By R. N. Mishra & S. Aswathy
Right to Education (RTE) is by far the most historic development in universalisation of elementary education in the country. Enacted in 2010, it implies that every child in the age group of 6 to 14 years has Right to elementary education. They are entitled for free and compulsory education.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the main vehicle for implementation of the RTE Act. It is one of the largest programmes of its kind in the world. It is primarily funded from central budget and it covers the whole country. More than 19 crore children are covered under this scheme in 11 lakh habitations. 98% of habitations in this country have elementary schools within 1 km and 92% have upper primary schools within 3 km of their locations.
The programme has been implemented in order to narrow down gender and social gaps in elementary education. Special efforts have been made to reach out to girls and children belonging to SC/ST and Muslim minority communities.
Over 3500 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBV) have been set up as residential upper primary schools for girls from SC, ST, OBC, Muslim communities and BPL girls in the educationally backward blocks. Free boarding / lodging, books, stationary and uniforms are being provided to the children in these schools.
Under SSA, special attention has been given to urban deprived children, children affected by periodic migration and children living in remote and scattered habitations. Attempts have also been made to reach out to children suffering from autism. It involves their identification, preparation of individualized Education Plan, teacher training on Autism and therapeutic support.
As part of the scheme, steps have been taken to improve the standard of elementary education in the country. It includes improvement in infrastructural facilities and sanctioning of new teacher posts in government schools. Free textbooks are being provided to all children in government and government aided schools.
Last year, the centre released more than 23800 crore rupees and during the current financial year (2013-14), in the first eight months, over 16000 crore rupees have been released.
This increased funding has led to massive creation and improvement of infrastructure at school level. About 95% schools have drinking water facilities and 90% schools have toilets. Similarly about 75% upper primary schools have furniture. More than 3 lakh new school buildings with toilets, drinking water facilities and electricity have been created under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a flagship programme of UPA government to implement RTE.
Since the enactment of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, the enrolment of children at the elementary level has increased from about 19 crore in 2008-09 to about 20 crore in 2012-13 as per District Information System for Education (DISE) data. A total of over forty three thousand five hundred schools, seven lakh additional classrooms, five lakh forty six thousand toilets and thirty four thousand six hundred drinking water facilities have been sanctioned to States/UTs under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme to meet the objectives of the RTE Act.
The enrolment among the SCs has increased from 3 crore to 4 crore during 2008-09 and 2012-13. Similar positive trends have been noticed among STs and minorities also. Thirteen states have also admitted children belonging to disadvantaged groups/weaker sections in private unaided schools as per the RTE Act.
Along with the Mid Day Meal Scheme, the Right to Education Act has made substantial impact on universalisation of elementary education, reduction in dropout rates and fighting classroom hunger.
The improvement is reflected in the Net Enrolment ratio in Primary Education. It was 99.89% in 2011-12. There has been a substantial drop in dropout rate among the kids at the elementary level. The number of out of school children has come down sharply from more than 1.34 crore in 2005 to 29 lakh in 2012-13.
Several new measures have been taken for improving quality under RTE, in letter as well as in spirit. About 20 lakh additional teacher posts have been sanctioned under SSA upto 2012-13. Out of this twelve lakh forty thousand posts are reported to have been filled. After RTE, it is compulsory that only those people who are able to clear the Teacher Eligibility Test may be appointed as teachers.
To improve quality of learning, children are provided free text books upto class 8. Continuous and comprehensive evaluation system is being promoted. Curriculum reforms are made to make learning more children friendly and inclusive. Training for in service teachers and head masters are being incentivized.
The focus of all HRD Ministry schemes under the 11th Five Year Plan was access and growth whereas quality is the key under the current Five Year Plan.