The demographic dividend is realizable only if the young population is adequately educated and made adept in 21st century skills. The average age of Indians is 25-30 years and that is a good sign only if education systems are robust.
The gap has been identified by successive governments and policies have been rolled out. To achieve academic equity, by far the most effective legislation came in the form of Right to Education Act 2009. It has been instrumental in ensuring access to quality education for the underprivileged. However, the implementation of the RTE comes into conflict with the autonomy and sustainability of the private institutions.
The NEP, in principle, strengthens the RTE as it takes care of the three important facets of the education delivery, namely the teachers, the students and the parents. The teachers will be better trained and the curriculum for the teacher-training is being reviewed and reformulated. The students will be taught via modern pedagogies and emphasis will be placed on development of technological skills. The parents will be empowered to access right institutions for the education of their wards, especially in the rural areas.
The RTE came into being in 2009 as a gap in the population’s access to education as planned and as on ground was perceived. By then, the universal education scheme i.e. the sarv siksha abhiyaan had achieved some significant milestones in terms of gross enrolment rate, however, the dropout rates and girl’s access to education were not satisfactory. The mean years of schooling for girls was a meager 1.7 % in 1990, which was elevated to 4.7% in 2018.
RTE aims to provide equitable access to quality education and the NEP aims to strengthen the educational infrastructure in the rural areas. If the rural areas and the small towns become self-sufficient in providing education to their inhabitants, equitable distribution of education will become a more realizable goal.
The relevance of RTE and the reservation of seats it entails becomes clear when we analyze the reports from National Achievement Surveys and ASER. Learning outcomes remain poor in the government schools and even many private schools, the NEP aims to rectify the situation by laying out a mechanism for teacher training and rolling out the National Curriculum Framework.
After a decade, RTE in 2019, need to review policy focus and emphasize on higher education is being felt. NEP is a step in that direction and it will reinforce the RTE.
A brief overview of RTE provisions seen in the light of NEP:
1. compulsory education to children of age 6 to 14, there is a proposal to revise the age bracket to 3-18
2. 25% reservation for SC, ST, and OBC students in the aided and unaided institutions with the exception of some minority institutions
3. Center is becoming more involved in education which is basically a state subject
4. Optimization of the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR), school infrastructure and teacher training has been emphasized for creating access to quality education in rural areas
5. Elimination of child labor was aimed at by the RTE, and now NEP gives it a new dimension by skilling the students and make them industry ready.
6. RTE eliminated corporal punishment in the interest of psychological wellbeing of children, NEP reinforces the idea with several of its provisions viz. the mandatory availability of counselors in schools
7. RTE was also instrumental in curbing unrecognized schools and unregulated coachings, NEP goes a step further and proposes to revise assessment frameworks and competitive exams to check coaching culture
Data suggests that in a decade around 3.3 million economically backward children benefited from the RTE reservations. However, that is not enough and NEP propose to address the gap.
The focus of the NEP is to not only ensure access like RTE, but to ensure access to quality education. Moreover, NEP goes a step ahead and unlike RTE focuses on addressing fundamentally the mode and methods of education.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.