The NCPCR Report highlights the condition of Indian Schools.
Article 21(A)- The fundamental right to free and compulsory education, considered as the basic requirement for human growth, but availing this necessity might turn into a nightmare when the children are forced to study under dilapidated roofs.
School is supposed to be a safe and inclusive space where learning easily flows from the teacher to the students, but unfortunately Indian schools have somewhat failed to provide a comfortable environment for not just the students but also the teachers.
No benches, dark classrooms, broken toilets, you and I might not have witnessed this but this reality has intrinsically affected thousands of students coming from the poorest of families who have to undergo this reality.
THE NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR PROTECTION OF CHILD RIGHTS (NCPCR) REPORT, 2020
A survey was conducted by the National Commission for protection of child rights in nearly 26,000 schools (government and private) in the year 2018-19 across 12 states and UTs. The survey has brought into light some important considerations.
Some of the observed facts are:
- 22% schools reported working in dilapidated buildings with cracks in 31% of the school structures.
- 90% of schools had drinking water but only 45% reported regular water quality inspection from authorities.
- 54% of the schools did not provide mid-day meals as per the stipulated menu.
- 63% of the schools have fire extinguishers but only 59% of schools have taken NOC from the fire and rescue department.
- 96% of schools had toilets in the school but only 74% of them had in-built water facilities in toilets.
- 11% of the schools had common toilets for girls and boys.
- Out of 55% of schools which had computer rooms, only 53% of them were teaching the students about safe use of technology.
- Nearly 1 in 5 schools was located near railway tracks posing a major safety concern.
These facts even though depict some improvements in the educational infrastructure, but showcase a lot of areas on which immediate and responsive action needs to be taken. For eg. The dilapidated roofs pose a life threat to the students studying under it.
Various independent researches have shown that a student’s environment plays a very important role in the learning process and their development. Quantitative research discusses the impact of lighting, class size, buildings, and many other facilities on students and their academic performances.
Guidelines by the Right to Education Act, 2009
The RTE Act provides for the:
- Right of children to free and compulsory education till completion of elementary education in a neighbourhood school.
- It clarifies that ‘compulsory education’ means obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to every child in the six to fourteen age group. ‘Free’ means that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.
- It makes provisions for a non-admitted child to be admitted to an age appropriate class.
- It specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local authority and parents in providing free and compulsory education, and sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments.
- It lays down the norms and standards relating inter alia to Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, school-working days, teacher-working hours.
- It provides for rational deployment of teachers by ensuring that the specified pupil teacher ratio is maintained for each school, rather than just as an average for the State or District or Block, thus ensuring that there is no urban-rural imbalance in teacher postings. It also provides for prohibition of deployment of teachers for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to local authority, state legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.
- It provides for appointment of appropriately trained teachers, i.e. teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.
- It prohibits (a) physical punishment and mental harassment; (b) screening procedures for admission of children; (c) capitation fee; (d) private tuition by teachers and (e) running of schools without recognition,
- It provides for development of curriculum in consonance with the values enshrined in the Constitution, and which would ensure the all-round development of the child, building on the child’s knowledge, potentiality and talent and making the child free of fear, trauma and anxiety through a system of child friendly and child centred learning.
And this is upto each State government to ensure that this legislation is being followed.
Under Section 21 of the RTE Act, all schools are required to constitute a School Management Committee (SMC). The role of a SMC is to manage, monitor and support a school in its functioning, and to ensure that it is meeting requirements as outlined under the RTE Act.
School Development Plans
Every SMC has to make an annual School Development Plan (SDP) as part of its school monitoring and assessment. The plans cover these following areas:
- School access – is the school within 1km (for Primary) and 3km (for Upper Primary) of all elementary-aged children in the community?
- School coverage – are all children aged 6-14 in the community in school?
- Physical infrastructure – does the school have appropriate infrastructure (including well-lit classrooms, learning resources, a Mid-Day Meal preparation room and separate toilets for girls and boys) to ensure it can function effectively?
- Teachers – are there enough teachers to meet the RTE ratio of 1:30-35 and have the teachers received training?
- Retention, promotion and learning – how are children being taught, and are children achieving in line with expected academic levels?
These guidelines are very elaborate but lack implementation and strict action against the defaulters.
A surprising transformation was seen in Delhi schools where the AAP government emphasized and worked a great deal on improving the infrastructure and broke the taboo of government schools only being for the economically weak because of its conditions.
Some steps that the AAP government took which can lead a path for other states to work on their education infrastructures.
According to one of the AAP members, the government focussed on improving the infrastructure and built around 8,000 classes and plans to build around 23 new schools. Apart from the class rooms, it also built libraries, gyms and swimming pools.
Teachers were trained through programs at Harvard, Cambridge etc. and were imparted work ethics which most of them lacked.
School Management Committees
A parent-teacher relationship was set up to ensure that the teachers would complete their duty hours before leaving the premises and so in some cases the parents would sit at the school gate to ensure the same, thus involving parents.
Special programs were designed in order to help children to read and parent-teacher meetings were organised for a better interaction. The government had found out that 3.5 lakh students in class 6-8 could not read and thus launched special campaigns to ensure they gained basic reading abilities.
The Delhi government launched a special ‘Happiness Curriculum’ for government school students between class nursery and class 8 which is a 45 minute ‘happiness period’ which included meditation, storytelling, Q&A sessions, value education, etc. A progressive research-based draft was prepared for the curriculum.
These initiatives have resulted in an improvement in the Delhi government schools’ performance for both classes 10th and 12th as was seen in the 2020 CBSE results.
Thus, crucial sectors like education, healthcare, etc. should be the priority of the government as these are very essential for the growth of an individual in society.
- The RTE Act - www.pacsindia.org
- AAP government’s policy initiatives- oneindia.com