IJDTSA Vol.4, Issue 1, No.1 pp.1 to 20, February, 2019
The Unfinished Agenda of Universalization of Elementary Education in India: An Exploration on Section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009
Recently, Praja, a non-partisan organization that has been continuously tracking the state and functioning of the Mumbai based Municipal schools, for the last few years (since when) in its report titled ‘State of Municipal Education in Mumbai’ published in December 2016 argued that “if the Municipal Corporation is going to continue the same standard of imparting education to the children, we will soon see that the people will stop sending their children to Municipal schools” (Praja Foundation, 2016, p. 4). However, the crucial aspects of this prediction are the manifestation of the poor implementation of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 and ignorance and underestimation of the state towards resolving concerns pertaining to elementary education over the years. Moreover, this ambiguity has put educational aspirations and professional futures of the students belonging to marginalized social groups in complete darkness and hence their educational upliftment is adversely affected. This has become one of the major hurdles in achieving the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) i.e. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (by 2030). Subsequently, this overall scenario even holds quite a significance in the case of the state of elementary education in private primary schools where 25 percent seats are reserved for the children belonging to Weaker Sections and Disadvantaged Groups (EWS) under section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009 and provokes to further investigate the matter. This paper is based on the review of the literature on a research study conducted to submit M. Phil. Dissertation in 2016. It attempts to study the implementation of section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009 in G-North Ward demarcated by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).
Keywords: RTE Act, 2009,SDGs, EWS, Section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009, MCGM
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights advocates that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and however its realization, protection, and promotion in a true manner provides a ground for individual freedom, empowerment, and development. However, education helps individuals to overcome the constraints by improving personal endowments and build capacities. By doing this, it automatically enlarges the available set of opportunities and choices for a sustained improvement in the well being of individuals. To make this happen in a true sense, various social institutions are to be organized and make sure their regulation towards sharing benefits of social functioning in just and equitable manners among various social groups. Nevertheless, it is possible only when all sections of society are accountable and transparent enough to their fellows to let this happen under the purview of social harmony. Thus, education is one of the important social institutions, which cannot be developed and later expanded in isolation without the social realities across the social strata of the nation. Nevertheless, socioeconomic and political conditions become crucial factors in deciding aims and objectives of the education on one hand and direction and process of educational development and expansion on the other hand (Chauhan 2004). Thus, this signifies that the education system cannot be developed outside the society. In fact, it is one of the primary social institutions of society, which helps, in social functioning and regulating social affairs. Hence, its very evolution and existence are determined by socioeconomic and political conditions in a given society. Subsequently, the conflict of interest among different social strata, dominance of one social stratum over the other, the monopoly of a particular social strata or stratum in deciding social functioning and social affairs all of them together or even separately won’t let the education system be developed.
Another Nobel laureate, Arrow, came with an alternative reason in 1973, that people discriminate because they perceive that people from another group are, on an average, less productive and therefore, they make their decisions about the hiring and wages for the other group members on the basis of that belief, which may be wrong and may result in a discriminatory outcome (Thorat, Tagade and Naik 2016, p.66).
The manifestation of such behavior is an inherent peculiarity of Indian society where masses used to get discriminated, excluded and exploited due to their social location and more importantly birth. The shudras (currently known as Other Backward Classes) and ati-shudras (currently known as Scheduled Castes) and women are the worst sufferers. Nevertheless, this tradition carried out under the arena of Chaturvarna (the varna [order/class/]) system and remained unchallenged until the British arrived with few exceptions from the rulers like King Ashoka, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj etc. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar who is also known as the father of the Indian Constitution and Champion of the Indian Human Rights co-relate this behavior of Indian society with the state of freedom and liberty of masses belonging to disadvantaged social groups. Therefore, he (who? Arrow or Ambedkar?) argued that:
“freedom of mind is the real freedom. A person whose mind is not free though he may not be in chains, is a slave, not a free man. One whose mind is not free, though he may not be in prison, is a prisoner and not a free man. One whose mind is not free through alive, is no better than dead. Freedom of mind is the proof of one’s existence”. Later he substantiates his argument and said that “so long as you do not achieve social liberty, whatever freedom is provided by the law is of no avail to you”.
However, he (Ambedkar? This will be clear if the first mention has it, even if the note below indicates it) visualized education as a powerful tool to achieve both of them.
“…purpose of education is to moralize and socialize the people” (Ambedkar, 1989, p-39). Along with this, he also advocated for the protection and promotion of educational interests and rights of the disadvantaged social groups and women in the Constitution of India.
Soon after independence, the government at the Centre along with states and union territories have emphasized on adopting appropriate steps towards ensuring educational entitlements and providing incentives for the educational development of the disadvantaged social groups in subsequent years.
The share of the Education in Gross national product (GNP) has increased from 1.2 percent to 3.9 percent from the year 1950–51 to 1986–87. The total number of literate persons has increased from 233947000 to 352082000 from the year1981 to 1991. This includes an increase of male and female literate from 156953000 to 224288000 and 76994000 to 127794000 respectively for the same time period. The total number of primary schools and middle schools has increased from 2.10 lakhs to 5.50 lakhs and from 0.14 lakhs to 1.44 lakhs from the year 1950–51 to 1989–90. The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) (percentage of enrollment in respective age-group population) was about 99.9 percent among the students of class I to V (i.e. 6 to 11 years) during the year 1989–90 that includes 115.5 percent for boys and 83.6 percent for girls respectively. However, the GER was about 59.1 percent among the students of class VI to VIII (i.e. 11 to 14 years) during the same period, which includes 73.0 percent boys and 44.6 percent girls respectively. The GER of the (Scheduled Caste) SC students of class I-V (i.e. 6 to 11 years) was about 100.44 percent during the year 1989–90 that includes 120.93 percent boys and 78.81 percent for girls. However, the total GER of SC students of class VI–VIII (i.e. 11 to 14 years) was about 45.75 percent during the year 1989–90 which includes 59.70 percent boys and 31.08 percent girls. On the other hand total the GER of the Scheduled Tribes (ST) students of class I–V (i.e. 6 to 11 years) was about 103.22 percent during the year 1989–90 which includes 127.53 percent boys and 77.55 percent for girls and total GER of STs students of class VI–VIII (i.e. 11 to 14 years) was about 37.15 percent during the year 1989–90 which includes 44.63 percent boys and 24.02 percent girls. The numbers of teachers at primary, middle, high & higher secondary and higher education has increased from 537918 to 1601554, from 85496 to 1047588, from 126504 to 1264249, from 18648 to 250000 respectively from the year 1050–51 to 1989–90. The percent of trained teachers at primary schools, middle schools, secondary & senior secondary schools have increased from 58.8 percent to 89.84 percent, from 53.3 percent to 91.74 percent, from 55.5 percent to 92.60 percent respectively from 1950–51 to 1989–90. The higher education enrolment at Universities, Institutions Deemed to be universities & universities of National Importance, colleges for general education & degree alone, and enrollment at the university stage (Arts, Commerce, and Science Colleges) has increased from 27 to 184, from 542 to 4755, from 3.6 lakhs to 40.75 lakhs from the year 1950–51 to 1989–90 (Aggarwal & Aggarwal, 1992, pp.15–20)
Thus, it clearly shows the development and expansion that the Indian education sector has undergone from 1950–51 to 1989–90–91. This is basically happening due to education as a public service under the jurisdiction of the welfare state. Eventually, it led India to emerge as the biggest education system in the Indian subcontinent and the third largest in the world in terms of enrollment. Meanwhile, the Indian education sector in general and the elementary education sector, in particular, has witnessed the transition from public to private after the adoption of New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1990–91.
“Education and health being public goods started showing a negative growth trend, as an impact of economic liberalization policies after the 1990s, as their expenditure started to stagnate/decline visibly” (Venkatanarayanan 2015, p. 4).
So, this was a response to alter the functions of welfare state in early years of the NEP. It has minimized the role of the state towards deciding social welfare programs through public policies and programs. Rather, the state, by and large, remained reluctant towards the welfare of masses in the subsequent years. As a result of this, social sector programs did not produce not only as expected but also the necessary outcomes under the Five Year Plans (FYPs). In the case of education, central and state governments faced a series of criticisms for not producing competitive learning outcomes, not reaching educational benefits to the students belonging to disadvantaged communities and girls, not maintaining quality across educational stages, not making India’s reach to the ‘global educational standard’ etc. However, this indication has provided the momentum to imagine the future of Indian education sector and thus the government of India responded to it through two-way strategies where the first one was about encouraging privatization in the education sector. This was a counter response to the criticism of the government by the oppositions, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and non-state actors. Though India started witnessing Privatization of Education way back in the late 70s and early 80s. But, it by and large accelerated after the NEP.
The decrease in government elementary schools and subsequent increase in private elementary schools after the 1990s once again reaffirmed the state’s commitment toward neoliberal political economy in creating an appropriate market for the private players in the domain of education. The state’s positive intervention role before the implementation of neoliberalism has taken a backseat, which is reflected in the state’s financial commitment toward educational development in India (Venkatanarayanan 2015, p. 11).
In fact, the state worked as a catalyst to provide a favourable environment for the privatization of the education sector. Eventually, it did not put too many restrictions on the expansion and regulation of the private education sector in India. Behind doing this, the government of India had a belief that the private educational institutions would take forward their mission of creating skilled, intelligent, committed personals through quality education, as it hoped to do for in public primary schools across India. While expecting this, it has by and large overlooked prospective risks in the upcoming years.
The desirability or otherwise of private education has long been a subject of debate in India and the case of Mohini Jain (Sathe, 1992 cited in Kingdon, 1996, p. 3306) against a private capitation-fee college has renewed interest in the issue. Yet, the nature, size and equity-effects of private education are not well understood, and it is not known whether and to what extent this sector has expanded or shrunk over time at different levels of education (Kingdon, 1996, p. 3306).
The second strategy was about adopting new educational programs and policies in the field of elementary education in particular and higher education in general. This strategy was backed by the United Nations’ 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Jomtien Declaration of “Education for All” (1990), Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2000, and subsequently the World Education Forum, held in Dakar (2000). Eventually, the private educational institutions treated imparting education by and large with a ‘purely profit motive’ with few exceptions across India until 2000. In this regard, it is important to note that the government of India failed to create a meaningful environment for the regulation and administering of private educational institutions through mutual cooperation for the national benefits and interest by recognizing the potential of private educational institutions and thus use it accordingly. Later, treating them as one of the responsible service providers, unlike state does in case of public schools under the jurisdiction of article 45 of the Indian Constitution. (not clear. What does this allude to?) This ambiguity and pressure from the CSOs have by and large forced the government to rethink on restricting the private education sector in the upcoming years, which led to the emergence of RTE (Right to Education) Act, 2009. More importantly, it has made compulsory for every private unaided school excluding minority institutions to keep 25 percent reserved seats in the entry level class for children belonging to economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups.
The Government has also accorded approval to a financial estimate of Rs 2.31 lakh crore for the implementation of the RTE Act over a period of five years for the period 2010–15. The 13th Finance Commission earmarked a sum of Rs. 23,068 crore for the same period specifically towards elementary education (GoI, 2011, p. 8).
Alongside this, it is highlighted by a series of research studies and literature that the RTE Act, 2009 in general and section 12 (1) (c) of it, in particular, are designed with inbuilt loopholes and complexities whereby these could only focus on bringing quantitative changes in teaching-learning processes and qualitative aspect were left out. These complexities are not letting children belonging to disadvantaged social groups and economically weaker sections to get the fulfilment of an entitlement or right to education across the country. Rather, Dalit (add note) children do not have access or the opportunities to attend high-cost and presumably ‘good-quality’ private schools. These schools are primarily located in urban areas and are, therefore, not accessible to the larger part of Dalit children. In addition to that the tuition fees are so high that they are not affordable to the vast majority of the Dalits. For Dalits, the question is not whether the Dalits can afford to send their children to private schools, but whether they can afford to send their children to school at all (Pedicini 2011 cited in Mandal 2014, p. 4).
However, “research on educational stratification suggests that inequality in education between different social strata continues and sometimes even widens in spite of educational growth” (Halsey, Heath, and Ridge 1980; Hauser and Featherman 1976 cited in Desai & Kulkarni 2008, p. 245). Besides these, a total of sixty lakhs children between the six to fourteen year age groups belong to disadvantaged social groups are out of schools. Out of which Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes constitutes 49 percent (29.73 lakh), While, Other Backward Classes constitutes 36 percent. In other words, around 3 percent of the total 20.4 crore school-going children in the country are deprived of their right to education.
On the other hand, a number of children belonging to disadvantaged social groups attending schools, find difficulties to adjust to the school setting due to academic as well as non-academic discriminatory factors. Thus, this situation is prevalent in both public schools and private primary schools. In this regard, the studies of the Probe Team 1999, Sujatha 2002 and Government of India 2006 elaborately explained the phenomenon of exclusionary behaviour and treatment from the school and teachers to the Scheduled Castes i.e. Dalit, Scheduled Tribes i.e. Adivasi and Muslim students respectively.
Alongside this, the government of India adopted the New Education Policy in 2016, which did not transact the boundaries of educational policies, which India witnessed over the past seventy-one years of independence. Secondly, the Department of School Education and Sports, Government of Maharashtra has decided to close down near about 1300 schools having less than 10 students enrolled.
The Maharashtra Assembly passed a bill to amend the Maharashtra Self-Financed Schools Act, 2012. It allows private companies to open schools in any part of the state.
These recent developments in the field of elementary education have greater significance in case of the 4th SDGs through the RTE Act, 2009 on the one hand and implementation of section 12 (1) (c) of it in private primary schools on the other hand. Yet, the complexity and functioning of section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009 in urban areas are needed to unfold on various grounds. This certainly reminds us that the fighting over Right to Education has not come to an end, we have yet a long way to go till its complete achievement. Subsequently, it also highlights the apathy of the government and the private education sectors, more specifically educational trusts towards protecting and promoting education, interests, and rights of the children belonging to disadvantaged social groups and economically weaker sections.
This paper is based on the review of the literature on a research study conducted to submit my M. Phil. Dissertation in 2016. It attempts to study the implementation of section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009 in G-North Ward demarcated by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM). The study has adopted the qualitative approach and exploratory research design. The secondary data sources includes Annual Status Enrolment Report (ASER), 2014, Judgments of the Courts related to Right to Education Act , 2009 and section 12(1) (c) of it, Reports of Department of School Education and Literacy – Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India (DoSE & L.MHRD, GoI) on RTE Act, 2009 implementation, Reports of School Education and Sports Department, Government of Maharashtra (DoSE&S, GoM) on status of Elementary Education in Maharashtra and Right to Education Act, 2009, Newspaper articles on RTE Act, 2009 and its implementation in Maharashtra and India etc.
Elementary Education in India: pre-and post phase of RTE Act, 2009
Neoliberalism in the context of Government, Politics and Diplomacy is generally defined as a modern politico-economic theory favouring free trade, privatization, minimal government intervention in business, reduced public expenditure on social services, etc. Nevertheless, this phenomenon is based on the principle of ‘state minimization and market maximization.’ In fact, there is hardly any country in the world, which succeeds to escape from the influence and impact of neoliberalism in contemporary times. However, India started witnessing it after the introduction of NEP in 1990–91, which encouraged public disinvestment and foreign investment in various development and social sectors. Out of which the education sector has undergone rapid privatization over the past seventy-one years since India’s independence.
Eventually, most of the countries across the world have accepted privatization of education as a compulsion imposed by international organizations like the World Bank and International Monitory Fund (IMF). While very few countries have accepted privatization of education as a conviction. Among the reasons for the growth of private schools is the reported decline in government-school quality (poor infrastructure, shortage of teachers, lack of accountability of government schools leading to teacher absenteeism and negligence). This gives way to a positive preference for private schools, even though they may have a relatively poor infrastructure, less qualified teachers and is definitely more expensive (Ramachandran, 2003, PROBE Report, 1999 cited in Jenkins, 2006, p.12).
Alongside this, the rapidly growing privatization of the education sector has its implications in many ways. One of such implications is protecting educational rights and interests of the disadvantaged social groups who are at the margin of development processes under the agenda of universalization of elementary education. It is otherwise duty and more importantly, the constitutional obligation for the state under the jurisdiction of ‘welfare state’. Nevertheless, one could visualize such a commitment of the state towards fulfilling this obligation and expectation through strong public policy interventions in the field of education by two ways: (a) strengthening Public Private Partnership (PPP) Model in the education sector and (b) section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009. The idea of the PPP Model is basically influenced by international agencies like The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) etc. It generally signifies the people’s participation and involvement of non-state actors in the field of education. “PPPs and the private schooling sector have increased during SSA” (Srivastava, 2014, p. 8). However, the rationale behind entertaining the PPP mode in the education sector was to make some relaxation to the government’s duty and increase people’s participation in the field of education in the universalization of elementary education. Moreover, this rationale has suffered through a series of limitations, which compelled the government to possibly think about various strategies. Alongside this, the government of India adopted the RTE Act in 2009 which is also having greater impact not only for the achieving universalization of elementary education but also protecting educational rights and interests of the children belonging to marginalized social groups.
The private sector’s role in achieving universal access is also contested regarding the RTE Act. At the centre of the debate is the state subsidization of private schools. Private unaided schools are compelled to allocate 25% of their places in Class 1 for free, to socially and economically disadvantaged children until they complete elementary education (Section 12(1) (c), Government of India, 2009). Schools are meant to be reimbursed according to per child state expenditure or the tuition fee charged at the school, whichever is less (Srivastava 2014, p. 4).
It was expected that the limitations of the PPP Model would not percolate to the RTE Act 2009. But it did not happen and the contestation between state and private educational trusts remain as it is mainly on issues like the norms of reimbursement, incentives, logistical and technical support etc. Later, the government reflected on how the issues pertaining to the RTE Act, 2009 in general and section 12(1) (c) of it could address through the PPP Model by public policy interventions. Moreover, the Working Group on Private Sector Participation and Public Private Partnership in School Education under the Twelfth Plan is the outcome of this realization. Subsequently, this working group did not capture the essence of technicalities of the PPP at the ground level, which could provide constructive and comprehensive solutions to address the hurdles, which were on the path of protecting educational rights and interests of disadvantaged social groups in private primary schools.
“In elementary education, the Twelfth Plan Approach Paper positions the 25% free seats provision of the RTE Act which remains a controversial clause as the impetus to ostensibly remove entry barriers for further expanding the private sector” (Srivastava 2014, p. 6).
Furthermore, the controversies around the provision of 25 percent free seats have increased the pressure on the government to meet the goal of universalization of elementary education at the last phase of MDGs due to inefficiency and inability of existing apparatus. This situation has compelled the government to use multi-stakeholders’ collaboration approach and new strategies to facilitate the entry of non-state actors in the field of elementary education. The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is one among them. Moreover, the government also looked after how interests of new stakeholders could be taken care off at a different level. In other words, the PPP was an introduction or put forth in a slightly revised form.
Newer PPP initiatives include school construction, management, school adoption and model school programmes, investment in low-fee private schools, and computer-aided learning initiatives, among others. Corporations establishing partnerships as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, and a growing and increasingly diverse philanthropic sector are particularly important in the Indian context. CSR initiatives in education may increase further, as the recently legislated Companies Act, 2013 requires all companies earning above a specified threshold to allocate 2% of their earnings to CSR (Section 135 (5), Government of India, 2013) (Srivastava 2014, p. 7).
Moreover, the multi-stakeholders’ collaboration approach and new strategies of the government suffered from the limitations and loopholes due to legal, administrative and financial hurdles in subsequent years. Besides these, the Indian elementary education sector has witnessed quantitative changes such as technology and low-fee private schools over the years. Thus, the new approach towards a PPP model has brought corporation in the field of education. Hence, they started investing in the education sector. Later, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) became one of the important stakeholders in the field of education. Thus, the government recognized their traditional roles and contribution in the field of education and hence encouraged them under the arena of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). This overall situation has led to the entry of unrecognized schools, which are coming up across India in large number.
The size of the private education sector is greatly under-estimated in official published statistics particularly at the primary level due to exclusion of unrecognized schools, given that more than 50% of all private primary schools are unrecognized. Official statistics often tend to underestimate private school enrolment (Kingdon, 2007 cited in Abbi, 2007, p. 60).
On the other hand, studies that have been conducted to do a comparative analysis of the expansion of the private educational institutions in rural and urban areas suffer from methodological, philosophical, and theoretical loopholes in terms of understanding those aspects such as operations, finance, administration and future prospects of the private education sector at various levels. These include Muralidharan and Kremer (2007), Singh (2012), Jha (2012), Uma (2013), Ojha (2013), Chakraborty (2013), Yagnik (2013), Thomas (2013) and Kumar (2013). It is hard to generalize the findings of those studies due to various practical implications. Therefore, the actual picture of the Private education sector in India did not come into the public domain in the actual sense. Despite these, the annual report of National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) and ASER are considered as important sources in national educational statistics. The NUEPA deals with the planning, administration, and management of the educational policies and programmes that are undergoing in India.
During the year 2013–14, 75.9 per cent of the 1,448,712 schools imparting elementary education were managed by the Government. Private aided schools constituted 4.69 per cent of the total number of schools while private-unaided schools constituted 17.4 per cent of the total number of schools imparting elementary education (NUEPA, 2014, pp. 97–98). Alongside this, ASER deals with district wise statistics on enrollment, learning outcome, basic reading, and arithmetic skills etc.
In 2014, 30.8% of all 6–14 year old children in rural India are enrolled in private schools. This number is up slightly from 29% in 2013. A higher proportion of boys go to private schools as compared to girls. In 2014, in the age group 7–10 years, 35.6% of boys are enrolled in private schools as compared to 27.7% of girls. For the age group of 11–14 years, 33.5% of boys are in private schools as compared to 25.9% of girls. Five states in India now have private school enrolment rates in the elementary stage that are greater than 50%. These are Manipur (73.3%), Kerala (62.2%), Haryana (54.2%), Uttar Pradesh (51.7%), and Meghalaya (51.7%) (ASER, 2015, p. 81).
Beside these, a report compiled by a consortium of civil society groups shows that of the estimated 22.9 lakh seats available all over India under Section12 (1) (c) of the Right to Education Act providing for 25% reservation for children from economically and socially disadvantaged sections in private unaided non-minority schools, roughly only 3.46 lakh seats were filled during 2014–15. This accounts for a fill rate of 15.12%. Now in its second edition, the report titled, ‘State of the Nation: RTE Section 12 (1) (c) report’ and published annually was released on March 10 in New Delhi and was followed up with a panel discussion in which experts from the partner organizations (The RTE Resource Centre at Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, Central Square Foundation, New Delhi Accountability Initiative of the CPR, New Delhi and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy also from Delhi) illustrated the findings and what they convey.
This clearly shows the under performance of the private educational sectors in terms of protecting the educational rights and interests of the disadvantaged social groups. There are multiple explanations available for this. Amongst all these, the ambiguities and controversies around the section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act 2009 is a crucial one. Firstly, the past six years’ experience of RTE Act, 2009 implementation shows that the serious attempts have not been made to bring operational and management problems encountered during designing, monitoring and evaluation process into the public domain by reports, statistics, studies etc.
There is also little information on the exact nature of partnerships between different private non-state actors and government and other public bodies, or on the ways in which different providers facilitate or implement particular services. Finally, there is little understanding on the provisions for monitoring and evaluating this engagement, crucial in a context of rapidly increasing numbers of PPPs, and in view of legal compulsions of the RTE Act. These issues, and above all, the chronic under-financing of education must be urgently addressed if quality universal elementary education is to be a reality for the millions of children in India (Srivastava, 2014, p. 9).
Secondly, the unclear nature of section 12 (1) (c) does not hold management accountable to implement it compulsorily by anyways. Hence, the management mostly conceived it as an extra burden and anticipated risk too; where they play a role of a service provider unlike the state in the case of public primary schools. Thirdly, there is no mechanism besides traditional conventional approach accountability and transparency which could address the inability of the state towards implementation of those provisions in a strict manner and at the same time generate interest among the disadvantaged social groups to avail educational facilities under the educational policies and programmes especially in metropolitan cities or urban areas.
The proposed New Education Policy, 2016 supposedly addresses long-standing fundamental questions of the education sector that are percolated since independence. Rather, “it propagates a corporate, neo-liberal, neo-cultural, a Sanskritised, global and market-oriented education system which is governed by a wholly separate and centralized bureaucracy, where state government power and oversight is minimal” (Ramamurthy & Pandiyan, 2017, p. 46). The obvious unclear nature of this policy did not give due place to the pre-primary education and the RTE Act, 2009 in the themes or in the consultation process by side lining the “participatory and inclusive mode” (Rai & Palit, 2016). In fact, it is the efforts of CSOs who advocated for the inclusion of various stakeholders and diversity in deciding the future of the Indian education sector at least for the elementary level by such nationwide consultations. Each state and union territory has own implications for it.
There are more than 12,000 schools across Maharashtra state with less than 20 students attending classes. Of these, 5,002 have fewer than 10 students enrolled. The DoSE&S, GoM reviewed the situation of those schools and decided to shift students and teaching staff from 1,314 schools to other nearby schools. It is important to note that students from primary schools will be shifted to other schools within the radius of 1 km. whereas; secondary school students will be transferred to a school within 3 kms radius. The government assured students and teachers from these schools that they’d be shifted to nearby ones and they will not be deprived of quality education and jobs, and both will be shifted to the same school. In addition to this, schools in tribal areas, remote places or on hillocks need to continue. At the same time, if schools are too far and students need to travel by bus, they will not be shifted. This move by the government of Maharashtra did not come up with any concrete decision on the future of such schools though. Secondly, there is a question of protection of educational entitlements of those students’ private schools and similarly teaching and non-teaching staff. Thirdly, there is no clarity whether the private educational institutions will entertain those students and teaching and non-teaching staff from other schools.
The Maharashtra Assembly passed a bill to amend the Maharashtra Self-Financed Schools Act, 2012. So far, only private trusts, registered societies and government bodies were entitled to run self-financed schools in the state. It allows companies registered under section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013, to set up schools. It essentially means that corporates who are registered as non-profit firms can only open schools across the state.
The experience of Maharashtra shows that there are a series of implications. First of all, this bill treats education as a business. One important thing to underline that who are the people framing the laws? What are their social locations? This overall situation raises serious questions such as is the government serious about private primary schools in general and private un-aided recognized as well as private un-aided non-recognized schools in particular? Is the government serious about maintaining an updated database of all categories private primary schools? What would be different possible reliable sources to get an updated status and information on all categories of private primary schools? Do all categories of private primary schools have the potential to boost the Indian education sector? Is the private school sector expanding or shrinking over a period of time? While responding to those questions, the government mostly preferred to stay away from any sort of politics related to private schools in general and private primary schools in particular by justifying administrative and legal limitations.
Implementation of section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009 for the academic session 2015–16 in Mumbai
The RTE Act, 2009 has conceived the local authority as important stakeholders, unlike central and state governments for its implementation in metropolitan cities or urban areas. Thus, it defines “local authority” as Municipal Corporation or Municipal Council or Zila Parishad or Nagar Panchayat or Panchayat, by whatever name it is called, and includes such other authority or body having administrative control over the school or empowered by or under any law for the time being in force to function as a local authority in any city, town or village. As far as Mumbai is concerned, MCGM is responsible to undertake those underlined obligations.
As per section 61 of Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, providing free primary education is an obligatory duty i.e. up to 4th Standard. It is however important to note that the corporation does do more than that and provides education up to 7th Standard in a large number of schools and also up to 10th and 12th Standard in some cases. Under the MC and AMC (in-charge of Education Department) the department is headed by the Deputy Municipal Commissioner (DMC) Education, who also act as a link between the Education Officer (EO) and the Chairperson of the Education Committee. The EO is responsible for the supervision of the system, plans and programmes, and controls the entire administration with the assistance of academic officers and the administrative staff (Praja Foundation, 2013, p. 4).
The evidence shows the gradual increase in the budget allocation for the education including elementary education by MCGM. “Mumbai Corporation plans to spend 49,835 rupees on every student for the academic year 2015–16” (Praja Foundation, 2016, p. 4).
However, the Annual Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai’s Budget and Per-capita allocation for Students for the year 2015–16 is about 2,630 Crores for 383,485 students. Whereas, for the year 2016–17 the allocated annual budget is 2,567 cores and the total number of students is 383,485. The Budget Allocation has almost tripled between 2008–09 and 2015–16, while the no. of students has gone down by 15% (i.e. 68,325 students (Praja Foundation, 2016, p. 14).
The admission under section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009 always remains one of the controversial and highly debated issues in Mumbai. In fact, CSOs and NGOs always come forward to defend it through legal ways and means. Rather, MCGM administration mostly prefers to remain on standby mode until pressure comes from the court.
Based on the verdict of PIL no. 82/2014 given by Bombay High Court, government of Maharashtra decided to keep a total of 10440 reserved seats for students belongs to weaker group and disadvantaged section under section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009 in private schools which comes under the MCGM jurisdiction and furthermore instructed the Education Department of the MCGM to advertise about the same through the prescribed manner. However, these seats are spread up across a total of 313 Private Primary (unaided) schools, excluding Minority schools out of which 271 Schools are recognized by the MCGM and comes under the jurisdiction of the same and similarly 42 schools recognized by the state government and would be filled through an online application process through website namely <rte25admission.maharaashtra.gov.in>. The Commissioner, Additional Commissioner (City), and Deputy Commissioner (Education) have rectified the same on different occasions and ordered the education departments of the MCGM to adopt the following actions to advertise about those reserved seats through a different medium such as (a) Local Newspaper, (b) Best Buses, (c) Scrolling Advertisement on different TV Channels, (d) Displaying advertisements on the LCD screen placed in local trains running on the Central and Harbor Railway roots, (e) Displaying audio advertisement on different air channels of the Prasarbharati, (f) Banners (Flex), and Wall Posters and Handbills (Pamflets) etc.
This is the action taken to admit the students belongs to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) under 25 percent reserved seats during the academic year 2015–16 by MCGM. Despite these, cases of reluctance in the behavior of the educational trusts across Mumbai was found as reported by CSOs and NGOs with the help of electronic and print media.
NUEPA (2016) stated that a total number of students availing elementary education (including primary and upper primary) across 8 different mediums of instruction such as Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, English, Tamil, Telugu and Kannad are about 870648.
Praja Foundation (2013) stated that MCGM also supports private schools through its support program based on the eligibility and norms and looks after the repair and maintenance of school buildings and paying rent in case of rented premises under the supervision of the special committee. As far as finance is concerned, the Department of Education (DoE) has its own separate budget known as Budget ‘E’. The main sources of income are contributions from ‘A’ Budget. However, other sources of incomes are Grant-in-aid from Government of Maharashtra, rent and other receipts from properties, which are meagre to meet the requirements of the Department. Being chief executive, the Honorary Commissioner of MCGM is responsible to implement the policies of the Education Committee, the Corporation and administer it, with the help of the Additional Municipal Commissioner and Deputy Municipal Commissioner who is in-charge of the Education Department and along with other portfolios. Furthermore, Deputy Commissioner (Education) acts as a link between the Education Officer (EO) and the Chairperson of the Education Committee. However, the Education Officer is in-charge of the Primary and Secondary Education Department, which is assisted by his or her subordinates through the academic side and administrative side. Furthermore, the Education Officer is responsible for the supervision of the system, plans, and programmes, and controls the entire administration with the assistance of academic officers and the administrative staff. Apart from the imparting primary education, MCGM has established municipal secondary schools for poor children, Diploma in Education (D.Ed.) colleges and schools for the mentally challenged children from the year 1965 and from the year 2007–08, Mumbai Public Schools have been started by the corporation (to provide English education right from kindergarten onward) and from the year 2009–10 it has also started Junior Colleges.
Thus, it shows the historical tradition of MCGM of giving special attention to education in general among the other subjects. Nevertheless, it has been by and large remained on the paper in terms of quality, accessibility, and equity. Thus, it could be seen the way MCGM faced criticisms over the implementation of section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009 in recent years.
NUEPA (2016) stated that elementary (primary and upper primary) education in Mumbai suburban is concerned, a total number of government, private and unrecognized primary schools (only) are about 199, 1096, and 105 respectively. While, the total number of government, private and unrecognized upper primary (including primary) schools is about 923, 0 and 5 respectively. Similarly, a total number of government, private, and unrecognized both primary (only), as well as upper primary (including primary) schools in the rural area of Mumbai suburban, is nil. However, a total number of the teacher in government, private and unrecognized primary schools (only) are about 1041, 10611, and 565 respectively. Similarly, a total number of teachers in government, private and unrecognized upper primary (including primary) schools are about 10138, 0, and 49 respectively. Similarly, a total number of enrolled students in government, private, unrecognized primary schools (only) are about 32115, 473175, and 22722 respectively. Similarly, a total number of enrolled students in government, private and unrecognized upper primary (including primary) schools are about 317503, 0, and 1433 respectively. The percentage of Scheduled Castes (SCs) enrollment is about 8.9 percent and 16.3 percent in primary schools (only) and upper primary (including primary) schools respectively. However, the percent of SC girls to SC enrollment is about 49.8 percent and 50.9 percent in primary schools (only) and upper primary (including primary) schools respectively. Similarly, the percentage of Scheduled Tribes (STs) enrolment is about 0.905 percent and 1.8 percent in primary schools (only) and upper primary (including primary) schools respectively. However, the percent of ST girls to STs enrollment is about 49.2 percent and 50.6 percent in primary schools (only) and upper primary (including primary) schools respectively. With the addition to this, the percentage of Muslim enrollment is about 30.3 percent and 39.9 percent in primary schools (only) and upper primary (including primary) schools respectively. However, percent of Muslim girls to Muslim enrollment is about 50.0 percent and 48.7 percent in primary schools (only) and upper primary (including primary) schools respectively. Similarly, the percentage of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) enrollment is about 8.0 percent and 11.6 percent in primary schools (only) and upper primary (including primary) schools respectively. However, the percent of OBC girls to OBCs enrollment is about 49.9 percent and 51.0 in primary schools (only) and upper primary (including primary) schools respectively. However, the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) is about 108.6 percent and 92.6 percent in primary schools (only) and upper primary (including primary) schools respectively. While the Net Enrollment Ratio (NER) is about 25.2 percent and 18.7 percent in primary schools (only) and upper primary (including primary) schools respectively.
Besides these, the Praja Foundation gives a different picture of the state of education in general and elementary education in particular under the jurisdiction of MCGM.
The population of G-North Ward is 599039. As far as G-North Ward is concerned, there are total 112 schools across categories and a total number of enrolled students are about 45585 for the academic year 2015–16. The school wise enrollment break-up is as follows: There are a total of 63 government schools where 20494 students are enrolled. There are a total of 12 Private Aided schools where 5131 students are enrolled. There are a total of 28 Private unaided schools with 17362 students. There are 9 unrecognized schools where 2598 students are enrolled (Praja Foundation, 2016, p. 43).
Besides these, the Municipal Ward Committees generally encourage community participation in the implementation of Right to Education Act, 2009 in general and section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009 in particular. Subsequently, they make municipal council aware of needs and concerns of residents and keep people informed of the activities of the municipal council.
The education became a subject of the concurrent list in 1976. Since then, the regulation and administration of the education sector became the responsibility of the Central and State and are continuing even today. Over a period of the past seventy-one years since independence, the Indian education system in general and the elementary education sector, in particular, has witnessed qualitative and quantitative expansion through the adoption of various educational policies and programs. However, this journey is actually influenced and shaped by intrinsic and extrinsic factors, not only urban areas but also rural areas. Furthermore, this development has impacted the growth of elementary education sectors, both positive and negative manner across the country.
As far as the urban education sector is concerned, the Local Authority such as the Municipal Corporation and Zilla Parishad has come forward to take care of the implementation of educational policies and programs and remained crucial in terms of regulating the urban education sector and continue even today. Keeping this scenario in mind, the Centre and State were supposed to ensure the active participation of the Local Authority while preparing educational policies and programs. However, such expectations by and large got diluted on various aspects and hence the local authority reduced it to only an implementation agency. In this regard, Working Committees appointed by the government has recommended reconsidering the involvement of Local Authorities in the preparation of educational policies and program processes. In response to this, the government ensured their participation at a superficial level through various negotiation strategies. Subsequently, such discriminatory treatment and behavior of the Centre and State towards dealing with the Local Authority leads to creating a conflict of interest between them. Meanwhile, this practice directly affected implementation of various educational programs through various ways and means in urban areas and continue even today.
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