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RTE’s no-detention clause under review

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The New Indian Express
Feb 8, 2013

Following discussions with education ministers from all states, a committee has been formed by the HRD ministry to take a re-look into certain aspects of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, including the “no-detention” clause that many educationists felt was pulling down quality. Speaking at the ‘ThinkEdu’ conclave, Jitin Prasada, Minister of State for Human Resource Development, said the Centre was aware of suggestions that have poured in on improving the law. “A committee has been formed, which is going deep into issues such as the continuous assessment of children and the no-detention clause. It will soon submit its findings,” he said.

He was responding to an engaging debate on whether the RTE Act was the way out for the many difficulties that the school education sector was facing. Chairing the discussion, Rakesh Bharti Mittal of the Bharti Foundation, flagged concerns on the quality of teaching in classrooms. While states have recruited more teachers given the increase in the Gross Enrolment Ratio, the problem is that a sizable section of those teachers are inefficient and do not go to classrooms. He said the norms governing recognition of schools should be relaxed for non-profit and charitable organisations.

Chairperson of the Institute of Human Rights Education, Vasanti Devi, said the fundamental flaw in the RTE was the abdication of the concept of common schools. “We cannot achieve universality and quality unless all students study in the same classroom,” she said.

E S Ramamurthy, founder of Sikshana, pointed out that the centralisation of decision making in the education sector was hurting quality. This was not the case in the past. “Teachers had a lot of freedom and classes were not regimental,” he recalled. The independence was such that school prescribed their own textbooks rather than sticking to what was prescribed. “We have achieved decentralisation in the executive where powers have been largely delegated to the panchayats. Why can’t we do this in the education sphere? Leave the decisions to the local level,” he remarked.

Ambarish Rai, convenor of People’s Campaign for Common School System, said a large number of students have been excluded from the RTE as it caters only to the age group of 6 to 14. The duty of educating those between 0 to 6 years is left to the Integrated Child Development Scheme, where qualified trainers are hard to find.

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