The recent decision of the Supreme Court proclaiming the validity of the Right to Education (RTE) act is a landmark judgement which can prove to be an effective tool to fill the cultural gap between poor and rich in the society, but it will be possible only when the centre and the state governments will not shy away from their responsibilities instead shedding on the shoulders of the private schools. Both the centre and the state governments are praising the Apex Court’s decision, but none of them are ready to explain us where the huge financial resource required for the proper implementation of the provisions of the law will come from. It is required to spend nearly Rs 2.30 lakh crores in a span of five years for the implementation of the provisions of the law and 65 percent of this sum has to be borne by the centre and the rest of 35 percent will have to be shared by the state governments. For the current financial year, the centre has allocated only Rs 25,000 crores to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Moreover, there are many other states which are not ready to bear their part of share of the expense which is 35 percent of the total expenditure. Some of them have not cared to issue a notification for the implementation of the ambitious RTE act. Given the reality, it is being felt that the historical law will eventually lose its significance and prove to be mere a means of show off for the government. It is hard to understand why the funds allocated for the implementation of the populist social welfare schemes motivated by the vote bank politics are not being diverted towards implementing the provisions of more effective RTE act.
There is a social stratum of the people having been badly trapped in the vicious circle of poverty. People of this section are even unable to send their children to schools, thus the scope of a quality education for them sounds distant. The RTE act is like a panacea for the problems being faced by the unprivileged people of the society regarding the education of their children. The act is vital in wiping out the curse of illiteracy prevalent among the children of the age group between 6 to 14 years coming from economically weaker section of the society, but unfortunately some of the organisations are raising their voices against it. Private schools and their organized bodies contended that RTE act was a breach of their fundamental right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. The Apex Court rejected such pleadings and ordered to implement the provisions of the act immediately. The green signal for the implementation of the act bears a great significance as the country has been waiting for such an initiative to end the social discrimination prevalent here.
The implementation of the act is capable in changing the face of the private schools as it will allow the 25 percent poor children to study with the rest of 75 percent children from affluent families in the same class simultaneously. A mere association of the children from the affluent families can help the poor to learn a lot. Even children with good family background will also be able to understand the hardship faced by the children from unprivileged families. But the challenge of filling the gap between the children of the two different strata of the society will have to be executed by the teachers. Most of the poor students in the private schools will be those who would have got their primary or nursery education at somewhere else. The teachers will need to be extra cautious about the children coming from entirely different background to prevent the chances of having inferiority complex among such children. If it is not prevented, the self-respect of such students will be hurt and there will be greater chances of the growth of frustration among them. If the children are not protected from the frustration and discrimination, it will be impossible to avoid its ramifications. English could be a problem for poor children as they are not used to this language. They can feel difficulties in understanding this particular language. It will be a nice idea to pay serious attention to these practical problems.
Actually the RTE act ensures education for poor students in the age group of 6 to 14 years. In the wake of this fact, we can’t ignore the questions raised by some of the educationists that after the standard VIII, who will be bearing the expenditure of education for these children. If such students are removed from the private schools after attaining 14 years of their age in the middle of their education, won’t they feel cheated? Likewise, if they are sent back to the government schools after 14 years of age, won’t it have a negative impact on their studies? These are some of the questions which need our serious attention. It is also possible that the extra cost of education for the 25 percent poor children of a school will have to be carried by 75 students who come from privileged families and they could be asked to pay more. If it is allowed to happen, the students of middle-class families will have to bear extra monetary burden. Though, the expenditure for the 25 percent poor students will be incurred by the centre and state governments but it will have its own limitations and the problem of extra burden on private schools could remain unresolved.
RTE act has a provision that private school teachers are not allowed to give private tuitions. The implementation of this provision is not possible as the system of private tuition has emerged as a very lucrative business in the country. In this context, the logic can’t be termed baseless that the salaries drawn by the average teachers are insufficient to fulfill their basic requirements. It is also a matter of fact that a large number of students are compelled to take private tuition due to some reasons. These are some of those students who find themselves unable to understand their subject in the class rooms and even teachers too avoid paying extra attention on their problems. On the contrary, it is also a fact that system of private tuitions are almost absent in the western countries. Clearly, we need to bring about radical changes in the educational system, besides implementation of the RTE act. It will be wise on the parts of the Supreme Court, the central and the state governments to contemplate over how to bring such radical changes in the educational system. As most of the government schools are in miserable condition which requires special attention of the state administration for their revival. Government schools not only lack the basic amenities but they also have great scarcity of teachers. This has forced a large number of students to leave the schools. As no concrete step is being taken to remove such anomalies, hence it is now pertinent to believe that despite the Apex Court’s ruling whether the state governments would act upon fulfilling their responsibilities.
(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on April 15, 2012 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)