It has been 2 years since the Right Of children for free and compulsory education (RTE) act came into force since April 1, 2010. As per RTE act, every child in the age group of 6-14 years would be provided eight years of elementary education in an age appropriate classroom in the vicinity of his/ her neighbourhood.
All schools have been given three years (until 2013) to prescribe to norms and standards laid out in the act, or they will not be able to function. However, many obstacles still remain for the successful implementation of the Act. One such challenge is rapid urbanization.
A recent unicef report, 'The state of the world's Children 2012: Children in an Urban World', states that India currently has an estimated population of 377 million people and by 2026, 40% of its total population is projected to be living in urban areas.
The Unicef chief-education Urmils Sarkar says, “Schools play a trans formative role. Education is the key to prevent children from being in exploitative or vulnerable situations. We have to ensure that children are in schools and are safe. Child protection structures, too, need to be in place to ensure children do not fall through the cracks”.
On how safe are schools as incidents of children being hit by teachers still persist, she says that corporal punishment is banned under RTE, further adding, “We need to find alternative behavior change in the classroom”. According to Rukmini Banerji, director programmes, Pratham, one cannot have a fixed strategy to take children off the roads and place in a school set-up.
She says, “One has to look at where 'they were' and 'they are' and where they should be and accordingly a strategy needs to be worked out”. Ensuring that a child goes to school is not enough because a school building isn't enough for a child to be educated. “What happens in the classroom is as critical”.
Both the Sarkar and Banerji agree that the focus should be on learning outcomes. “Its not enough to have children in schools; we have to provide the right learning support. Instead of being fearful of the system, children should want to complete their studies” says Banerji.
A National Stocktaking Convention on the Implementation of RTE Act will be held in the Capital on April 3 and 4.