Make it a reality

Make it a reality

The proposal of the Union Human Resources Development ministry to extend free and compulsory education for children up to the 10th class is welcome but in the present circumstances it looks fanciful. The Right to Education Act of 2009 mandated free schooling for children between the ages of 8 and 14. This meant that only children studying up to standard 8 would be covered by it. The inadequacy of the legislative provision was pointed out then but the government for its own reasons limited the scope of the law to an arbitrarily determined schooling period. This limitation had no educational, scientific or logical reason. Standard 8 has no special sanctity. It does not mark any important stage in schooling and to set it as the end of the free and compulsory schooling period is actually disruptive of a child’s education.

Most countries that have provided free and compulsory education for children have done it for a schooling period up to the 10th standard. That is considered the right stage for children to finish their general and basic minimum education and when they are ready to go to college or for specialised educational courses. Some countries have made 11 years’ schooling compulsory. Since a school leaving certificate is the minimum qualification for the lowest jobs on offer it stands to reason that the government should extend compulsory education to that level.

But the government has not been able to implement the right to education law in most parts of the country. There is no concerted effort from state and Central governments to make the right a reality to millions of children in the country. There is confusion about some of the provisions. Many parents are unaware of their children’s right. Facilities and infrastructure that should support the right are not available in many schools. Even schools and teachers are not available in many places. Admission norms are still hazy and are being violated by many schools. It is the poor and backward students who should be the beneficiaries of the legislation that suffer the most from the poor implementation of the law. When the government is unable to effectively implement it even in its limited scope how can it extend it for more years? The law will need amendments and the Centre also needs to consult the states.

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