The Right To Education (RTE) Act was brought into effect in 2009 and ever since it has been mired in controversies. It is argued that the act in its present form favours some communities by exempting them from stringent rules prescribed in it.
- These rules, many of which have been severely criticised, are however applied to schools run by other communities. The no-detention policy is one such provision.
What is no detention policy?
According to this provision “no child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class”. This translates into automatic promotions to the next class every year until Class VII. Instead of exams, schools are supposed to hold Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluations (CCE) for every child.
Problems associated with this provision:
In practise, the CCE turned out to be a big disaster in the absence of adequate resources including number of teachers, seamless processes and a supportive ecosystem. A survey in 2015 indicated that nearly 20% of all teachers had not even heard of the CCE and where they had heard of evaluation they did not receive adequate manuals or training.
Without adequate checks, assessments or measurements teachers were found to be slacking off. Overall, the no-detention policy has caused a severe deterioration in learning outcomes.
What experts say?
The provision had attracted criticism with several states and schools complaining that it compromised on academic rigour and learning levels and quality at schools. Most recently the TSR Subramanian committee for formulation of the National Policy on Education has also suggested that ‘no detention’ policy should be discontinued after Class V. It had recommended restoration of detention provision,remedial coaching and two extra chances to each student such to move to a higher class.
- A sub-committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education also studied the issue closely and recommended a provisional detention clause at Classes V and VIII. In 2013, a parliamentary panel had also asked the ministry to ‘rethink’ on its “policy of automatic promotion up to Class VIII”.
- Most states favour doing away with ‘no detention’. However, Goa, Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra have opposed the scrapping of the policy, pointing out that dropout rates decreased very significantly after mass promotions were allowed.
Why no detention policy should be retained?
The ‘no detention’ provision is made because examinations are often used for eliminating children who obtain poor marks. Once declared ‘fail’, children either repeat grade or leave the school altogether. Compelling a child to repeat a class is demotivating and discouraging.
There are also very strong equity considerations behind the NDP policy, especially for children from low-income families, and girls. Failure for these children implies dropping out. In fact, wastage in the schooling system due to high repetition and high dropout rates has been a major concern since the 1990s. The no-detention clause in the RTE Act seeks to address that concern.
Besides, research evidence indicates that detention of students by a year or more does not improve learning.
Hence, this provision should be retained.
The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine. It means that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards. It came into effect on 1 April 2010.
The RTE Act provides for the:
- Right of children to free and compulsory education till completion of elementary education in a neighbourhood school.
- It clarifies that ‘compulsory education’ means obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to every child in the six to fourteen age group. ‘Free’ means that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.
- It makes provisions for a non-admitted child to be admitted to an age appropriate class.
- It specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local authority and parents in providing free and compulsory education, and sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments.
- It lays down the norms and standards relating inter alia to Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, school-working days, teacher-working hours.
- It provides for rational deployment of teachers by ensuring that the specified pupil teacher ratio is maintained for each school, rather than just as an average for the State or District or Block, thus ensuring that there is no urban-rural imbalance in teacher postings. It also provides for prohibition of deployment of teachers for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to local authority, state legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.
- It provides for appointment of appropriately trained teachers, i.e. teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.
- It prohibits (a) physical punishment and mental harassment; (b) screening procedures for admission of children; (c) capitation fee; (d) private tuition by teachers and (e) running of schools without recognition.
- It provides for development of curriculum in consonance with the values enshrined in the Constitution, and which would ensure the all-round development of the child, building on the child’s knowledge, potentiality and talent and making the child free of fear, trauma and anxiety through a system of child friendly and child centred learning.
How effective has RTE been?
Surveys have revealed that the levels of awareness about RTE were quite deplorable in many rural areas. Many in rural areas are still unaware of this constitutional provision which guarantees children their right to education.
What needs to be done?
With multiple drawbacks it is clear that to achieve sarv shiksha is an unfeasible task and remains an eyewash. Hence there is an urgent need to strengthen delivery mechanisms in school education, especially at the grass-roots level. And, there is a need to create greater awareness at the community level to implement various provisions of the RTE Act. When a community is more aware of provisions, they will be able to claim what is due to them. This would help in effective implementation of this Act, not only in letter but also in spirit.
RTE Act can be strengthened by the following:
- Effective implementation of existing provisions of the RTE Act is required and engagement of civil society may be further strengthened to make it more effective.
- Minimum pupil-teacher ratio should be maintained in each school as per the provisions. This will be possible by recruiting more qualifi ed and trained teachers.
- Enough funds should be allocated to develop infrastructural facilities in schools.
- In order to make RTE more effective, it is necessary to establish modality through which the RTE Act is protected and a system needs to be evolved to deal with lacunae in implementation.
- Though the RTE Act has a provision for including overage children in its ambit, in reality this is not happening; hence proper groundwork needs to be initiated with the help of civil society to meet targets.
- Achieving the goal of equitable, quality education for all requires progress along multiple dimensions such as better policy, stronger political commitment, superior implementation, and higher community involvement.
- Advocacy needs to be done by which states should ensure all sanctioned posts of teachers are filled up immediately to achieve targets.
It is time that the central and state governments carry out a thorough review of the RTE and take remedial action. There is diffused responsibility and lack of accountability in states towards goals set by the Centre. Co-ordinated action is indeed lacking and implementation tends to fall between two stools. A greater level of seriousness on all sides is the need of the hour. Like many attempted social changes in India, this too has to start at the community level, requires a widespread change of an age-old mindset and must make people at the helm of affairs accountable.