This week, the Lok Sabha has passed an amendment of the Right To Education (RTE) Act which would allow State governments to reintroduce a policy of detaining elementary school children.
This step was reasoned by the claim that the quality of government schools is deteriorating and therefore such a step should be welcome. We would like to stress that this theory of change is highly doubtable as it is putting the onus on the children. The message is clear: there are low learning levels because children do not make use of the opportunity to get an education in governmental schools. Therefore, putting pressure on them would improve things.
This is not based on any evidence. On the contrary, for decades governmental schools have been neglected, teachers remained untrained and systemic reforms were avoided. Instead, people who can afford it are opting for private schools in the hope to exit the low-quality equilibrium. This, too, is an illusion as the ASER report analysis showed that the ‘value-addition’ of private schools are by no means higher. The higher resulting learning outcomes are statistically solely explainable by household characteristics. So if your parents can read and write and support you, you will end up with a higher learning level. But that’s the case irrespective of the school chosen. There’s simply a correlation between this group of better-educated parents and the share of their children enrolled in private schools. Private schools are not better schools.
The claim of the government can easily be put to the test: If it is true and the issue are the children (and their parents), and the schools as such are fine, then why are officials and politicians not sending their children to these schools?
The real reasons for low learning levels are a segregated school system and a lack of political will to even implement the legally binding minimum norms of the RTE Act. To now spin a narrative which claims that children and parents are just unwilling to make use of the education provided in the governmental schools is condemnable. There is no education to get. Why should a child go to a school if there are no books, no toilets, no trained teachers and no teacher actually teaching? This is a supply problem, not a demand problem.
The next step for the amendment will be to get passed by the Rajya Sabha. If it gets passed there, States will be free to reintroduce the detention policy. That, in turn, means that this ill-led policy decision can still be stopped – in each and every State.
We, therefore, appeal to the YouthKiAwaaz Community: Tweet to you CMs and MPs. Let them know why you think children shouldn’t be punished for a neglected school system. Let us make the voice of our generation heard.
Let’s not allow governments to get away with neglecting education to then blame the victim.