Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Legislative Brief: Right to Education Bill

Legislative Brief: Right to Education Bill - 28 : "Right to Education Bill, 2005
The constitution now guarantees the right to education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14, but how is this to be upheld? This legislative brief by M R Madhavan and Ruchita Manghnani presents the many questions before Parliament, as it discusses the Right to Education Bill that will give effect to the guarantee. "

Some Excerpts:

Key Features

* Right of Every Child

Every child between the age of 6 and 14 years has the right to full-time free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school.

Non-enrolled children of age group 7-9 years have the right to be admitted in an age-appropriate grade within one year of the commencement of the Act, and of age group 9-14 years have the right to be provided special programmes that will enable them to attend such grade within three years.

Children with severe or profound disability, who are unable to attend a neighbourhood school, have the right to be provided education in an appropriate environment.

A child cannot be held back in any grade or expelled from a school till Class VIII. Any expulsion requires an order of the School Management Committee (SMC), which will be given only after all other corrective measures have been exhausted, and parents/guardians have been heard. The local authority will take steps to enroll such a child in another neighbourhood school.
* Responsibility of the State

The State shall ensure availability of a neighbourhood school for every child within three years. In case of non-availability, free transport or free residential facilities shall be provided. The state/UT government shall determine every year the requirement of schools, facilities, and their locations; establish additional schools as required; deploy teachers and create facilities for their training.

The State shall develop a mechanism to monitor enrolment, participation and attainment status of every child, and take corrective steps wherever required. Information in this regard will be made available in the public domain, including on an on-line basis.
* School Admissions

State schools and fully aided schools shall provide free education to all admitted children. Partly aided schools shall provide free education to at least such proportion of admitted children to the extent that government funds its annual expenses, subject to a minimum of 25%. Unaided schools and special category schools shall provide free education to at least 25% students; the government shall reimburse the school to the extent of the per child expenditure in government schools or the school fee, whichever is lower.

No school can conduct any screening procedure of any child or parents at the time of admission. Children will be selected for admission in a random manner. Capitation fees are prohibited.
* School Management

All non-government schools have to be recognized by a Competent Authority or shut down. The Bill specifies certain norms (such as teacher-student ratio, physical infrastructure etc) to be fulfilled by all schools as a pre-requisite for being recognized.

All State and aided schools are required to form School Management Committees (SMCs) with at least 75% of the members being parents/guardians, and the other members representing teachers, the community and the local authority. SMCs will manage the school, including the sanction of leave and disbursal of salary to teachers. The SMC/local authority shall also have the power to assess teachers' performance and impose minor punishment.

Teachers of state schools will be appointed to a specific school, and teachers already serving will be assigned to a specific school within two years. They will not be transferred from the school so assigned.

The teacher has the duty to transact and complete the curriculum, regularly assess the learning level of each child, provide supplementary instruction if required, and apprise every parent/guardian about the progress of learning and development of the child.

Teachers are prohibited from giving private tuitions. Teachers shall not be deployed for any non-educational purpose other than census, election and disaster relief duties.

* Content and Process

Schools and academic authorities formulating curriculum shall conform to the values enshrined in the Constitution. Schools should operate in a child friendly and child centred manner.

No child shall be required to appear at a public examination before completing Grade VIII. No child shall be awarded physical punishment in any form in school.

* National Commission for Elementary Education (NCEE)

NCEE shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Minister for Human Resources Development and Leaders of Opposition in the two Houses of Parliament.

NCEE shall monitor all aspects, including quality of education. It will act as Ombudsman for this Act.

* Other Major Provisions

No person shall prevent a child from participating in elementary education. No person shall employ or engage a child in a manner that renders her a working child.

It is the responsibility of every parent/guardian to enroll his child/ward who has attained the age of 6 years and above in a school and facilitate her completion of elementary education (till Grade VIII). If a parent/guardian persistently defaults in discharging this responsibility, the SMC may direct him to perform compulsory community service by way of child care in the school.

Any person who has a grievance about the establishment, provisioning and management of a school may submit a written representation to the SMC/ local authority, which shall take appropriate action and inform the applicant within 90 days. If the applicant is unsatisfied with such action, she may submit a representation to such authority as prescribed (by the state/UT/central government), which shall take appropriate action and inform the applicant within 90 days.

The state/UT government may form a State-level Regulatory Authority for inquiring into grievances which remain unredressed even after the steps mentioned above.

A child shall be admitted in Grade I only after attaining the age of five years and ten months before the beginning of the academic year.

The Bill specifies penalties for persons and schools contravening the provisions regarding capitation fees, screening tests, recognition and preventing children from participating in elementary education.

* Finances

The central government shall provide financial assistance to state governments in accordance with such formula regarding sharing of costs as determined in consultation with state governments. The state government shall provide financial assistance to local authorities.

Though the draft Bill does not specify cost implications, a paper by the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) committee indicates a tentative estimation of total additional costs between Rs 3,21,000 crore and Rs 4,36,000 crore over six years.


Objectives of the Bill

The Bill has a clear objective that every child between the age of 6 and 14 years has the right to elementary education that is (a) free, (b) compulsory, (c) of equitable quality, and (d) available in her neighbourhood. This education will be available between Grade I and VIII, and provided at a recognized school satisfying specified norms. The Bill implies that there will be no non-formal schools and teachers will have to possess qualifications as defined in the National Council for Teacher Education Act, 1993.


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