Free Elementary Education for ALL children in age group 6-14 years in a neighbourhood school
What does “free” mean?
According to the Act, no financial constraints can “prevent” a child from a enrolling, attending and completing elementary education. In other words, if a child lives in a remote area, providing free transportation (or a residential facility or some other facility) will be part of the child’s entitlement to education; if a child is disabled and needs crutches to walk to school then crutches, or some other facility that enables him to go to school will be part of his entitlement under the Act.
What is elementary education?
Elementary education is 8 years of education corresponding to classes 1-8. This in most cases includes children between 6-14 years, but in states that start at 5 years and go up to class7, RTE would still extend to class 8.
What is a neighbourhood school?
The neighbourhood has been given a wide definition in the Model Rules of the Act. Ordinarily it is 1 km walking distance from the habitation of a child at the primary level and 3 km for upper primary level. However, in areas with sparse populations, or those prone to natural disasters or with difficult terrain or civil unrest, this limitation may be changed and transportation or residential facilities provided to children so that their education is not interrupted or disrupted.
Compulsory Elementary Education
The word compulsory has implications for the government alone. In other words while it is the DUTY of the parent
to send their children to school (Article 15k) it is the OBLIGATION of the government to ensure not just enrolment but attendance and completion of elementary education. This implies that the government:
- Must identify all children that are out of school or dropped out
- Make sure that they are enrolled in school
- Make sure they attend school on a regular basis
- Make sure they complete the elementary cycle of education.
- If parents are reluctant to send their children it is the responsibility of the government to find a way of convincing the parents, without use of force/ violence/pressure to send their children to school.
Age Appropriate Education
- This means that children will be enrolled in the class that corresponds to their age. In other words, if a 10 year old has not been to school or dropped out earlier, she will be enrolled in class 5.
- To enable the 10 year to cope in class 5 “special training” will be provided on the premises to bring the child up to the age appropriate level.
Quality Norms for ALL schools
The Act lays out some basic norms for all schools (government and private):
- Pupil- Teacher Ratio (cannot exceed 1:30)
- Minimum days of school functioning in a year (200 and 250 for primary and Upper Primary, respectively)
- Minimum hours of instruction in school (4 and 5 hours a day for primary and UP)
- Minimum working hours for the teacher (45 hours a week)
- Separate subject teachers and head-teacher
- One room for every teacher
- Separate and functional toilets; clean and adequate drinking water
- Playground, boundary wall, library, kitchen
Qualifications for Teachers
- Para Teachers banned
- All teachers must subscribe to minimum qualifications and training norms laid out by Academic Authority within 5 years.
- Teacher education and Teacher training institutes to be upgraded to enable fulfillment of quality and qualification norms for teachers.
Curriculum in line with Constitution
- This means that curriculum, syllabus and books must conform to Constitutional values. It implies that communal and harmful agendas cannot be part of the materials used and taught in ANY school of the country.
- Syllabus and Books must also take into account age and learning levels of children
Evaluation system to be based on principle of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE)
- No failure till completion of elementary cycle
- Evaluation to be done throughout the year and not be based on an annual exam.
- Teachers to maintain PUPIL CUMMULATIVE RECORD (PCR) for every child.
- Evaluation to be on “comprehensive” performance of child, reflecting all facets, talents of the child and not be based on just a few subject areas. The PCR to include music, theatre, leadership skills, social skills etc., as well.
Role of Panchayati Raj Institutions
- The PRIs have been given a wide range of functions related to the implementation of the provisions of the RTE, such as identification of out of school children; neighbourhood-wise school mapping; maintenance of child records (child-tracking) public display of information; education of children from migrant families; participation in School Management Committees (SMCs)
- PRIs have also been made responsible for grievance redressal in matters related to violations of the rights of the child under RTE.
Participation of Civil Society
- School Management Committees consisting largely of parents (75%) and of PRIs officials and civil society partners have been given a wide range of functions under the Act, including the preparation of the School Development Plan
- Teachers have been made accountable to the SMCs.
Reservation in Private Schools
- All private schools are required to admit in their incoming class 25% children from weaker sections and socially disadvantaged groups from their neighbourhood.
- Limits of definition to be extended if 25% seats are not being filled within the standard limits of neighbourhood.
- Private schools to be reimbursed for these children by the government at the rate of per learner costs of government schools in the state.
Separation of Implementation and Monitoring Agency
- Implementation responsibilities lie with the education departments in conjunction with the PRIs
- Monitoring role has been given to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the corresponding State Commissions.
- This separation is very important and a first in the history of such legislations and allows for independent monitoring of the implementation of the Act.
- NCPCR/ SCPCR have quasi-judicial powers and can function as a civil court. Complaints and grievances can be addressed to them as well.