Universalisation of education in the state - Hueiyen Lanpao Editorial :: October 03 2011 -
The United Nations' Human Development Index is considered by many as giving a clearer picture of the progress or development of a country, how its citizens are faring, and how the national wealth is distributed, how it is being utilized and for whose benefits.
The Human Development Index (HDI) uses various indicators like literacy, education, health care, life expectancy, standard of living etc. All these indicators are equally important and equal emphasis need to be placed on each of these as lag in one would affect the other indicators.
Considering this, the enactment of Right to Education 2009 is a step in the right direction which might enhance in India's standing in the HDI ranking in future (at a lowly 121 in 2010 HDI report).
Education is considered the cornerstone of any society more so in this globalised contemporary world. The Act passed in August 4, 2009 by the Indian Parliament is, like the RTI Act, one of the most progressive legislations and will go a long way in universalisation of education in India if implemented in the right earnest.
The Act provides for free and compulsory education for children in the age group of 6 - 14. Significantly, the onus of enrolling the children, ensuring their attendance and completion of elementary school is on the government and not on the parents.
Under this Act no child can be held back or expelled from the school and they should not be made to appear for any board exams till the end of elementary school.
To make learning free from mental tension and pressure, the RTE Act has done away with annual exams and instead children will be evaluated based on the principle of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation which is to be done throughout the year and will reflect all facets and talent of the child and not just competence on a few subjects.
There are certain other norms which would not only facilitate but also provide huge incentives to the parents to send their children to schools.
Other than free education, the Act talks about neighbourhood norms wherein a child should be enrolled in a school which is 1 Km walking distance for lower primary and 3 km for upper primary level.
As per this Act, the schools are required to maintain a teacher - student ratio of 1:30 for primary level and 1:35 for upper primary level. Another very significant provision in making education accessible to children of economically weaker section of the society is the reservation of 25% seats for them in private schools.
The Act also enjoins on the private schools not to take any donations, capitation fees and not to hold any interview of either the parents or the children at the time of admissions.
Though the fund required for implementing the RTE Act is going to be substantial, the North Eastern states have to bear lesser burden than other states as the Centre will be bearing 90% of the financial burden.
Manipur already has a good literacy rate; the majority of the parents are sending their children to schools. The RTE Act will enable those parents, who could not send their children to schools because of their economic condition, to educate their children.
But there are certain issues as far as this state is concern that we should be of concern to us and which the government should deal with. First and foremost, is the leakages and the misappropriation which takes place invariably in the implementation of any programme.
RTE Act is not likely to prove an exception to this rule but let us be proved wrong for once. Another is the question of quality. Government schools will shoulder the major responsibility of providing free and compulsory education and we are rather well aware of the quality of education they provide.
There is a need to do something about this aspect for quantity without quality is not the most desirable thing. Finally, there should be an effective mechanism to enforce compliance.