‘The pace of change has been slower than what was ex­pected or de­sired’




Re­ports from stu­dents and par­ents from across In­dia in­di­cate that while RTE is an en­abling Act, not much has changed on the ground. What’s your view? I’m not en­tirely pes­simistic. But the pace of change has cer­tainly been slower than what was ex­pected or de­sired. In the first year, I think a fair amount of work was done. Changes were made in the pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion struc­ture and fi­nances. The pre-ex­ist­ing Sarva Shik­sha Ab­hiyan norms were re­vised. The fi­nan­cial struc­ture was re­vis­ited. But af- ter that, one ex­pected that things would start mov­ing down­wards, closer to the peo­ple. But that process has re­ally not taken off.

The other crit­i­cism is that peo­ple at the re­ceiv­ing end say they don’t care so much about whether the right kinds of ta­bles and chairs or even bath­rooms ex­ist in schools. What is more wor­ry­ing is the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion be­ing so poor. There’s no doubt that the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion leave a lot to be de­sired. It’s true that one should not fo­cus only on in­fra­struc­ture but if you don’t even have the ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture, it be­comes very dif­fi­cult to get to the next level in terms of qual­ity. If a child doesn’t have water to drink or is des­per­ate to go to the toi­let and there is none then there is not much learn­ing s/he can do any­way. The fact that RTE is ask­ing for the pro­fes­sion­al­i­sa­tion of the teach­ing cadre is a huge step. All of that adds to­wards chang­ing the qual­ity but this will take time.

Do you see the first steps be­ing taken in that di­rec­tion? They need to give this more at­ten­tion. There is not enough po­lit­i­cal will shown by the HRD min­istry. They have to put more money into this sys­tem and also sort out the in­sti­tu­tions that are meant to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion. From teacher train­ing in­sti­tutes to text­book for­mu­la­tion bod­ies and the block ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fice that is the clos­est ad­min­is­tra­tive unit to the peo­ple… all of these are thor­oughly dys­func­tional and they need re­form.

Can you break this down into its mi­cro­cosm to ex­plain how change can be ef­fected at the block level? For RTE to ac­tu­ally mean any­thing, there has to be a par­a­digm shift from the old way of de­liv­er­ing ed­u­ca­tion. Griev­ance re­dres­sal, which be­comes the cru­cial as­pect of en­forc­ing a right, is not in place. That is where the block and the pan­chayat be­come im­por­tant be­cause it is there that par­ents can go and com­plain that the teacher didn’t turn up or the text­books haven’t ar­rived. The block of­fice and pan­chay­ats have been given an im­por­tant role un­der RTE in griev­ance re­dres­sal but the Pan­chay­ati Raj in­sti­tu­tions are com­pletely un­aware that they have such a role. There has to be a con­ver­sa­tion in the Pan­chay­ati Raj at the min­istry level to sort this out. The HRD min­istry has to fix ac­count­abil­ity for all the en­ti­tle­ments in the Act at vari-

ous lev­els. Who is re­spon­si­ble for cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment? Is it the teacher or prin­ci­pal or sec­re­tary of ed­u­ca­tion? Who is re­spon­si­ble if a teacher doesn’t come on time? Re­spon­si­bil­ity has to be fixed lo­cally be­cause you can’t have com­plaints com­ing all the way to the cap­i­tals for them to be sorted out.

Last year, you had said that NCPCR is go­ing to fo­cus on pre­cisely that: griev­ance re­dres­sal. So what has changed? We did make a start. First of all, we got a clear un­der­stand­ing of what is the Pan­chay­ati Raj’s role in this whole struc­ture of re­form. We had a meet­ing with the Pan­chay­ati Raj min­is­ter. In fact, they sent out let­ters and guide­lines to all the state sec­re­taries ask­ing them to start do­ing what the Act asked of them. To have a spe­cial gram sabha, to see what can be done… but noth­ing came of it.

Whose fault is that mainly? To a large ex­tent, I will lay the blame on the HRD min­istry’s doorstep be­cause if the Pan­chay­ati Raj in­sti­tu­tions are not do­ing what they are sup­posed to, then it is the min­istry’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that they do.

As a mon­i­tor­ing body, what are the broad con­clu­sions the NCPCR has drawn on why the RTE hasn’t moved at the right pace in de­liv­er­ing qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion? It was a very good idea to have an in­de­pen­dent agency like the NCPCR to mon­i­tor RTE im­ple­men­ta­tion. But hav­ing put that in the Act was not enough. Be­cause they have given only 50 per school per year as the al­lo­ca­tion for mon­i­tor­ing this en­tire ex­er­cise. Sec­ond, there is no struc­ture or proper sys­tem that has been es­tab­lished in the NCPCR. There are no posts, it is run in an ad hoc man­ner by peo­ple on con­tract. On the whole, many states are try­ing very hard to im­ple­ment RTE. But they have to start al­most from scratch. The RTE Act has cer­tainly given a new lease of life but a lot more needs to be done.

Is it a re­source prob­lem or the lack of po­lit­i­cal will that’s hold­ing it back? It’s largely due to lack of po­lit­i­cal will. The other prob­lems are re­source al­lo­ca­tion and the flex­i­bil­ity of al­lo­ca­tions and us­age of funds. In Bi­har, there is a re­quire­ment for three lakh teach­ers. The state is giv­ing money for that in in­cen­tive schemes and the Cen­tre then need not repli­cate it. They have to al­low for money to be used flex­i­bly.

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