Activist lawyer A. Aggarwal has written a report together with  a committee at NCERT on the implementation of Right to Education Rules in Delhi. A brief outline of the report appeared today (17/03/2010) in Indian Express (the full report is at the RTE  Coalition Portal here).

There are many issues one can have on the report but the two things mentioned in the IE  today that strikes friends of liberty are;

1) the power of the Delhi government over government schools with declining levels of students. These schools are apperantly not attractive enough so with few or no students they should be closed down. The committe finds it “incomprehensible” that government schools remain with no students when there are so many children in need of schooling. Maybe the committe members should start questioning the system of their schools  analyze why poor parents rather send their kids to private low cost schools in a more professional and market oriented way.  What the committee says that Delhi government should rule strict regarding closure of empty schools. It seems quite simple for aam admi to get the picture but the committee (and the RTE Act) believes in monopoly, still.

2) Next question regards converting double shift schools to single shift. Why not let the buildings and staff be useful more ?  Rather restricting one shift, the school could be used for other purposes off school hours as long as the activities do not clash with the education. But doing that is strictly prohibited in the Rules. Teacher training for instance, why must it be done between 9 am – 2 pm ? Monopoly again.

It seems that the focus of the report is on provisions for teachers, their salaries , teachers rights etc. It is as if feeding your employees a good lunch will make them work better. Yes it is kind to want all to eat well but it is not the responsibility of the government to give its employees good conditions without any system to keep all accountable (ever heard of teacher absenteeism?)

What is most sad is that these perks (having a permanent job with a permanent salary rise by age rather than performance) will stay and even get bigger with the present lack of teachers (5000 in Delhi, up to 1 million in India). With little supply,  demand can lead to higher prices to the sought after goods and services, i.e. skilled teachers (yes the RTE Act prescribes all schools, including low cost unrecognized schools to only employ formally trained teachers).

Monopoly in education as well as in other areas has never been successful, but it will take a long time to get to that conclusion following the recent report on Delhi schools.

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The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.