Monday, May 28, 2012

How logical is Right to Education Act?

The Government of India passed the Right to Education Act (RTE) which recognizes education as the fundamental right of every child. It makes provision for compulsory and free education for children aged between 6 and 14 years. This act also has provisions which compel private institutions to admit 25 percent of the students from economically backward sections. Its legal validity has also been upheld by the Supreme Court. This initiative by the government is undoubtedly commendable but it lacks logic and has some serious loopholes.

As I have mentioned, the act makes it compulsory to induct 25 percent of the students from economically backward sections and no seats in that quota can be left vacant. The schools will be subsidised at the rate of average per learner costs in a government school. However, the policy makers have failed to take into account that the government schools charge less as they lack basic infrastructure like library and sports facilities. There is low attendance of the teachers in government schools and the teachers are under paid. Also, government run educational institutions enjoy various tax exemptions which private institutions are not entitled to. This raises some serious questions on the basis at which subsidies were decided?

Perhaps the policy makers should have used the famous ‘Pareto principle’. It states that the top 20 percent of the population contributes to the 80 percent of the costs and the remaining/bottom of the population contributes to only 20 percent of the costs. The more logical argument would have been charging only 20 percent of the fees from the economically weaker students. And this 20 percent of the fees could have been subsidised by the Central/State government.

The second most important question that arises is the basis on which the 25 percent reservations in private schools were decided. Why not 20 or 30 percent was selected. Was it selected on the basis of BPL data? The figure of 25 percent seems random.

The third important question is about exemption of minority run educational institutions. The minority run educational institutions have been exempted from this Act. Now, what is the definition of a minority run institution? Is it decided on the basis of religion? If it is decided on the basis of religion then what about the educational institutions run by sub-sub Hindu castes. The Hindu High School in Madras, for instance run by miniscule sub-sub Hindu caste people, by law, does not enjoy minority status.

The fourth important question is about the orphans. The stringent provision of the law makes it compulsory to produce caste certificates, BPL cards, birth certificates, etc. So how will the orphans arrange all this certificates?

And the fifth important question is the about the availability of funds. Estimates suggest that Rs. 171,000 crores or 1.71 trillion (US $ 38.2 billion) would be required in the next five years to implement the Act. With  the increasing budget and fiscal deficit the government will find it difficult to make both the ends meet.

I am sceptical about the implementation and success of this Act until and unless the above five questions are answered. I hope that the government finds logical answers to the above questions and this Act is a grand success.

Information Source – Banking Services Chronicle (June Edition), Wikipedia.

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