Several team members at InOpen attended a public lecture at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (TISS), and here’s what they had to say!
About the speaker
The public lecture titled “ Right to Education- Where do we go from here ?” was conducted by Dr. Archana Mehendale, who is a Visiting Associate Professor at the School of Education, TISS. Revered in her field, Dr. Mehendale has been extensively involved in policy discussions with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Her areas of research have included the implementation of specific provisions under RTE such as monitoring child rights, regulation of private schools, and the inclusion of marginalised children. She has worked in the field of Child Rights for over 15 years now, and was a member of the working Group established by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
What was the Right To Education Act of 2009?
Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, (shortened to RTE) is an act of parliament which was enacted on 4 August 2009, and came into force on 1 April 2010. It guarantees to provide Free and Compulsory Education to all children between the age group of 6-14 years.
Overview of the talk:
Over the past few years, the 86th Constitutional Amendment (a precursor to RTE) and the RTE have together dominated various policy decisions made with regards to education. As with most policies, whereas the content and intent of the policy document is often very promising, it is in the implementation where the system often falters. Dr. Mehendale provided an ‘insider’s’ perspective on the key concerns related to the application of RTE. She explored the manner and modes of its operationalisation and interpretations through the lens of child rights, privatization of schools, and quality of Education. The lecture was also engaging in its discussion of new developments that have been taking place at the policy level, and explored how we ought to reconceptualize the architecture of RTE given the flux of changes experienced in this sector.
The speaker gave us a brief idea about the history of events that led to enactment of Right to Education Act. References were made to Unnikrishnan Judgement, 86th constitutional Amendment, and Article 21 A.
According to Dr.Mehendale, RTE has both reinforced and diluted directives that have existed across a number of existing policies. For example, it has positively reinforced the system of Continuous and Comprehensive Education (CCE), formally introduced in the National Policy on Education (NPE) of 1986. Other policy alignment can be seen in the sections against corporal punishment, and not allowing teachers to take private tuition classes.
In contrast, there are cases where the RTE has worsened what has previously existed. For instance, formal recognition of a school requires an ‘essentiality certificate’ which ensures that the school in question is in fact going to serve public interest. An essentiality certificate is not required by the RTE. Dr. Mehendale went on to present several anecdotes that exemplified the more disappointing aspects, such as the miserable state of various committees, and how the Government is not ready to constitute committees which actually monitor the implementation of RTE. In addition, there appears to be a federal disconnect, wherein there is great disparity in how different states are implementing this the RTE.
The speaker left us with the following vision/solutions to the key issues arising in the implementation of RTE:
1) We need a unified vision.
We need to seriously consider and answer for ourselves important questions related to what should children do, at what and up to what age children should attend school, who is eligible to be the teacher, and all such questions that bring us to poke and prod at the assumed axioms.
2) Strengthening Federal relations (Center-State Relations)
3) Pay attention to Schools
At the end of the day, no matter what the purple prose in our policies, change is really borne out of action at the grass-roots level. School management and leadership, as well as the teachers, play a major role in mediating the policies, and ultimately determine how the policy gets translated to action.
Editor’s note: For us at InOpen, these are questions and thoughts that unavoidable. If we are to bring meaningful changes in the way we conduct computer science education, there needs to be a paradigm shift int he way we prioritize our educational values. Our values as a nation are reflected in our policies. The call to action is to think critically about the concerns about The call to action is to equip ourselves with the information, and then formulate an opinion on the direction in which we are headed. Are we better or worse of, and how? With these thoughts in mind, we urge you to educate yourself further on the RTE! You are invited to explore the Department of School Education & Literacy page, as well as these additional resources on knowing the RTE and discussion on RTE (UNICEF).