The issues relating to the RTE Act implementation are becoming predominant year after year and parents are forced to think alternative ways to get quality school education for their children, what is the way forward? Some suggestions are put forward in this concluding part of the series written by B Chandrasekaran, Research Fellow-CPPR.

Image source: The Economist ( Image for representation )

Major Implementation Challenges Faced by the RTE Act

It has been a decade since the RTE Act came into effect. The fact is many states are yet to make it more efficacious. The following are key challenges observed across the country with regards to access to the 25 per cent reservation of admission for children of economically weaker sections in private and unaided schools:

  • Year after year, the number of court litigations concerning availing of 25 per cent reservations in private and unaided schools has been increasing.
  • Parents face the challenges of finding good quality private schools for getting admission for their children; whether it is government or private school, what matters them is quality of education.
  • In some states, the students from economically weaker sections and disadvantaged communities can now only avail a reserved seat in a private school, if there are no government schools in their neighbourhood. This change in the Act leaves a large number of 25 per cent reservation seats unfilled across states. This comes to the advantage of private and unaided schools admitting poor children taking hefty fees from them.
  • Many private and unaided schools complain of not receiving the reimbursement from the Government for 25 per cent reserved seat admission provided to poor children. This undermines the priority of education for poor children. Any delays in reimbursement of the cost of education to private schools mean humiliation and embarrassment to poor children and their parents.
  • There are challenges in getting 25 per cent reservation under the RTE to the CBSE schools across the country. The CBSE schools start admission in the month of April–May but other state board schools start admission in the month of June. Poor children’s parents face a lot of handicaps which have not been carefully looked into by policymakers to fix them even after 10 years of implementation.
  • In states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, the admission processes are fully computerised with a lottery system for admission amidst complaints from parents that the list of CBSE schools has not been featuring on the portal for admissions under the RTE Act. In rural areas, poor parents are often not aware of the computerised process of admission; this, in turn, helps private schools for not filling all eligible seats under the RTE. Even the lottery system to allot seats under RTI Act is ludicrous.
  • Oddly, the capacity to implement the RTE Act is still lingering on weak foundations of the school education departments across the country. The states/UTs have to give top priority to augment more resources to increase the capacity to implement the constitutional mandate of the RTE Act. Otherwise, there will be a compelling need to find alternative solutions to provide universal access to primary education for poor children.
  • Thousands of private schools across the country failed to declare the seats under 25 per cent reservation of the RTE Act. The enforcement of the RTE Act and monitoring the implementation process is still weak.

The above challenges become predominant year after year and the parents in many states are forced to think alternative ways to get quality school education for their children. The Draft National Education Policy, 2019, has rightly envisaged that a comprehensive and detailed review of the RTE Act…is needed and…the RTE Act may be suitably amended. Further, the draft policy also emphasises that the RTE must focus more on educational outcomes and less on inputs. It must also not have a mechanistic and deterministic approach on inputs and processes of outcomes.

School Vouchers: An Antidote

Therefore, the way forward for the above issues is to make amendments in the RTE Act on 25 per cent reservation to empower economically poor parents by giving them a school voucher through Direct Benefit Transfer linked with Aadhaar for the amount currently spend as per child reimbursements to private and unaided schools. This will also resolve the major issues of non-filling of seats in private and unaided schools and create competition among schools for providing good quality primary education for all children.

We need to fund students directly through their parents, and not schools, by adopting the school voucher model. Thus, the parents, especially women, will be empowered to demand quality school education for their children. Voucher schemes are a form of “demand-side financing” and are specifically targeted at economically poor and low-income groups. Banerjee (2012) noted that “If schools are funded, then the basis and proofs of admission of the 25% remains a challenge. If students are funded, then the challenge is to establish intended usage by children or their parents.” He further pointed out that “Studies have shown that education vouchers do help in enhancing access and quality, especially for the needy families. Further, it introduces more accountability and transparency in all stakeholders: governments, schools and students, thereby raising the quality of governance. Vouchers are extremely helpful in allocating convenience and benefits to citizens at large.” Recent field-level studies have shown that the choices given to parents to select private schools for their children have widened with the mandate of 25 per cent reservation under the RTE Act and girl students were benefited more than the boy students (Damera 2018; Dongre, Ankur, and Karan2018).

During the last decade, many states in India have implemented the voucher system for the targeted beneficiaries in healthcare services by collaborating with the Union Government and International agencies. By introducing the voucher system in school education, the school governance system enabled with information technology would ensure universal access to primary school education for children belonging to economically weaker sections of the society. There will be positive incentives both from the private schools’ point of view as well as parents’ point of view and it would be a win-win situation ensuring that no child is left behind.

Model Case of Andhra Pradesh

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has launched “AMMA VODI” Scheme in June 2019, which is a kind of school voucher intended for poor parents for the education of their children from Class I to Class XII. The State Government has announced to implement the Scheme from January 2020 with the aid of technology to provide financial assistance of Rs15,000 per year directly to the bank accounts or post office accounts of poor parents for their children’s education.

According to the Scheme guidelines, “each mother or recognized guardian who is below poverty line household, irrespective of the number of children of that family studying from class I to XII in all recognized Government, Private Aided and Private Unaided schools/Jr. Colleges including Residential Schools/Jr.” will be eligible to receive financial assistance to support their children’s education. The government has allocated Rs 6,455 crore for the Scheme. This model needs to be replicated in other states for making universal access to primary school education for all children a reality.

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research

References

  1. Banerjee, Sandeep. 2012. “Right to Education: A Voucher-based System for Transferring Funds to the Deserving will be more Democratic.” The Economic Times, November 3, 2012.
  2. Dongre, Ambrish, Ankur Sarin, and Karan Singhal, 2018. “Can a Mandate for Inclusion Change School Choices for Disadvantaged Parents?—Evidence from Urban India”.
  3. Draft New National Education Policy 2019, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India.
  4. School Education Department—NAVARATNALU—JAGANANNA AMMA VODI Programme, Government of Andhra Pradesh, G.O.MS.No. 79, dated 04-11-2019.
Chandrasekaran Balakrishnan
Chandrasekaran Balakrishnan
Chandrasekaran Balakrishnan is Research Fellow (Urban Eco-system and Skill Development) with CPPR. His areas of research interest are economics of education, vocational education and skills development, economic reforms, liberal vision for India, water management, regional development, and city development. Chandrasekaran has an MA in Economics (University of Madras) and an MPhil in Social Sciences (Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya University, Indore).

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