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Problems with the RTE Act

The recent news that the RTE has been followed by a decrease in enrollments in school didn’t surprise many of us homeschoolers who have become very familiar with it. We know well how confusing and repressive it seems.

What was a great idea and initiative seems to have lost focus somewhere.

Listing out some problems in case anyone who is interested in any reform comes by.

  • The RTE is vague. There are many grey areas. This makes it difficult for people to count on it. For example, what happens if a parent (like us) chooses not to send their child to school?
  • The RTE comes from some ideal place where there are many schools with enough staff and equipment and space and so on. Many schools including government schools in Mumbai will not be able to comply with its recommendations on open space as a part of the school. Many schools don’t have enough trained staff. It is difficult, if not impossible to comply with their recommended ratios. There simply aren’t enough teachers.
  • It disqualifies a lot of schools for qualifications – this is where alternative schools have run into trouble. Many of these are NGOs. Some have post doctoral people educating tribal kids under the sky on a voluntary basis. Without a campus, these schools are not schools and the teachers are not teachers. The teaching aids, not following the government curriculum are not ‘appropriate’ study material. The more innovative schools that use more experiential learning than books have this problem too. The focus seems to have shifted from education and literacy to regimented standardization. In this process, many genuinely innovative educational initiatives have come under the axe
  • The RTE is very regimented. It goes into such great detail on some aspects of schools, that what is missing or when reality contradicts the expectations  from the act, it becomes a very disturbing grey area. For example, really, if a school can’t provide separate classrooms with two teachers, etc… they have three years to comply or they will be shut down? Wouldn’t this get rid of most village schools? Is it so important that they be shut down?
  • The RTE contradicts itself. A glaring example would be where it says that each teacher should have her own separate classroom to teach in, and then it also says that each class should have two teachers!

At the end of the day, if we leave out the one line that the RTE gets known for – that it is mandatory for every child between 6-12 years to go to school, the rest is hogwash. It is “development” of education the same way Air India got “developed” by stopping operations on the most profitable routes.

Kids have studied under the sky in India for far longer than India has been a country. It is not ideal, but it is certainly not the end of the world. Developing school facilities is not the same thing as educating children. Its just another scam.

Schools are a massive money making area, and the corrupt politicians are now turning their eyes to one of the few places where there is still green pastures.  There is no way for a school based on avoiding text books to become compliant with the RTE. It will either have to change what it is to quite a big extent, or it will have to bribe someone so that it can continue to function. It is a big scam simply because its a money making win-win. The regulations have been set up such that they bring schools in a vise. One way or the other, they either become compliant (possible only for the few ones with the resources – then too they will be spending along highly defined lines) or the bribe their way so that they continue to exist, or go extinct and make way for those who will do one of the two.

Strangely, the problems the RTE has raised are quite irrelevant to the right to education. There actually is no dispute around that (other than the homeschooling one). Yet, the logical step of getting rid of the white elephant profit makers to make the objective enforcable seems to be something the government is not interested in doing.

In debates earlier, I had been of the opinion that homeschoolers being a minority, we ought to consider the well being of the nation of children when thinking of challenging this law. Now, with enrollment dropping, I see no reason for us to hold back. The act doesn’t seem to be helping the mainstream either.

You may download a copy of the RTE document: Right To Education or RTE 2009-The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009

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