Right to Education Act, India : The Challenges Ahead

Right to Education Act is one of the most prestigious acts to have been passed in Indian history but implementing it is not going to be a cake walk and there are various challenges ahead. Take a look at them here.

It would be premature to comment on whether or not the Right to Education Act (RTE) will achieve its objectives but it sure is going to be an uphill task despite the promising speech of the prime minister and the enforced act. Transformation cannot take place without a beginning.

The Act has now become a reality and there is an atmosphere of jubilation, anticipation and enthusiasm all around. It is the first step taken but more need to be followed to reach anywhere. Inclusive Education had become the need of the hour. The road ahead is not going to be an easy one and implementing the Act fairly, poses a major challenge involving creative and sustained efforts.

Let us look into some of the challenges but before that , here is a brief overview.

Right to Education Act : A synopsis

Here are some of the highlights of the historic Right to Education Act

*Every child in the age group of 6 to 14 years will have a right to free and compulsory education in a nearby school.
* Private and unaided educational institutes will have to keep 25% of the seats for students belonging to the weaker sections.
* No child would be failed or expelled and will not be required to pass any board examination till the age of 14.
*All students who complete their elementary education will be awarded certificates
* Financial burdens will be shared between the center and states.
*Infrastructure of schools will be improved; Recognition will be subject to improvement
*Quality of education will be improved

Challenges Ahead:

Right to Education Act: Financial Challenges

The Right to Education Act is already plagued with various financial hurdles and challenges. The fiscal burden is to be shared between the center and the states in the ratio of 55 : 45 and 90 : 10 for the North-Eastern States. This project is going to involve funds to the tune of Rs. 15,000 crores. Many states have already voiced their inability to mobilize funds and entered into a dispute with the center. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and many states have expressed that they would not be able to implement the Act in the absence of funds from the center. Orissa in fact wants the same status enjoyed by the North Eastern states with respect to the Act. The success as far is the financial issues are concerned largely depends upon the center-state cooperation.

The ambitious project is already falling short of around Rs.7.000 crores in the very first year itself.

Since the Act involves improving the infrastructure of schools, training teachers, creating more facilities besides the manifold increase in intake, huge finances would be involved and it is difficult to envisage how the economics of it all will be worked out.

Right to Education Act : Challenge to Find Qualified Teachers

The dearth of good and qualified teachers is going to be one of the most crucial challenges faced in implementing the act. In the absence of competent teachers who are considered the pillars of education, it would be next to impossible for the Act to realistically achieve its goals. It is a fact that at any given point, about 25% teachers are on leave in India and a majority of them are unable to do full justice to their professions due to a myriad of reasons.

As it is evident from the Act that school drop outs and others would be brought back into the education stream again, it would entail hiring almost double the number of teachers. It would be a challenge to find quality teachers without any performance based salaries or any incentives. The salary mechanism will need some serious revisions and the disparities removed before any influx of efficient teachers can take place. It is going to be a challenge to bridge the gap even by introducing teacher's training programs.

According to a teacher of a reputed school in Delhi, there are hundreds of students in one class and there is a huge gap between the training imparted to teachers and what they practice on ground.

Our HRD Minister himself has acknowledged that there is a shortage of about five lakh teachers. In the face of this, how will it fulfill its promise of providing quality education to all? It is going to be a huge challenge.

Right to Education Act : Challenge to provide Infrastructure

In a survey on 'Elementary Education in India', conducted by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), it has been found that almost half of the recognized elementary schools in the country do not have separate toilet for girls. This goes out to prove and depict the sorry state that our schools are in. It is going to be a challenge to provide the requisite infrastructure that the Act expects.

The Act demands that the building of all the schools should be weather proof
According to the Act there should be one teacher for every 30 students. The survey has come up with dismal details in this regard. There are 5.79 million teachers teaching in the elementary schools currently and each school has an average of 4.5 teachers.

The Act suggests barrier free entries for all the schools whereas presently, only about 40% of the schools have ramps.

Basic facilities like access to drinking water is also lacking in many schools. The Act stipulates a play ground for every school. Looking at the current scenario it looks like it is going to be extremely challenging to provide the necessary infrastructure and that too with an increased intake of teachers and students.

The other major infrastructure challenge will be to establish a balance between Centre and State. Several regulatory measures can only be taken after individual inputs from state governments. There are no clear demarcations between the responsibilities of the center and state and it would be a challenge to work out the details.

Right to Education Act : Challenge to provide Equality and Quality in Education

HRD Minister has paved the way for huge challenges ahead by promising quality education to all. It has already been seen that it will be difficult to do so in the absence of good teachers. The Act says that no student would be dropped from school or not passed till the age of 14. With the mix of such students in class, it would be very difficult for the teachers to ensure quality. Substantial efforts would be required to maintain and impart quality education.

Teachers and the supporting staff of schools will find it tough to remain impartial and treat all the students on an equal footing without any biases. Besides this, they will also be responsible for encouraging harmony amongst the varying strata of students.

Right to Education Act : Challenge to Enforce 25% Quota for Weaker Sections

It remains to be seen whether this clause to reserve 25% of seats for weaker sections by Private unaided schools will turn out to be a boon or a bane. On one hand the Act aims at removing this bipolarity in education and on the other it is feared that interfering in the functioning of private schools will have an adverse effect on the quality of education. These institutes claim to have brought some semblance of order to the education system in our country.

It is going to be a challenge for the government to work out modalities which can strike a balance between a six year old child who has just entered school and a child who has been to a school since the age of 3. It will be a cultural and social shock for him. Since it will be mandatory not to fail any child till standard 8th, the classes would be full and ensuring quality education in the light of this a huge challenge. The biggest challenge in this is going to be the definition of weaker sections. This is where malpractices can creep in. A monitoring mechanism will also have to be set up to ensure its fair implementation.

What will happen when a child belonging to the quota category wants to change school in higher classes? Logistics need to be worked out for a smooth transition there also. Will this help in eradicating the socioeconomic divide? It is tough task to bring together children from varying economic and social backgrounds on the same platform. It would indeed be challenging for the teachers to maintain equilibrium and create an environment for them to blend together.

Right to Education Act : Challenge to Bring Child Laborers to Schools

Now that right to education has become a fundamental right of each and every child , it should also be applicable to those thousands of students who are being used as child laborers and have been denied education till now.

There are more than 12 million children in India who are engaged in child labor and these are just official figures. Unless and until a special provision is made in the Act, it would be challenging to bring back these children to school.
These are some of the problems that have littered the path but our HRD Minister is quite confident of overcoming these challenges and propel India towards even greater heights.

This Act has put India in the same league as U.S.A. and 130 other Nations as far as the right to education is concerned. Nothing can change overnight but there is a ray of hope. A hope that if all these hurdles and shortcomings are overcome and the loopholes removed, then this will become the road leading towards an Educated India, a Proud India.

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