Most of us see government schools as a means to subsidized education, thus making them more universal a platform for imparting learning as opposed to mushrooming unrecognized private schools that are thought to compromise on standards of quality more often than not. A closer look suggests quite the contrary. Before delving into that, it is important to understand the challenges that government schools face in implementing the RTE.
The first would be elaborating the rules that lend structure to the RTE framework, and that needs to be understood clearly by administrators and management before taking any steps. Second, private schools would have to make necessary arrangements for a 25% intake of economically disadvantaged students in their schools, which obviously would call for government reimbursement. Government schools on the other hand face a daunting task of resisting skewed teacher-pupil ratios which are bound to occur, post the RTE implementation. The third major challenge would be to maintain standards of teaching quality even as more teaching staff would be needed to offset a rise in pupil numbers.
Budget schools aren’t recognized in the education system for a reason. Economics suggests that if there is a service being offered, then there most certainly is a demand that brings it into existence, and that, precisely, is the case with the thousands of budget schools that are functional all over the country. Such schools cater to the poor, charging nearly the same fee as government schools. So why is it that parents are avoiding government schools, when they could as well be paying the same price and sending their kids to recognized schools?
Teacher accountability is probably the main reason. Laborers from a construction site near my college said that they would rather have their kids sent to schools where their wards are taught by motivated people, and are paid individual attention. Government schools are afflicted with rampant absenteeism among teachers, and even if teachers show up, most of them show lack of interest in their jobs as their salaries and promotions are independent of performance. Statistics suggest that almost three-quarters of the teaching staff remain absent in government schools. This is exactly why nearly half of the children in cities and around 25% of children in rural areas prefer private schools over government schools.
With the School Choice Campaign and the voucher system being introduced by the RTE, it should augur well for private budget schools, as it encourages them to step up their efforts in improving learning. Historically, as far as imparting education is concerned, issues have always been taken up in the order to give first preference to enrollment and access. With the RTE finally coming in place, it is time to channelize our efforts in the direction of quality.