New Delhi: The Central and state governments on Tuesday decided to work on a proposal to make education compulsory until class X, a plan that can guarantee 29 million more students free education up to the secondary level.
Following a consensus at the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) meet in New Delhi, the Central government has decided to form a committee that will include officials from the ministry of human resource development (HRD), a few state education ministers and educationists to prepare the first draft of the proposal in three months.
HRD minister Kapil Sibal said the extension of the Right to Education (RTE) by two more years will arrest drop-outs at the secondary level. This will be in consonance with the 10 years of compulsory education prevalent in several countries.
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The minister who takes the credit for implementing the RTE Act as a fundamental right from 1 April 2010 for elementary students, said it would provide avenues for children emerging from elementary education as a “natural corollary”.
“All members of the CABE endorsed the proposal to extend the free and compulsory education to the secondary level. It was felt that every child in the country...must have the right to at least 10 years of formal schooling,” Sibal said, according to the summary record of the meeting.
CABE, which comprises state education ministers, among others, and helps the government formulate policies, decided that a committee will formulate the draft legislation. “The preliminary report, to be ready in three months, can be discussed with all stake holders,” Sibal said.
Currently, there are 123,265 secondary schools catering to 29 million students.
Though state education ministers endorsed the proposal, some of them said the Central government funding for RTE should improve. Currently, the Centre provides 65% of the RTE fund requirement. States such as Gujarat, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan said the funding pattern needs to change for a smooth implementation of the Act even in its current format.
R. Bhattacharya, school education minister of West Bengal, said more financial support is needed to boost education in the state, which has an uneven ratio between primary and upper primary schools. “Compulsory education is good, but it needs to be aligned with the school ratio.” The state has around 51,000 primary schools compared with 10,000 upper primary schools. According to the national mandate, it should have at least 25,000 upper primary schools.
The CABE meeting also allowed the HRD ministry to come up with an unfair practice law for schools.
Sibal said that around 40% of schools are privately owned and authorities have received several cases of unfair practice—ranging from capitation fee to misinformation and misleading advertising to lure students.
“Members earnestly shared the concern about increasing trend of adoption of unfair practices in school education sector and expressed the need to arrest the trend,” Sibal said.
The inherent rationale of the legislation would be to promote transparency through mandatory self disclosure in the prospectus and website, and provide adequate and accessible recourse for remedial action arising out of non-adherence to self-disclosed details and norms, the government note said.
The proposed Bill “would prohibit accepting any fee or charges by any institution without issuing receipt. However, safeguards would be built into the legislation so that there is no misuse of authority while imposing penalties of a civil nature or prosecution leading to punishment,” the note said.