This section examines the provisions of the RTE Act in terms of enabling school access to wider sections of children, and providing all children with quality education. It also lists the responsibilities of schools and teachers, and the criteria and provisions of the Act for recognising schools.
Millions of children in India never enrol or get admitted to school, and for a number of reasons, do not complete eight years of elementary education. A fundamental goal of the Act is to ensure that our schools are equipped with the necessary human, physical and financial resources to enrol all children, and enable them to complete eight years of elementary schooling (Classes 1-8).
There is an overwhelming consensus among educationists that the learning levels of large numbers of students in India are extremely,unacceptably low. While the focus of this criticism is about the poor standards of learning in government schools, sufficient attention has not been paid to the research indicating below par levels of learning in the best private English medium schools located in big Indian cities.
The major criticism of the RTE Act is that it does not pay attention to this significant problem of low learning outcomes. This criticism in not warranted in the case of some states, including Maharashtra. These states are committed to having assessments of school quality periodically undertaken, and learning outcomes and third party evaluations are explicitly mentioned in few of them. The specific details of the Maharashtra Government commitment to learning outcomes is provided in the next sub-section. Clearly the RTE vision of providing well equipped, properly staffed, inclusive schools needs a far stronger commitment of all states to incorporate grade-appropriate learning outcomes at the top of their respective RTE agendas.
Two special features of quality need to be highlighted. The RTE Act has provided for School Management Committees (SMCs) to monitor various aspects of the qualitative functioning of schools. The new SMCs are different from previous institutional arrangements like Village Education Committeees (VECs) in that they are composed mainly of parents, and that they are mandated to monitor many more aspects of the functioning of schools. While SMCs are to look at the various aspects of the qualitative functioning of individual schools, and apply to schools in all states, the second aspect of the commitment to quality is limited to Maharashtra and some other states.
In Maharashtra, there are explicit commitments in the State Rules to quality issues in general, and learning outcomes in particular. These commitments mandate various state and district-level academic institutions with responsibilities and specific tasks to promote quality elementary education.
The constitution of a School Management Committee (SMC) is an important provision of the Act. Bodies similar to SMCs have been in operation in different parts of the country to improve the monitoring and management of schools. While all schools have to constitute SMCs, there are some notable exceptions. In addition to the schools exempted totally from the Act, private unaided schools do not have to constitute an SMC. In minority aided schools and government aided schools, SMCs are to perform advisory functions only.
The Act has specified the basic composition of the SMCs:
Local elected representatives.
Parents or guardians of students in the school.
75% of the SMC must be composed of parents or guardians, and proportionate representation is to be given to those whose children belong to disadvantaged groups. Women are to constitute 50% of the SMC membership.
The Maharashtra Rules add additional features to the composition of the SMCs: The parents and guardians who constitute 75% of the SMC will be selected or elected in a meeting of school parents. The remaining 25% would be formed from locally elected representatives, management members, Head Teacher, teachers, educationists and child development experts. Two students from the school are to be co-opted as non-voting members, of which one, at least, must be a girl. The chairperson of the SMC in government schools will be elected from the parents. In aided schools, the chairperson will be a management representative. In government schools, the Head Teacher (or, if the post does not exist, the senior-most teacher) will be the Member-Secretary, and will conduct the meetings of the SMC. These should be held at least once a month. The SMC is to be constituted within three months of the new academic year, and reconstituted every two years.
The Act specifies that the SMC should perform 3 basic functions:
The Act has given the states the freedom to add to this list of basic functions. The Maharashtra Government has detailed specific functions of the SMC. This includes a detailed outlining of the SDP. The SMC is to prepare the SDP, which is a three year plan consisting of three annual sub-plans.
The most important components of the SDP are:
Additional financial requirements over the three year period to fulfil the responsibilities of the school under the Act.
Requirement of substitute teachers for teachers on leave.
Education rehabilitation arrangements for children from weaker sections and children with disabilities.
For more details on the composition, functions and other relevant details on SMCs and SDPs, see Part V of the Maharashtra Rules. Click here: http://www.rtemaharashtra.org/downloads/Maharashtra_Rules.pdf
Some State Rules have committed the government to ensuring quality education.
The Maharashtra Rules state that an Academic Authority should be notified, and its functions would include:
The quality education assurance goes further in the Maharashtra Rules to include:
A broad definition of quality education has been included in the following discussion. The areas include provision of school facilities, adequate number of qualified teachers, curriculum, pedagogy, learning outcomes, evaluation and the formation of School Management Committees to monitor the functioning of schools.
The responsibilities of all schools are covered in Chapter IV of the RTE Act and Part IV of the Maharashtra Rules, and include the following:
The RTE Act and Maharashtra Rules have provided detailed information regarding teachers. Since the Act mandates that all teachers need to be qualified, information on various aspects of this issue are listed. It also includes what the Act and Maharashtra Rules list as the duties of teachers and grievance redressal mechanisms available to them. It concludes with the restrictions that are placed on government in the deployment of teachers, as well as the ban on teachers conducting private tuitions.
1. Some have said that the Act is only concerned with various rights of children, but has very little to say about quality education, specially learning outcomes? Is that true?
2. I hear that the Act has prescribed that schools have to provide certain facilities. Is this true?
3. Why has the Act prescribed teacher-pupil ratios?