Thoughts on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008

Madhav Chavan’s thoughts on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008:
Via indianexpress.com

Should the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008 be passed in its current form without discussion? The HRD Ministry seems to be quite keen to get the Bill passed in this session. This almost certainly means that it will have to be rushed and passed without amendments. Normally, public reaction is invited on such bills by the parliamentary committees. But, in case of this Bill, which has been in the public domain for just under two months, no responses from the public have been invited. It is this author’s observation that state administrators, political leaders, and the public at large are unaware of the contents and implications of the Bill, which is going to impact practically every child in the country not only now but for years to come.

While the Bill has many details about setting up of and admission to schools, it does not adequately address the issue of attendance. Both, government commissioned and independent surveys indicate that while over 95% children are enrolled, the attendance against the school roster is only about 68 per cent in primary and 75 per cent in upper primary schools.

The Bill essentially assumes that if a school that does not charge fees is set up near a child’s home, and if trained teachers are appointed, education will happen. Just take a look at municipal schools in cities like Mumbai, and Delhi. The schools and trained teachers exist, but are all children getting education? A clause in the Bill categorically forbids holding back or failing a child in school. In most states it is already a practice not to fail children at least until Std III or V. The government would like it extended till Std VIII. Not failing a child is the right thing to do but what if the child does not learn what he/she is expected to?

In spite of this deplorable quality of education, the Bill is completely silent on any monitoring or accountability towards the quality of learning achievement. It says nothing about what should be done to help children who do not achieve even the basic skills and knowledge expected of them.

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