Activists cry foul as move to dilute RTE gains momentum

Child rights activists say recommendations by ministries and NITI Aayog to reintroduce detention of poorly performing schoolchildren aged 6-14, done away with by the RTE Act, will see more dropouts



Photo by Natasha Hemrajani/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Natasha Hemrajani/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Abid Shah

Child rights activists are greatly perturbed by a presentation on school-level education that has reportedly been made by a group of secretaries before Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 13 in the presence of concerned Union Ministers and NITI Aayog officials.


The presentation advocates reintroduction of detention of poorly performing schoolchildren in the age group of six to 14 years in their respective class through year-end examination, among other points.


This would do away with no-detention policy up to the eighth standard that is presently enforced under the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009, which, reportedly in view of the group of Secretaries, has lead to poor standards and deficient quality of education.


Earlier, a similar point was made by NITI Aayog in its report reviewing the 12th five-year plan, which is set to be replaced with a vision document after March 2017.

The idea behind no-detention has been to reduce the high dropout rates that run way beyond 50% in case of poor, Dalits, Scheduled Tribe and Muslim schoolchildren, and even higher in case of girls from these segments of society.


The Aayog termed the no-detention policy under the RTE Act as “detrimental though being well intentioned”. The idea behind no-detention has been to reduce the high dropout rates that run way beyond 50% in case of poor, Dalits, Scheduled Tribe and Muslim schoolchildren, and even higher in case of girls from these segments of society.


The RTE Act has a provision for a Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation or CCE which could identify weak areas among young and initial learners, to identify deficiencies and provide extra help by teachers, trainers and coordinators without detaining students in any of the classes up to eighth standard.


Ravi Prakash, an activist who mobilises unschooled children for admission in schools, points out that every child has been recognised in the RTE Act as per the spirit of the Constitution as “potential learner”, and thus to dishearten him or her through failure followed by detention in any of the classes up to eighth standard is not only unwarranted but also highly detrimental.


“Besides the stigma involved, reintroducing detention could lead to some dropping out and push all the children to rote learning where they run the risk of losing their natural vitality”, says Ravi.

“Besides the stigma involved, reintroducing detention could lead to some dropping out and push all the children to rote learning where they run the risk of losing their natural vitality.”
Ravi Prakash, activist

Ambrish Rai, convener of the RTE Forum which brings together no less than 10,000 child rights activists spread all over the country, says he has recently been to parts of Karnataka to find that only 2% of state government-run schools have teachers adequately qualified to teach science and mathematics, warning that the burden of such glaring systemic shortcomings would be borne by children once detention in lower school years is reintroduced.


Rai calls the moves by NITI Aayog and concerned ministries highly discriminatory to children since in case of higher education, six monthly semesters do away with detention. He argues, “An engineering student can move to next semester without clearing all the papers, so why should a child be detained in any of the classes at school level? Scandinavian countries have a no-detention policy at school level which is similar to the RTE provision. The only difference is that in Scandinavia, quite a bit of care is provided to child learners to enable them to overcome whatever deficiencies that they may end up with. Weakness in studies is made up through special attention by trained teachers, unlike here.”

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