The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that education is a fundamental human right for everyone.
Quality education aims to foster the growth of a well-rounded individual. It is one of the most effective tools for reintegrating socially excluded children and adults into society. According to UNESCO data, the number of poor people in the world could be cut in half if all adults completed secondary education. It closes the gender gap for women and girls. According to UN research, each year of schooling reduces the risk of infant death by 5% to 10%.
Governments establish the right to education through two methods: normative international instruments and political commitments. The right to education is protected by a strong international framework of conventions and treaties and states that sign them agree to respect, protect, and fulfil it.
Now the question arises whether India is a part of any of these conventions and what has been the scenario of education in India for the past 7 decades?
On the occasion of 73rd Republic Day, we hereby review one of the biggest Parliamentary Acts ever adopted by the Indian Govt – The Right to Education. As much as the Act was needed, it heated up the debate even more. Let’s run through the growth of India’s education:
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India is a part of 19 of UNESCO’s Conventions including the one’s on right to education. India has managed to bring its education system up to global standards after overcoming widespread illiteracy. In the 70 years since our independence, we have made great development in the field of education. In 1947, the educational landscape was vastly different than it is now. With more universities and educational institutions, India has come a long way in terms of total literacy. India’s higher education system is now the world’s largest, with over 70 million students enrolled in less than two decades. The table below indicates the progress in India’s education system.
Several commissions namely the University education commission (1948), Mudaliar Commission (1952-53), Kothari Commission (1964-1966) and such were set up by the Central Advisory Board of India to accelerate the process of providing secondary and Higher education to all.
And then came the biggest of all time commission:
The National Education Policy (1968): National education policy, enacted in 1968, was the most significant advance in the education system. It promoted educational opportunities to all segments of society in order to achieve the objective of harmony and integration. The usage of regional languages in secondary schools was strongly encouraged in order to foster a positive teacher-student interaction. The importance of Hindi as a medium of education in schools has been emphasised. It was through NEP that society realised that education had the power to work as a popular instrument of social, economic and political change. Several provisions were added to it in 1979 and 1986.
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A considerable amount of change has been made ever since the introduction of NEP. The number of colleges and universities increased, students’ enrollment in secondary and higher secondary courses increased, India was able to lift its society to par with the global educational system. Moreover, the literacy rate hiked to a commendable level.
And finally arrives probably the most debatable policy for education in form of – Right to Education – the RTE.
Under Article 21a of the Indian Constitution, the Right to Education Act (RTE) is an Act of the Indian Parliament adopted on August 4, 2009, which specifies the mechanisms of the importance of free and compulsory education for children aged 6 to 14 in India. When the Act went into effect on April 1, 2010, India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right for all children.
It was the first time in the history of India that law was introduced by a speech by the then Prime Minister – Manmohan Singh.
The Act makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and specifies minimum norms in elementary schools. The government was bound by a variety of responsibilities in order to provide free and compulsory education to all.
Many believed that since RTE was born out of a long term movement and plan, it was imperative for it to stay and that it has made real progress over the years. Any govt that came into power had the onus of abiding by the rules of RTE. This further ensured that no matter the govt, India now had a full-time education system.
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Probably the biggest change by RTE is the enrollment rate of children in the country. However beautiful a policy may be, it still has some drawbacks. The myth or reality around the same will help in understanding the right better.
- Lack of financial allocation for implementation – At least 6% of GDP is demanded by educationists which has been rejected since two decades now. While many believe that lack of funds excuse is farce as the state cannot decide what rights to bestow and what not. Hence, it is the lack of intent and political will that is lacking.
- Apathy towards Public education system – Steadily a gap has been created between public and private education institutions. The public schools and colleges and no longer under consideration by majority of population.
- Opposition to the egalitarian viewpoint that recognises and cherishes a child’s agency and views learning as an immersive meta-cognitive process aimed at generating critical-thinking sensitive citizens.
- It is to be noted that drop-out rates is not only because of improper curriculum by due to various layered problems. Fluctuating electricity supply, poor sanitation infrastructure and absence of security led to greater literacy gap.
- Lack of awareness – One of the biggest factor why RTE is doing poorly is because the backward class is still unaware of the fact that right to education is now a fundamental right of their child.
- Educating the alreadu educated is not goal, hence, RTE is answerable towards the rehabilitation of the roadside/street and misplaced children as well.
The recently introduced National Education Policy in 2020 by the BJP tries to cement the gap by pushing the age limits, opening up higher and foreign institutes and easing the process of acquiring education through multiple exits. Also, emphasised gaining education in the mother tongue. It proposes that all courses are multidisciplinary today, there cannot be one-directional training in this day and age anymore.
Passing a bill is one easy thing to do. Acting upon it is the hardest. Not denying the fact that India still managed to push forward its literacy rate, it is a matter of time to witness what it turns out to be.
Feature image credits: ritiriwaz.com