By Mitra Ranjan*
The Seventh National Stocktaking Convention 2017 of the Right to Eduction (RTE) Forum organised on 30th March 2017 brought together more than 600 participants from across 19 states consisting of prominent educationists, academics, representatives of teachers, unions and those civil society organizations, school management committees and mass movements. The session was addressed by eminent personalities Prof Muchkund Dubey, President, CSD, Ms Stuti Kacker, Chairperson, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Mr Louis Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative to India, Prof Shantha Sinha, former Chairperson NCPCR, Mr Kedarnath Pandey, and MLC, Bihar and General Secretary of Bihar Secondary Teachers’ Association, Mr Rampal Singh, General Secretary, All India Primary teachers Federation (AIPTF). It was chaired by Prof. Praveen Jha, Economist, JNU.
The Convention began with the context setting by Mr Ambarish Rai, National Convener RTE Forum. He began by saying that the quality of education is not possible until and unless all government schools are made RTE compliant. Unfortunately the situation of school education is deplorable even after 7 years of passing of the Act 2009. There is teacher vacancy in the country in lakhs,(6.4 lakh teachers are untrained and teacher vacancy of more than 5 lakhs), dropout rate at the elementary level is 40.8% . Overall percentage of RTE compliant school is less than 10 % even today.
Resources have also not increased as per requirement. It is still stagnant at 3.5 percent of GDP. Incremental budgeting has increased allocation in an ad-hoc and fragmented manner, but for universalization of education, India is still far from the desired expectations. Another challenge is the mushrooming of private schools and closing/merging of government schools. Several norms of infrastructure remains unfulfilled till today. (30% of the schools are without functional toilets for girls and 20% of the schools still lack safe drinking water).
This has further created inequalities and widened the social distance between different groups in the society. The picture of equal education for all is becoming murkier with every passing day. It is indispensable to implement the Act and extend it to pre-primary to secondary school education to provide equal opportunity to all children to education. Quality of education could only be ensured through this. Otherwise the discourse gets reduced to learning outcome. In the words of Prof Vinay Kanth from Patna University summarizes the discussion: “What is appropriate for the child and the context is quality”.
Prof. Muchkund Dubey former Foreign Secretary to the GOI, said that there is a lack of focus in the government towards providing equal school education. There are gaps in implementation which has not been plugged over the years. The government is working through a fragmented approach and not taking universalization of education seriously.
Honorable chairperson NCPCR MS Stuti Kacker emphasized on the importance of school education and how it plays a very important role in the lives of children. She also emphasized on the critical role of teachers in the education of children generally and also in making schools safe and secure for girls and especially children belonging to marginalized sections of the society.
All India Primary teachers Federation (AIPTF) Mr Kedarnath Pandey, MLC, Bihar and General Secretary of Bihar Secondary Teacher’s Association emphasized that quality education should be provided to all children by strengthening the education system and ensure state accountability for the same. The role of teachers and their involvement in various non-academic work despite RTE norms, and more than a lakh single teacher schools is having an impact on providing children quality education. Mr Rampal Singh, General Secretary, All India Primary teachers Federation (AIPTF) also emphasized on the importance quality teacher, quality education tool and quality infrastructure.
The Convention also brought regional and global perspectives from Myanmar, Nepal, Afghanistan and Bangladesh vis.-a-vis. Indian context. It brought forth that the region has moved towards universalization of primary education, however the region suffers from the similar deficiencies as mentioned in the Indian context.
The session ensured cross learning through the experience shared by Mr Aminulhaq Mayel from Afghanistan, Dr Safiqul Islam from Bangladesh, Shreedhar Mether from Myanmar and Kumar Bhattarai from Nepal. The global perspective and Indian perspectives were shared by Ms Bidisha Pillai from Save the Children and Anjela Taneja from Global Campaign for Education. Mujahid Nafees from Gujarat RTE Forum shared status of implementation of RTE Act in Gujarat.
The Convention was divided into four thematic sessions focusing on extension of RTE, Inclusion and community, Emerging Challenges in education and Teacher and Quality. There were representations from NGOs, movements, researchers, activists working in the specific areas and contributing to the discourse.
On the whole the Convention reiterated the need for equal and quality education for all children and this is only possible through complete implementation of RTE Act and making all schools RTE compliant. A welcome step which came from the Government just previous week, of extension of the timeline for teacher training till 31st march 2019 has provided a lot of encouragement. However what came up time and again in the Convention was the extension of timeline for complete implementation of the Act and making all schools RTE compliant. This will provide Quality and equal education to all children.
*Media and Communication, RTE Forum