How right is the right?

Skimming through some videos on ‘Right to education’, I fell upon a few really amazing ones. One which particularly caught my attention was this one by UNICEF.

An idealistic video that truly fulfills the purpose of advertisement and is extremely inspirational. But how far has the implementation of Right to education been really successful and does it paint that pretty a picture as the video suggests? Are the (economically backward) parents themselves, leave alone the whole village eager to send their kids to study? They always see their kids as breadwinners…in fact that’s the main motive behind having kids at the first place.

I still remember the heart wrenching story of 10 year old Sumit Jotra, who had auditioned for Dance India Dance. He would work as a shoe-shiner rather than study to earn for his family. This is just the story of one child but? How many more have I missed?

The highlights of the act:- 1.It makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and specifies minimum norms in elementary schools.
2.It requires all private schools to reserve 25% of seats to children from poor families.
3.It also prohibits all unrecognized schools from practice, and makes provisions for no donation or capitation fees and no interview of the child or parent for admission.
4.The Act also provides that no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education.
5.There is also a provision for special training of school drop-outs to bring them up to par with students of the same age.

Let’s concentrate on the first three points first and reflect on how practical they are. Will the economically disadvantaged children really be able to cope up with the rest of the counterparts? How can one ignore the psychological trauma which even though minor can have a deep impact? Secondly, as much commendable the efforts on the part of the government seem, at a closer glance it is evident that they have clearly kept the whole situation skewed especially after refusing to reimburse the private schools yet making it compulsory for them to follow the guidelines. The quality automatically takes a backseat thus. Free Education at What Cost? The teachers too face a backbreaking and uphill task training the lesser competent students with meager facilities. While there might be a case of success or two, there are many that seem to be suffering a great deal.

Thus the whole act will affect the quality as much as it will enhance the quantity. I feel that concentrating on the qualitative aspects by keeping a special remedial coaching for these lesser fortunate students and reimbursing themselves rather than laying the burden on the already burdened private schools, improving the rural teacher training, the assessment patterns, regular and rigorous inspections and the media influence will truly make the RTE act flourish in a much more better way.

It’s important to realize that the act implementation is not just about cute kids, loving and patient teachers and  schools surrounded by beautiful landscapes as shown by the advertisements…

They’re about many more things.

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