The Economic Times wrote this editorial on July 27 and they also published my comment on the Right to Education Bill on July 24. It great to see the endorsement of the CCS position by ET! See where you find the parallels!
“The right to education is meaningless if it merely means the right of children to join a government school where little teaching takes place, and emerge functionally illiterate. Unfortunately the Right to Education Bill just passed by the Rajya Sabha focuses only on access to government schools, not the outcome after such access.
Innumerable surveys show teachers bunk school with impunity, that many do not teach even while at school, and that children with several years of schooling cannot do simple sums or write simple paragraphs. This approach — talking virtuously about outlays and inputs while ignoring outcomes — has long been the bane of Indian development.
Instead of abandoning it, the approach is being extended to the Right to Education. The Bill must be amended before being tabled in the Lok Sabha, to ensure the right to minimum quality. This can be done by amending sections 8, 9 and 29, as has been pointed out by many analysts. HRD minister Kapil Sibal has talked about ratings for private colleges. Surely government and private schools need rating too, and the worst should be closed down whether in the private or public sector.
Millions of poor slumdwellers today send their kids to unrecognised private schools. These are not of high quality, but parents deem them better than free government schools. The Bill wants to fix minimum norms for private sector education, which will mean abolishing the thousands of private schools that are plugging the huge gap left by government schools.
Official norms require schools to have playgrounds, which are exorbitantly expensive in urban areas, and cannot be provided by local low-budget private schools. Trying to criminalise such schools while ignoring the crime of non-education in government schools is farcical. The Bill has no provisions to ensure teacher accountability to students, or discipline. Much better would be a new bill that permits state authorities to issue vouchers to students to attend schools of their choice. Such freedom of choice would be a true right to education. The right to join a useless government school is no right at all. “
The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.