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Right to Education to be reality in JK soon

Implementation, Litigation, Right to Education


Greater Kashmir

The Right to Education (RTE) is expected be a reality in Jammu and Kashmir as the proposed legislation, guaranteeing children their right to quality elementary education, has been cleared by the Finance and Planning departments.
Highly placed sources in the state Education department informed Greater Kashmir that the Central Right to Education Act (RTEA) is likely to be adopted in totality in the State with prime focus on regulation of private schools and providing schools within the shortest possible distance to enable each and every child to have access to free primary education.
The legislation, presently prepared in the form of an Ordinance by the Higher Education Department, has been cleared by the Planning and Finance Departments and it has now been forwarded to the Law Department for vetting, sources said.
“The Ordinance has been prepared in consultation with the experts to ensure that the Central Act is adapted in letter and spirit and the benefit percolates to all,” they added.
The Law Department is studying the Ordinance to ensure it does not have any legal implications or loopholes. After examining the legalities of the proposed Ordinance, the Law Department will send it back to the Higher Education Department after which it will be placed before the Cabinet for final nod.
“We are awaiting clearance from the Law Department. The moment we receive it, it will be placed before the Cabinet,” Secretary Education, Hridesh Kumar Singh, told Greater Kashmir.
Meanwhile, sources informed that the prime focus of the government is to regulate the private schools regarding their fee structure, infrastructure, staff salary and other facilities being provided to the students.
“Many private schools in the state do not have the required infrastructure and other facilities as needed under the Right to Education Act,” they said adding, “They will be given some time to upgrade their infrastructure and make up for other requisite facilities.”
“Free and compulsory education up to 8th class, thrust on quality education, schools within the shortest possible distance, especially in far-flung areas and minimum rooms and teachers required for a school, are the other priority areas of the government,” sources said adding, “The government is also mulling to engage trained teachers only after a particular time.”

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When Schools Depend on Handouts

Government run schools, Litigation

Earlier this month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that he and five other wealthy individuals had raised $1.5 million to reinstate the January Regents exams, which New York State had canceled because of budget cuts.

Although praiseworthy as a matter of personal philanthropy, the donation by the mayor and the others, whose names were not disclosed, is highly distressing as a matter of public policy. It is disgraceful that essential components of our public education system now depend on the charitable impulses of wealthy citizens.

At least 23 states have made huge cuts to public education spending this year, and school districts are scrambling to find ways to cope. School foundations, parent-teacher organizations and local education funds supported by business groups and residents contribute at least $4 billion per year to help public schools throughout the country.

In New York City, families and philanthropies are asked to pay for classroom supplies and music and art lessons. In Lakeland, Fla., a church provided $5,000 worth of supplies for an elementary school’s resource room, and paid for math and English tutors. The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District voted in December to accept corporate sponsorships and to allow the placement of corporate logos on cafeteria walls and in ball fields.

Many schools that have already reduced hours, increased class sizes and eliminated electives are also now charging fees for workbooks, use of lab equipment and other basic instructional materials; extracurricular activities long considered essential are now available only to students who can afford them.

In Medina, Ohio, The Wall Street Journal reported, it now costs $660 for a child to play on a high school sports team, $200 to join the concert choir and $50 to act in the school play. High school students in Overland Park, Kan., pay a $120 “activity programming fee” and a $100 “learning resources fee.” In Naperville, Ill., they are charged textbook and workbook fees, even for basic requirements like English and French, according to The Chicago Tribune.

In some cases, students from impoverished backgrounds are exempted from these payments if the class is required, but must pay for Advanced Placement courses or sports and other extracurricular activities. If they can’t pay, they miss out.

Public education was built on the philosophy articulated by Horace Mann, the Massachusetts reformer who pioneered the Common School: a system “one and the same for both rich and poor” with “all citizens on the same footing of equality before the law of land.” Today, that vision of equality is in jeopardy.

As anti-union sentiment continues to spread, politicians may wrongly assume that education cutbacks mainly affect the salaries and benefits of teachers. In reality, it is the students who pay the dearest price. Some California districts have reduced the number of days in the school year; in Miami, 4,500 students will be deprived of after-school programs this year; Texas has cut pre-kindergarten programs for 100,000 children. The poor are, unsurprisingly, disproportionately affected: Pennsylvania’s education cuts amounted to $581 per student in the poorest 150 school districts, but only $214 per student in the wealthiest 150 districts.

Not every state will have a Bloomberg to step in, not every school has a P.T.A. with the resources to help out, and not every child has a family that can afford fees. Depending on private contributions is inequitable and unconstitutional; public financing should fully support public education.

Most state constitutions, in fact, guarantee all students a sound, basic public education. These constitutional rights cannot be put on hold, even in tough times. It is unconstitutional to call on parents to pay for textbooks and lab fees for required courses. And art, music, sports, basic educational support services and many extracurricular activities that promote learning, creativity and character are not luxuries; they, too, are essential features of a sound, basic education.

California acknowledged as much last December when it settled a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging illegal school fees. Officials ordered school districts to halt the practice and to refund the fee money they had collected. While schools in California now must eliminate textbook and activity fees, affluent children whose parents can afford to reinstate teaching positions will continue to have more educational opportunities than their poorer counterparts.

A number of judges have begun to respond to the devastation in state education financing: in May, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature to reinstate $500 million in funds for poor urban districts, and last month, a North Carolina judge blocked cuts that would have decimated financing for a statewide preschool program.

The courts are doing their job, but litigation is time-consuming and expensive. Politicians have a constitutional obligation to protect public education. They need to ensure that adequate public funds are available, and the people need to hold them accountable for doing so.

The New York Times, August 25, 2011


Chennai govt moves SC, challenges HC order on uniform syllabus


CHENNAI: The state government on Tuesday filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court challenging the order of the Madras high court asking it to implement Samacheer Kalvi ( uniform syllabus education system ) in schools across Tamil Nadu.

In its order on Monday, the Madras HC struck down Section 3 of the Uniform System of School Education (Amendment Act 2010), passed by the AIADMK government, as unconstitutional. Section 3 sought to defer the implementation of Samacheer Kalvi, introduced by the previous DMK regime, for academic year 2011-12 .

In its appeal, the state government is likely to take the same stand as it did in the HC that the amendment did not contemplate indefinite postponement but implementation within a reasonable time. The AIADMK government will also take the stand that the Samacheer Kalvi syllabus was not up to the required standard.

School education minister C Ve Shanmugam , secretary D Sabitha and advocate general A Navaneethakrishnan are in New Delhi for the appeal. Senior counsel P P Rao is likely to appear for the state, though sources said other senior advocates from the Supreme Court were also being consulted. The case is expected to come up for hearing on Thursday.

Ending nearly two months of uncer tainty about the common school syl labus, the Madras high court on Mon day ordered the implementation of Samacheer Kalvi from Classes 1 to 10 and directed that the prescribed textbooks be distributed to schools by July 22.

Now, with the state government deciding to appeal against this judgement in the Supreme Court, it looks like the deadline will not be met.

Nearly 10 crore textbooks have been printed and dis patched to godowns across the state. With just two more days to go for the deadline the state government has still not issued or ders to the regional godowns for the distri bution of textbooks to schools.

In May, before the assembly election re sults were announced, the Tamilnadu Text book Society sent out book order forms to schools through the officials concerned, in cluding the inspector of matriculation schools and the chief educational officer.

These officials then handed over the forms to zonal school, which co-ordinate ac tivities for around 10 schools in their vicin ity. While schools were still in the process of placing orders, the new AIADMK regime postponed the implementation of the Samacheer Kalvi syllabus.

“We expect fresh orders to be taken to fig ure out the number of books each school would require. Whether the Supreme Court admits the state government’s petition or not it seems unlikely that all schools will get text books by July 22. I don’t think the Tamilnadu Textbook Society will take up the responsi bility of delivering the books. We will be asked to queue up in front of the respective regional godowns,” said the principal of a matricula tion school in the city.

An official at the Chennai district godown in Taramani, who declined to be named, said, “We have stocked enough number of Samacheer Kalvi textbooks and also those based on the old syllabus. They are ready for distribution and can be delivered to all schools within a few days. But we are yet to receive any news on which textbooks to dis tribute. Also, private schools have not placed any orders with us.”

The Times of India, July 20, 2011


Detaining students damages psyche

Litigation, Right to Education

The court ruling in the Don Bosco matriculation higher secondary school case should come as a wake up call to other schools that detain a child in a class for more than a year. Stakeholders second the Madras high court ruling, which says that a school cannot fail a student below class VIII under the Right To Education Act.

Stakeholders agree that detaining a student in a class damages both the student’s psyche and progress. Educationist SS Rajagopalan, with 34 years of experience in schools, says, “Detention and punishment has never increased the learning capabilities of a child. Repeating a class only makes a child duller and psychologically upset as the child is teased by his peer group and not accepted by his classmates.”

When he was headmaster of a school, he had tried an experiment in which students were not detained for six consecutive years. “Ultimately, we got a 73% pass percentage, which was quite high then. Late blooming is quite common. You cannot find out if a child is a good student or not at an early age,” he says.

The school education department had sent circulars in April saying a school could not fail more than 15% of the students in a class. It has allowed schools to set their own minimum pass mark in all classes except in classes X and XII. “We are in an age when grading is being introduced in board exams, then why still squabble over a mark here or a mark there?” says a parent.

Many school heads feel that it is the duty of the school to see that the child is able to cope with his studies till he is old enough to understand his duties and responsibilities. “When a child in a lower class is failed, he immediately turns to tutorial centres,” says B Purushothaman, correspondent of Everwin matriculation higher secondary school in Kolathur.

He says there is no need for schools to fail students up to class VIII. “It is unacceptable that a school can’t get a young child to pass a school exam. Most often a teacher who has been tracking a child over the year has a preconceived notion of the child’s capabilities and tends to correct answer scripts with this in mind. It is a school’s responsibility to make every child bloom,” Purushothaman says.

M Ramya, The Times of India, June 9, 2010


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