India: disadvantaged children allocated school places
One in four places in private schools in India will be reserved for socially and economically disadvantaged groups. This comes after the Indian Supreme Court endorsed Clause 12 in the Right to Education Act last month.
Some private providers of education had challenged the constitutional validity of this clause, arguing that it violated their autonomy. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has certified that the rule applies uniformly to both public and unaided private schools across the country, except for unaided private minority schools.
Approved in 2009, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE), makes education a fundamental right of every child aged six to 14 in India and specifies minimum norms in elementary schools. It is the first legislation in the world placing the responsibility of ensuring universal education directly on the state.
“We celebrate the Indian Court’s decision. However, it is crucial to ensure a proper implementation of the Act, allocating the resources needed and effectively monitoring its application, while enhancing the public education system”, said Mr. S. Eswaran, General Secretary of the All-India Primary Teachers’ Federation and a member of EI’s Executive Board.
Eswaran explained that key aspects such as gender balance and preventing discrimination within the classroom should be taken in account and that teacher unions should take part in the process.
“There is yet no clarity on how this 25 per cent of places in private schools will be filled and monitored,” he added. “Also, what about the rest of children? They also have to be ensured the right to education through a quality education system.”
“We, as teacher unions, believe that an egalitarian education system would aim to enhance the quality of public education above all. One of the main challenges is solving the current shortfall of teachers through quality recruitment and professional training,” Eswaran concluded.
According to the 2011 India census, the literacy rate has grown from 65 per cent to 74 per cent in the last decade, an important attainment in the second most populous nation in the world,with more than a billion people.
EI recognises this success, but notes that a lot more has to be done to meet the Millennium Development Goal of the achievement of universal primary education by 2015.
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