Fundamental right to education, Bill pending with standing committee of Parliament
Comments prepared by Prof. Muchkund Dubey, Co-Chairman of PCCSS
School Education System in India
(A Keynote speech given at the Judicial Colloquium on the Right to Education on February 21, 2009, at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi).
In my intervention, I shall try mainly to bring out some of the fundamental deficiencies of the school education system in India and suggest measures for removing them.
2. Though the Judicial Colloquium is on the theme of Right to Education Bill which is applicable only to the children in the age group 6 to 14, I am going to speak on school education system as a whole in India. This is because the distinction between elementary and secondary education may be valid from the pedagogic point of view; but this distinction becomes arbitrary if looked at from the point of view of universalizing school education, and ensuring its quality, equity in its provision and the right to education.
3. School education is the foundation on which the structure of higher education is built. In a hearing in the Supreme Court on the provision of school education, the Judges who heard the case had remarked that to invest in higher education at the cost of elementary education is like constructing the higher stories of a building without putting in place its foundation and the ground floor. School education also determines the over-all size and the quality of the knowledge pool in a country, which is essential for enhancing productivity and the competitiveness of the economy as a whole. Universalization of school education is the most effective measure for building an inclusive society.
4. The school education system in India suffers from systemic problems. It is not the question of teachers not turning up in schools, curriculum and syllabus being deficient, and parents not taking interest. Each of these problems are rooted in the system as a whole. Therefore, until there is a systemic change, working at micro levels in some schools for introducing new pedagogy, and instituting special schemes, are not going to help. The following are among the most important systemic problems.
Firstly, there is the problem of access. School education is simply unavailable to the vast number of children in the relevant age group in the country. During the last few decades, there has been some progress in improving enrollment. Gross enrollment ratio from Class I to VIII was 94.9 percent and from Class I to XII 77 percent (Educational Statistics at a Glance 2005-06, the Ministry of HRD, 2008). The Government primarily relies on these data to project its claim for the progress that has been made in expanding school education in India. But enrollment hardly provides the basis for assessing the degree of access to school education. Firstly, enrollment figures are generally rigged and exaggerated for various administrative and political purposes. Moreover, in order to assess the progress in expanding school education, it is important to take into account not only the figures for attendance but also for drop-out from among those who are enrolled. The drop-out rates are very high indeed. For the country as a whole, the drop-out rate from Class I to X was 61.6 percent;1 and in a State like Bihar it was above 75 percent2. Among those who drop out, the percentage of Scheduled Caste children in the country as a whole was 70.6 and of Scheduled Tribes 78.51. In Bihar, the figure was close to 90 percent for both the categories2. The net result is that about 30 percent of the children in India are out of school; the percentage is as high as 50 in Bihar (1.5 crores out of 3 crores children in the school going age group)2.
The huge number of out-of-school children means the exclusion of a vast number of children from school education and thus a colossal waste of human resources. Education is the worst form of exclusion because it excludes from other walks of life and areas of activities. Besides, exclusion from school education, particularly at the primary level, is a denial of human rights both in accordance with the provision in the Indian Constitution and the relevant provision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The second systemic problem of school education in India is the rampant discrimination characterizing it. Children of the rich and the elite have access to good quality private and special types of public schools, whereas children of the vast majority of the poor, including the minorities and marginalized groups, go to government schools which are in shambles. 89.1 percent of the primary schools in India were in the public sector (government and local body) and only 10.9 percent in the private sector1. For upper primary schools the percentages were 72 and 28 respectively1. (Source: the same HRD data). The enrollment ratio from Class I-VII/VIII was 72.23 percent in government schools and 27.61 percent in private schools (DISE data; NUEPA, 2007-08). This shows that universalisation of school education cannot be left to the private sector. If after 60 years of independence, private schools have been able to fill in the gap of only 10 per cent of enrollment at the elementary level and only 4 to 5 per cent of the requirement for building new schools at that level, there can be no assurance that they will be able to fill in the remaining gap in the next 50 to 60 years if the responsibility for universalising school education is left to them. At that rate, we may wait for a whole century for universalising school education in India.
The existence of a hierarchy of schools perpetuates and accentuates social inequality. It also makes for bad education. For, empirical studies have demonstrated that schools which bring in children from different communities and classes, provide better education and even the children of the rich and the elite stand to benefit from such a school system.
The third systemic problem is the abysmally poor quality of school education in India. This has been attributed to a variety of factors, including poor curriculum and syllabus, deficient pedagogy, negligent teachers and parents who are unconcerned. But the real reason is the gross under-funding of school education in India. If the required magnitude of funding is available, many of the factors allegedly accountable for the poor quality of school education, would disappear. For example, it is unfair to blame teachers who are compelled to teach in a school which does not have blackboards, teaching aids, laboratories for experiment and adequate space, and which do not provide facilities or incentives for improving their skills and environment and for pedagogic innovation. . Besides, a large number of teachers have no training. They are also obliged to carry out non-educational activities. The members of the Common School System Commission, Bihar, during their visits to schools, did not find any school which had a functioning laboratory. There is a rule in physics according to which if quantity is taken to a critical level, it brings about qualitative change. Similarly, in India the quality of school education is decisively influenced by quantity, that is, the magnitude of funding.
The Common School System Commission, Bihar, in its report estimated that in order to universalize free and compulsory education for children in the age group 6 to 14 in 5 years, for children from Class IX to X in 8 years and for those in Class XI to XII in 9 years, 25,900 additional primary schools, 15,500 Middle schools and 19,100 Secondary schools had to be built. The number of additional teachers to be recruited for meeting the norms set for universalization would be 2.55 lakhs at the primary level, 3.24 lakhs at the Middle level and 4.29 lakhs at the Secondary level. It stands to reason that the very first of the most essential requirements to be fulfilled for universalizing quality school education is to build these additional schools, recruit these additional teachers and provide training for them. These are not merely quantitative targets, these have a decisive bearing on quality. Of course, other pre-requisites to be fulfilled for ensuring quality cannot be ignored . These have been elaborately provided for in the norms and standards laid down by the Commission.
Some experts and policy makers, including the Honorable Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India, have for a long time been advocating the institution of a voucher system whereby parents are given vouchers on the strength of which they can buy education for their children. The voucher system for education were introduced in some Latin American countries and some states in the USA, but experience was far from satisfactory. In the Indian context, it is unlikely to work because of the systemic problems already mentioned. The mere availability of additional cash through the vouchers, with the parents, is not going to lead to the needed expansion in the number of schools to be built and the , number of teachers to be recruited and trained. This requires planning and organisation which only the State can provide.
In India, the State has never adopted a time-bound programme for the universalisation of school education. So far as elementary education is concerned, the vehicle adopted for universalisation has been the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan. It needs to be emphasised that the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan is not a plan but a scheme. Apart from its numerous other deficiencies, it never set time limit for universalising primary education. The objective for enhancing access was announced from time to time. These were like moving targets; each time the target is sought to be hit, it moves further.
India�s National Education Policy (1992) laid down the goal of setting aside at least 6 percent of the GDP for expenditure on education. This target has also found place in the manifestos of almost all major political parties. But the maximum share of GDP devoted to education in India has been close to 4 percent and on most occasions it has hovered round 3 percent. A principal reason why school education in India has remained grossly under-funded is that it has had no political lobby. The children themselves do not constitute a lobby; nor do the poor parents of the vast majority of the children going to schools.
Two expert groups set up by the Government of India and the Common School System Commission, Bihar laid down norms and standards for providing quality education, put price tags on these norms and standards, and calculated the additional cost to be incurred for universalising school education within a time-bound framework. The expert groups set up by the Government of India confined themselves to universalising education for the children in age group 6 to 14, whereas the Bihar Commission Report provided for universalising school education from the age 5 to 16, i.e. including a year of pre-primary education and 2 years of secondary education. The Expert Group under the chairmanship of Professor Tapas Mazumdar set up by the Government of India in 1999, estimated an additional cost of Rs.13,700 crores per annum over the next 10 years for universalizing elementary education according to the norms prescribed by it. The Expert Group set up by a Committee of the Consultative Advisory Board on Education(CABE) which submitted its report in 2004, estimated a total cost of approximately Rs.73,000 crores per annum over the next 6 years for achieving the same goal. Setting the objective of universalizing education for children in the age group 5 to 14 within 5 years, secondary education within 8 years and higher secondary education within 9 years, the Bihar Commission report estimated an additional expenditure of Rs.9,950 crores over 9 years. The non-implementation of the recommendation of the expert group led by Professor Tapas Mazumdar resulted in a cumulative gap, reflected in a manifold increase in the additional expenditure to be incurred for broadly the same purpose in 2004. If the recommendation of the latter expert group also remains un-implemented, as has been the case until now, then the cumulative gap will grow further and in 10 years from now we would need an astronomically large sum of resources for universalizing elementary education. Perhaps at that time the Government in power will raise its hand in despair and drop the whole idea of universalisation, and India will continue to stagnate for years to come at a low level of school education, both quantitatively as well as qualitatively.
Another systemic malady which has afflicted school education in India is the transformation of the very nature and meaning of school education, brought about by the forces of globalization and liberalization in which international agencies have played no small a role. In most developing countries including India, education has to a large extent been replaced by literacy for which it is strictly not necessary to go to schools. According to the new paradigm, education is defined in functional terms i.e. making the recipient qualified for the market place. In this sense, educational system as a whole has been commodified. Today, the purpose of school education is merely imparting skills of literacy and numeracy and not to enhance the capacity of the children to comprehend, contest and transform. The basic philosophical purpose of education is to enhance the capacity of the children to comprehend, to discern, to contest what, according to them, is wrong, and to develop the urge to transform what is wrong and unjust. These philosophical goals have been set aside and replaced by the functional goal of meeting the demand of the market. Under the globalization/liberalization paradigm, schools have to a large extent been replaced by literacy and informal centres, trained teachers have been replaced by para-teachers, and the system of at least one teacher for every class and for every important subject has been replaced by multi-grade teaching. Training is no longer regarded as essential for teaching. The Government of Bihar officially notified in 1991 that training was no longer necessary as a qualification for appointment as a teacher. This whole process of distortion of the meaning and purpose of education started systematically since the mid-1980s and has by now been completed. Reversing this is going to be a colossal task.
This transformation of the nature of education has seriously affected its quality and has relegated to the background the concept of schooling as a means of socialization, nation-building and formation of social capital, which has been practised for centuries by important developed countries. It has also been used to rationalise non-universalization of school education and its under-funding.
Transforming the School Education System:
5. Measures to be taken to bring about a systemic change in school education in India are derived from the above analysis of the maladies of the school education system. Following are some of the measures which need to be taken:-
(a) For the nation as a whole and for each State, we must draw up a plan for achieving universalization within a time bound framework. Given the fact that school education from the age group 6 to 14 is now a fundamental right and that education even in the age group 15 to 18, is increasingly coming to be so recognized, the time period for universalization should not exceed five years for education up to the age of 14. If this time limit is not met, then this would mean further delay in ensuring right to education which has now become a fundamental right.
(b) Education has to be free and compulsory up to the age of 14 according to Article 21-A. There is a strong reason for its becoming so for at least one year of education at the pre-primary level and for the children in the age group 15 to 16 also. A group of experts which met at UNESCO headquarters at the end of 2007 and of which I was a member, arrived at the consensus that basic education should consist of at least 9 years after pre-primary education and ideally it should extend to 12 years. In most of the advanced developing countries like Brazil, Thailand, China, and Indonesia, the task of universalising elementary education was accomplished a long time ago and the current preoccupation of the educational planners and policy makers of these countries is with universalising and improving the quality of secondary education.
(c) We should establish norms and standards for education to be applied to all schools. These norms and standards ensure both the quality and equity in school education. The norms should relate to space, furnishing, equipment, teaching aid, number of schools to be renovated and built, number of teachers to be recruited, number of teachers to be trained, curricula, pedagogy etc. It is not difficult to establish and apply such norms and standards. These are done in all important developed countries. In India, two national-level committees and one state level commission have laid down detailed norms and standards for school education. The norms and standards for quality education laid down by the Bihar Commission are more elaborate than those attempted by the the two expert groups set up by the Government of India. The norms included in the Right to Education Bill 2008 which was introduced in the Parliament at its last session but which now seems to have lapsed, are inadequate and skimpy. A large number of very important norms are not specified and against them it is only stated: �As the Government may decide to determine�. This makes the norms unjusticiable, and hardly a basis for accountability.
(d) A year-wise plan should be prepared and implemented for building schools, recruiting teachers, providing teacher training and applying other norms and standards.
(e) A price tag should be put on each norm which should be the basis for calculating the additional expenditure to be incurred on school education. This exercise has also been undertaken by the two national level expert groups and the state level commission referred to above. In the case of Bihar, the objectives to be realised through the additional expenditure are more ambitious. They include one year of pre-primary education and two years of secondary education, and a complete overhauling of teachers education going up to the level of university department imparting teacher training. The additional expenditure estimated by the Commission is not unaffordable. For example, if 6 per cent of GNP is devoted to expenditure on education in India as a whole and if half of that were for school education, and if 8 per cent of this is made available to Bihar(which is the proportion of Bihar�s population to the total population of India), then the additional cost to be incurred by the State would come to approximately Rs.1748 crores per annum which should be affordable. A part of the additional resources can be mobilised by raising the percentage of budget expenditure of Bihar devoted to school education from the current nearly 13 per cent to 20 per cent which is the average for Indian states as a whole. In that case, the additional expenditure to be mobilised will come down by Rs.2731 crores. Besides, there is a considerable amount of expenditure incurred for running and opening new special types of schools for the children of the privileged class. Even if the existing schools in this category are allowed to continue and if there is an embargo on opening such new schools, there will be savings which can be devoted to education for the children of the poor. Moreover, the State can also borrow from NABARD and banks which have a window for social lending. Such borrowings will be for a limited period, i.e. the period stipulated for universalising school education at different levels. After that, the system will be self-sustaining and the only expenditure needed would be those for maintaining and further improving it. Thus, there is a variety of ways in which the estimated additional resources can be mobilised. They are also affordable if the suggestions made above are implemented. In any case, they are indispensable for complying with the basic provision of the Constitution on social equality and right to life which now includes right to education, for sustaining growth in India and for ensuring its rightful place in the comity of nations.
(f) School education should be based on the concept of neighbourhood schools whereby the state should declare the neighbourbood for each school which should be required by law to admit and educate till completion, all the children in the required age group residing in the neighbourhood. In India, we have advocates of freedom of choice and freedom of profession who argue that the concept of neighbourhood school is against the exercise of these freedoms. They forget that this concept has been applied for decades, if not centuries, in countries where democracy has taken firm roots and where freedom is valued much more than in our country. I will illustrate this by a personal example. When I was posted to New York, I had to send my two children to a public school there. Since I stayed on 89th Street & 1st Avenue in New York, I was told that my children could go only to the nearest public school which was on the 96th Street & 2nd Avenue. This location is on the fringe of Harlem which was known for its high incidence of crime and drug addiction. But I had no choice but to send my children to this school. This was according to the law of the city and nobody complained that it was in violation of his/her fundamental rights. Apparently, individual rights cannot take precedence over the public purpose enshrined in the Constitution, of ensuring social equality. (g) There should be a legal requirement for applying both the norms and standards and for providing the resources for this purpose. These should be one of the first charges on the budget of the Centre and State Governments on par with expenditures for the implementation of other fundamental rights.
(h) A high-level mechanism in the form of a commission should be set up which should be vested with the over-all responsibility for overseeing progress in school education, for being the last Court of Appeal, for adjudicating where called upon to do so and for improving, through research and public discussion, the norms and standards, and suggesting innovations. Such a mechanism exists in most major developed countries.
6. A school system based on the above parameters is called the Common School System. It has been practised by almost all major developed countries of the world. In India, there has been no interest in building such a school system, mainly because of the influence in policy making of elitist class which manages to send its children to special category of schools.
7. A deliberate attempt is being made, mainly by the private school lobbies, to spread the canard that such a system does not permit the running of private schools and, therefore, imposes uniformity and prevents experimentation and innovation so far as curriculum, syllabus and pedagogy are concerned. This is farthest from the truth. The fact is that there is full scope for the existence and even expansion of private schools in a Common School System, subject to the condition that they, like government schools, must also apply the norms and standards legally laid down, and subject themselves to inspection by the agents of the high-level commission on education, in order to be held accountable for this purpose. In assigning a role to private schools, it must be remembered that, for complying with Article 21-A, these schools, like government schools, have to provide free and compulsory education at least to the children in the age group 6 to 14 , that their function essentially is to provide a public good which does not leave scope for making profit and that in the ultimate analysis, the responsibility for universalizing equitable and quality education rests squarely on the State.
8. Seen in the above light, several of the measures adopted or announced by the government recently for improving access to and quality of school education are redundant and designed to serve mainly political purpose. They are also devices to detract attention from the systemic problems. For example, if the norm of a primary school at a distance of a kilometer from the habitation of children, a middle school at a distance of three kilometers and a secondary school at a distance of five kilometers is applied, there is no need to build hostels, including for children of the minority and the marginalized groups. If school education is provided free of cost in the comprehensive sense of the term, there is no need to provide scholarships. If the principle of neighbourhood is applied, reservation of a particular percentage of seats for the children of the poor households in private schools is not necessary because the private schools will have to admit all the children from the neighbourhood and provide free and compulsory education according to the legal provisions made by the State. It is for the state to work out in consultation with the private schools, the basis of burden-sharing. Similarly, if the norms and standards are strictly applied with the provision of adequate resources for this purpose, it will no longer be necessary to establish model schools on a selective basis; for, all the nearly 12 lakh schools in the system would become model schools and not only 6000, i.e. one model school for each block, as proposed by the Prime Minister of India.
-- Comments on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008.
This Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on 10-12-2008 and referred to the Standing Committee on the subject of the House. The Standing Committee submitted its report, which included a few amendments to the Bill. The Bill could not be taken up for consideration and adoption by the Parliament before it was prorogued. The comments made below are not inclusive. They are confined to some of the essential features of the Bill.
(1) Financial implications of the Bill: There is no attempt in the Bill to calculate its financial implications. It is stated in the Financial Memorandum attached to the Bill that �it is not possible to quantify the financial requirement on this account at this stage�. This is not correct. The expert committees set up by the Central Government as well as the Common School System Commission established by the Government of Bihar, have quantified the financial requirements for providing free and compulsory education for children in the relevant age groups. They have done it on the basis of putting price tags on detailed norms and standards specified in their reports.
Unless the required financial resources are calculated and a provision made in the Bill that the State shall provide them in a time bound framework, the time target set out in the Bill are unlikely to be met, and free and compulsory education to the children in the age groups 6-14, is unlikely to become available in the foreseeable future.
The assumption seems to be that the enhanced financial resources made available for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), including States� contribution to it, would take care of the financial requirements. This assumption is not justified. The total resources for SSA including the contributions by the State Governments in the 11th Five Year Plan is Rs.1,51,453 Crores. This comes to an annual resource allocation of nearly Rs.30,000 Crores. This is far short of approximately Rs.73,000 Crores per annum additional expenditure, estimated by the Expert Group set up by the CABE Committee on the Right to Education Bill.
(2) Norms and Standards: Norms and Standards are the most crucial requirement for ensuring quality and equality in school education. However, the norms and standards contained in the Schedule to the Bill are skimpy and grossly inadequate. There are numerous omissions like norms relating to availability of a school at a particular distance from the habitation of children, types of schools, students and teachers per school and per class room, school furniture, laboratories, medical facilities etc. A number of norms are left to be determined at the discretion of the government. As they are not provided in the Bill, they will not be justiciable. Besides, they may, also never be provided. The Bill is deficient in providing norms and standards in spite of the fact that these have been specified or prescribed in the recent past by a number of committees, commissions and agencies of the Government of India.
(3) Responsibility of Schools to provide free and compulsory education: Different scales of responsibility have been laid down for different types of schools for providing free and compulsory education. The net result of the provision on this subject will be the perpetuation and legitimization of the currently prevailing hierarchy of schools, some meant for privileged classes and others for the poor classes. This violates both Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21A (Right to Education) of the Constitution.
There is no alternative to the establishment of a Common School System in India if the State intends to strictly adhere to these fundamental rights in the Constitution. The Bill, therefore, must be rooted in the framework of a Common School System which brings in its fold all schools, including private unaided schools, the so-called specified category schools etc.
(4) The Neighbourhood Concept: The concept of neighbourhood as provided in the Bill is in relation to a child and not in relation to a school. This has the effect of exempting certain schools, mainly unaided private schools, from the responsibility of admitting all the children in the neighbourhood. The competent authority should prescribe the neighbourhood for each school taking into account, among others, the need to optimise the socio-cultural diversity of the children. Moreover, it should be clearly provided that every school shall admit all the children in the relevant age group residing in the prescribed neighbourhood.
(5) Responsibility of Local Authorities: The Bill imposes extensive responsibility on the local authority. This is unrealisitic in the context of the present state of the evolution of local authorities. If the Panchayats are to be taken as local authority, then these are in a rudimentary state of evolution in a majority of the States in India. In most States, there is only nominal devolution of authority to the Panchayats. Therefore, the provision in the Bill relating to the responsibility of the local authority is unlikely to be implemented in most States in the near future.
(6) School Management Committees: The School Management Committee (SMC) is the critical link in the chain of institutions responsible for ensuring free and compulsory education of an equitable quality. The provisions in the Bill on SMC are utterly inadequate. The total membership of a SMC is not given. If the SMC is very large, it can become non-functional. Besides, there is no indication as to how the Chairperson and other office bearers of the SMC would be elected. In many States, local M.L.As and M.Ps are the Chairpersons of SMC in their ex-officio capacity. This lies at the root of the corruption prevailing in the management of schools. There should, therefore, be clear-cut provision that the Chairperson and other office bearers of the SMC will be elected by and from among the elected members of the SMC. Moreover, the functions of the SMC should be spelt out in greater detail. This would include several of the functions assigned in the Bill to local bodies.
It was due to the importance of the School Management Committee in ensuring access and quality of school education that the Report submitted by the Common School System Commission, Bihar, included two elaborately formulated draft legislations on school management, one for primary and middle schools, and the other for secondary schools.
(7) Language Policy: The Bill does not lay down any language policy. It simply states, �medium of instruction, as for as practicable, be in a child�s mother tongue�. This is inadequate. It does not even define the word �mother tongue�. For example, the mother tongue of the child can be other than Hindi, (say Bhojpuri or Maithali) in a Hindi-speaking region. Secondly, a distinction has to be made between using language as the medium of instruction and teaching a language. Thirdly, a beginning has to be made towards implementing, at least from now onwards, the 3-language formula recommended by the Kothari Commission and included in the 1986 National Education Policy and since then reiterated several times by the Government of India. The text in Annex-II to the Legislation on Common School System and Right to Education recommended by the Common School System Commission, Bihar, lays down all essential details of the language policy to be followed while implementing Right to Education. This is Annexure-II to the legislation, and is, thus, its integral part.
(8) Pre-Primary Education: Though Article 21A of the Indian Constitution on Right to Education does not extend this right to children below the age of 6, it is very difficult to ignore pre-primary education in any scheme for providing free and compulsory education. The most important point to bear in this connection is that pre-primary education is the foundation on which primary and secondary education is built. The ICDS under which pre-primary education is supposed to be covered is utterly inadequate for the purpose. The education component function of the ICDS is discharged only peripherally. Besides, ICDS does not cover the entire population of the children in the age group 3-6, in spite of the Supreme Court�s directive to this effect. The quality of education in the age group 6 to 14 will critically depend upon the kind of education that is imparted to the children in the age group 3-6. The Bill in a sense, recognises these facts in that it has a clause on pre-primary education in Section 11. However, this clause is perfunctory and only on a best endeavour basis, as it states �the appropriate government� may make necessary arrangement for providing pre-school education for such children�.
There is enough justification to universalise free and compulsory education at least for the age group 3-6 as a part of ensuring right to education. There is little justification for allowing obligation to provide pre-primary education to continue to languish under Article 45 of the Constitution, when education for the children in age group 6 to 14 has become a part of fundamental right.
(9) Over-all surveillance of school education: The provision in the Bill on overall surveillance of school education (Section 33) is also utterly inadequate. It provides for the constitution of only � a National Advisory Council�. The need is not for an advisory body but a statutory body. An advisory body functions as an appendage to Government Department or Office and more often than not, appointment to such a body is a means of distributing patronages. What is needed is a separate statutory commission both at the central and State levels, vested with the power for the over-all monitoring of the implementation of the Bill, reviewing the norms and standards on a periodical basis with a view to improving them, functioning as the Court of Last Appeal and adjudicating when necessary. Every developed country with a common school system has established such a statutory body.
(10) Teachers: Service terms and conditions: The Bill has hardly any provision on the service terms and conditions of teachers. This has been left to the discretion of the government. Without motivated qualified teachers, it is not possible to deliver quality education. Therefore, norms and standards recommended by committees, expert groups and the commission set up for this purpose, as well as those practiced in government schools, clearly prescribe service terms and conditions. By far the biggest chunk of resources for school education is devoted to teachers salary. It is, therefore, not possible to calculate the additional costs for universalising school education, without prescribing the salaries and other terms and conditions for the service of teachers.
(11) Teachers: Minimum Qualifications The provision in the Bill on teachers minimum qualifications (Section 23) is inadequate and non-committal. It leaves the qualifications of teachers to be laid down by the appropriate authority. These authorities may very well perpetuate the present system of para-teachers, teachers without training etc. This section, therefore, has to be revised in order to provide specific norms for teachers qualification and for training to meet these qualifications.
(12) Prohibition of deployment of Teachers for Non-educational purposes: The relevant Section (27) of the Bill provides for so many exceptions as to render it of little value. Teaches would continue to be deployed for �decennial population census, disaster relief duties or duties relating to elections to the local authority or the State Legislature or Parliament, as the case may be�. These exceptions virtually nullify the provision of the Bill. If teachers are continued to be deployed for these purposes, there will be continuing disruption in teaching. This is bound to have a crippling effect on the quality of education to children.
(13) Maintenance of Pupil:Teacher Ratio: According to Article 25 of the Bill, the pupil:teacher ratio as specified in the Schedule would be established in each school within six months from the date of commencement of the Act. This seems unrealistic because ensuring the enforcement of the ratio will call for recruitment of additional teachers and their training. In another section of the Bill, it is provided that teachers recruitment shall be completed in five years. How is it possible then to ensure the enforcement of the ratio within six months?
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