The April Fools’ Day ushered in a new era for the Indian Education sector and the entire nation as a whole. Something that should have been initiated 60 years back is finally happening and it can only be ‘better late than never’. The Right to Education (RTE) Act came into force today and it has made education a fundamental right for all children between the age group of 6-14, which will see additional 81 lakh children enrolling at schools. Also. private as well as unaided schools will have a 25% reservation for weaker sections, under the provisions of this Act. The Act also looks at improving the quality of education with a possible shift from conventional teacher-oriented teaching to student-oriented methodology. The plan is ambitious and kudos to the UPA for this revolutionary step ahead, but the implementation of this Act would face its fair share of problems, majorly five to name a few.
Firstly, the funding gaps. At an estimated spend of Rs. 1.71 lakh crore, the numbers are astounding! PM Manmohan Singh during his address televised on National TV promised that implementation would not be hampered due to funding gaps, as provisions for the same have already been made. Though the Centre might have made provisions, it is worthwhile to note that Centre and State would be sharing the liabilities, in the ratio of 55:45 and there lies another catch, would states adequately allocate the funds required for such a massive implementation?
Secondly, when the infrastructure available for existing schools itself is dwindling, would there be room for the additional 81 lakh students who are to be inducted? How does the government plan to address this issue? This would need an enormous investment in rural infrastructure and investment from the private sector wou
ld be unavoidable. It is here that FDI in education should be looked at closely.
Third, the capacity expansion aims at adding a whopping 1lakh + schools and 600 universities in the next decade. With the country already facing a problem in setting up universities and their quality (recently, 44 Universities were stripped off their ‘Deemed’ status by UGC) these figures look highly improbable.
Fourth, is the need for trained teaching staff. Already facing a lack of 5.5 lakh primary teachers and 2.2 lakh secondary teachers, the Teacher/Student ratio in the country currently stands close to 1:50. The Act aims to improve the quality of education by bringing this ratio down to 1:30, which means that 12 lakh additional teachers would be required. Training these teachers, would be another herculean task.
Fifth, the Act is targeted at age group of 6-14 years, what after that? Is the current system of Higher education in India ready to handle the increase of students a decade down the line? Is there going to be any link between literacy and employability of these students? In foresight, provisions need to be made to ensure that we are not creating a breed of unemployed literates and that vocational training is imparted at all levels of schooling to ensure that these children are not just literate, but are ready to fend for themselves and earn a decent livelihood.
Education is now a constitutional right. The RTE Act is a step forward, and step in the right direction. Its implementation is a challenge and the government must come up with a model that effectively integrates state governments, local authorities, parents, teachers, private sector and existing local and foreign universities as well.
With the education sector promising to open up, the takers, I am sure, would be many!
About the Author: Satej completed MBA in Finance from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management after graduating in Bachelor of Pharmacy from University of Mumbai and is currently looking out for opportunities in consulting.
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