ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Right to Learn

Two years after the Right to Education Act, the government needs to focus on quality.

Two years is perhaps too short a period in which to assess how effective the groundbreaking Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE), which came into effect on 1 April 2010, has been in raising standards of education in a country as diverse as India. The very fact that such an Act was passed is significant. But assessments are inevitable and the measurable results, although discouraging sometimes, need not mean that the effort has failed. Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal seemed to suggest just this even as he acknowledged that despite impressively enhanced investment in primary education, the results so far have not been spectacular.

The additional investment, up from Rs 7,166 crore in 2005-06 to Rs 25,555 crore allocated for 2012-13, has ensured that some of the glaring gaps in physical infrastructure have been tackled. Thus, more government primary schools today have buildings, running water and other basic requirements that schools should have. There has also been substantial progress in increasing e nrolment with the national average now at 98.3% (2009-10) although non-government organisations would put that figure at 96%. In physical infrastructure, a glaring hole remains in the provision of toilets. According to an extensive survey by Pratham of primary schools across India, two-thirds of the schools surveyed had only one toilet and less than half had a separate toilet for girls. Of these only 50% were unlocked and therefore usable. The absence of toilets can be a real disincentive to continuing in school for girls once they cross puberty.

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