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Here’s Why The Right To Education Act’s No-Fail-Policy Is Failing Miserably

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By Aditi Thakker:

The Right to Education (RTE) Act passed in 2009 brought India in line with over 100 countries around the world that provide free and compulsory education to children. However, is the RTE seeking to create only a partially literate population, or a genuinely educated and employable one? The idea of RTE is noble, that every child between the ages of 6-14 should receive free and compulsory education; however the provisions in the Act contain enough loopholes for exploitation.


The Act prescribes that every child has the right and obligation to go to school. However, is it logical to have the no holding back (failing) policy, no board examination policy and the policy of admitting children into class not according to academic standard but according to age? In a country with a burgeoning population, having policies that merely assist in inflating the literacy rate rather than educating the population can be dangerous. Should the Right to Education be called just the Right to go to School instead?

The fact that now education is free and compulsory for every child is good news for many, but not at the cost of its quality. The RTE and its application so far implicitly emphasise quantity over quality. Regulating dropout rates is essential, agreed. But to have no way of assessing a child’s knowledge and mandatorily having to pass them to a higher class, knowing that they are not competent enough to study in a higher class is a recipe for disaster. Why is the Act only concerned with retaining children in school and not about checking if these children are actually learning anything during their time in school? The Act’s no fail policy has clearly failed. The students are no longer as serious about learning, because they know they will pass anyway.

The lack of examinations and subsequently that of healthy internal academic competition may deprive students of essential incentives to study hard and actually learn. Whether you study or not, attend school or not, you will pass on to the next class. These provisions are not doing much more than institutionalising activities that were rampant anyway. Those who want to go to school and study will keep doing so, unless they are disillusioned by the fact that some of their classmates pass on to the next class without lifting a finger; while the ones who are not interested in studying will just enroll for the ‘aathvi pass’ label. I do not advocate expelling children who fail to meet minimum standards from schools. However, if some of them do need to retake a year in order to be academic equivalents of their peers, it should not be mandatory to promote them regardless of their academic standing. This just means additional pressure on teachers, and the possibility of a decline in their teaching standards.

In addition to other ludicrous policies, the RTE fails to ensure attendance in schools. One interpretation of the current provisions could be that a child may enrol in school at the age of 6, not attend class, not worry about examinations or the prospect of failure, enrol in the next class the following year and repeat the same pattern until he or she is enrolled in Class VIII. We now have a child that circumstantially or willingly, hardly ever attended school or studied, but has passed Class VIII and forms a part of the country’s literate population. Without any substantial attendance or exams, and possibly without much knowledge gained, a piece of paper will declare them educated. How is the future of such a child going to be much different than one who did not go to school at all? A certificate doesn’t help if the child is lacking evidence of skills and knowledge to gain employment.

Making education accessible to all children in India is a first step; however the act requires several amendments addressing the no fail policy and no examination policy, to check literacy inflation. On a more practical thought, the government needs to ensure that a standard level of teaching is met all over the country. Merely passing laws is not going to do the job, until the situation on the ground changes.

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  1. Raj

    The arrogance of socialists and bureaucrats is amazing! They think people are mere mindless pawns to be manipulated through “laws”. If passing laws only helped solved all our problems. Why, we could have “Right to Holiday in Paris”, that every citizen irrespective of age should receive one free and compulsory 10-day holiday in Paris every year.Ludicrous as it may sound, the logic is the same.

    I think the RTE is a bad idea. Sure, the intentions are noble but let us judge such programmes based on their actual results instead, I don’t think the Govt. should be in the business of running schools since those running it care the least if it works or not. If the Govt. wants, it can allocate a voucher of a certain amount for every minor (rich or poor) and let it be redeemable for education by any private entity that wishes to provide education for whatever cost. That could range from private schools, whose fees far exceed the value of the voucher or to a small 1 room thatched-hut school in a village, where the voucher would be enough. Of course avenues for misuse are many but it is better than our current plan.

    Parents will automatically send children to school if they have the means to support school going children, But until then children may not be able to go to school and unfortunately end up working in tea stalls. That is inevitable even if you have free schools with mid-day meals. Cruel as it may sound, there isn’t much hope for that generation. But we can make their life less painful by allowing them to find jobs/start businesses without requiring the red-tape. They would then be able to support school-going children and thus ensure their next generation has a better life than them.

  2. K.B.Srivastava

    For Financial Year 2013-14,Government of India has sanctioned Rs6.385kdharab for Indira Awas, Rs19-2726kharab for “Education to all” Scheme,, Rs9.0155kharab for Mid Day Meal, Rs4.8642kharab for National Social Assistance, Rs7.6678kharab for Backward Region Grant Fund, Rs10.1917kdharab for Jawahar Lal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, Rs10.8503kharab for Integrated Child Development Service, Rs2.9006kharab for National Rural Livelihood Mission and Rs13.50kharab for Food Security. Grand total of all amounts sanctioned by Government of India is Rs109.6012Kharab. Although these amounts are sanctioned for different schemes and under different heads, but all amounts sanctioned are for welfare of the poor families of India. Under Food Security, Government is expecting that 16crore families(80crore people whose vote form the government) will be benefitted under food security. I think that the families whose income is less than Rs8000/- per month are really poor and they are unable to admit their children in good schools. Teacher of government schools, do not like to teach the students. Therefore, there is no need to admit the children in government schools. If Government of India transfer Rs109.6012kharab in accounts of 16crore poor families of India,( whose vote make the government), each poor family will be receiving Rs5708/- per month and the same amount is added by the State Government also, each family will receive Rs11416/- per month. Then 16crore poor families of India(whose vote make the government) will be able to get their children admitted in a good school and get them treated in a good hospital If these amounts are not sent in their accounts directly, government employees will embezzle the same.

    1. Raj

      Bas karo plz

  3. Sunil Shah

    Good point, Aditi – – RTE is likely defeating the very purpose it meant to promote. It has been my learning over the years that Progress only happens when you measure performance.

    1. Aditi Thakker

      Right now, the RTE is only making being substandard the norm! If there is no incentive to do something, why will you do it?

  4. Harsh Vasani

    The author has hit the nail right in the head. The ludicrous policies of the RTE are doing more harm than good to the children as well as the teachers. Not only is this policy disincentivising students but also demoralising the teachers from putting sincere effort. Urgent steps need to be taken to amend this policy by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, but who is listening?

    1. Raj

      I would scrap the MHRD to begin with

    2. Harsh Vasani

      Scrap it?! And replace it with?

    3. Raj

      Do we really need to replace it with anything? Don’t private schools, colleges etc. do all the things that MHRD aims to do. And more efficiently ? Currently the MHRD does a huge disservice to the nation by restricting private initiative(both for profit and non-profit) in education through all kinds of rules and regulations. Also it wastes tax-payers money, provides a very pathetic standard of education and has become a source of employment for paper-pushing bureaucrats
      The Govt. has no magic wand to magically create schools and colleges. It goes through the same processes a private enterprise would go throw. i.e. acquire land, build the structures, buy tables and chairs, hire teachers and run the institute.

      But the Govt. does all this with tax-payers money and is staffed with people who care the least whether the school runs properly, whether the students learn anything. All they care about is their salaries and work-hours. And since it’s tax-payers money, nobody cares whether it is spent well or not.

      But a private enterprise (whether for-profit or charitable) does in fact care since it is private money that is being spent. The person(s) spending the money keep a close eye on the running of the venture and ensure that the school is run properly and the students are reasonably satisfied with the teaching (or the students will simply move elsewhere). Especially more in case of a for-profit school.

      There is a role for the Govt. (through courts) to punish the institutes who cheat the students out of time and money. But beyond that there really isn’t much that the Govt. needs to do. Perhaps it can have a school leaving exam like +2 exam , but people should be free to take whatever schooling they wish based on what they can afford.

    4. Aditi Thakker

      I don’t think the right to amend the policy lies with the HRD Ministry. Although, they can always make recommendations. I do believe in education for all, but quantity cannot take a toll on quality.

    5. Raj

      Believing in quality education for all doesn’t make it so. Spending other people’s money on your beliefs isn’t correct either. What we desire is a good standard of living and freedom to pursue their happiness for all. Traditional school/college based education is one way, but it isn’t the only way. Learning on the job, part-time courses, apprenticeships are often far more effective ways to allow people to move up the ladder.

    6. Aditi Thakker

      To each their own 🙂

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