 6.4%-8.5% to the central government's annual budget.