A wake-up call on RTE


Pratham's Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) tells us every year that teaching-learning at our primary schools is quite a disappointment. This time, however, it is shocking. ASER 2012 reveals the 'path breaking' Right to Education Act may have worked to further bring down learning levels by several notches.

Aimed at ensuring free and compulsory education for all aged between 6 and 14, the RTE in its zeal to school seems to be floundering in the mission to educate. The Act is clearly helping improve school infrastructure — an essential pre-requisite. But the RTE caveat of no detention up to the Class VIII — a well-intentioned move to reduce classroom stress — is now being blamed for declining learning levels and for promoting children to a higher grade although they are not ready for it.

The crucial year-end exam that has been at the core of the Indian schooling system for years is suddenly gone and with it, it appears, also academic seriousness. An age inappropriate curriculum, mediocre teaching quality and huge faculty vacancies only compound the learning deficit.

While the Union HRD Ministry still fights shy of acknowledging the problems with RTE, state governments have been quite alive to the issue.

Last year, the Central Advisory Board of Education set up a panel to examine Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) and the no-detention policy following their demand. On the ground, schools privately admit that no-detention ends up creating a Class IX with a number of students with learning levels unsuited for the grade.

Parents, the HRD Minister has admitted, incessantly request scrapping of CCE. While CBSE's own survey on CCE has thrown up positive results, independent Australian experts hired by them have said CCE marking systems need correction.

The ASER 2012 findings should serve as a wake-up call for the government to review its policies before the damage becomes irreversible. The 12th plan with its focus on learning outcomes is a good starting point but urgent intervention is the need of the hour to arrest the learning downslide. The hard won RTE needs to be re-oriented so that quality education is as much a right as a classroom, playground and toilet.

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