After implementing it in elementary classes, the Centre is planning to extend the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, to secondary level to improve access to quality education.
The national consultative committee, constituted by the union ministry of human resource development (MHRD) under Haryana education minister Geeta Bhukkal, has received favourable feedback from several states, academicians and experts regarding extension of the RTE to secondary education, but there are difficulties galore.
The issues flagged by the state governments and academic experts include infrastructural limitations, financial crunch, lack of institutional framework, free and compulsory education policy, student attendance and academic resources.
"Though most states favour extension of the RTE to secondary education, there are divergent views on several issues with some states and experts stressing on the need for consolidation of the RTE at the elementary (Classes 1 to 8) stage first. We are closely examining all these issues, including the need for academic assessment of children in secondary classes on the basis of experience gained at the elementary level," Bhukkal told Hindustan Times.
The governments of Delhi, Assam, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand and Rajasthan are among the states which have already expressed their support to the extension proposal in meetings of the central advisory board of education (CABE).
The committee was formed last year after some states asked the ministry to look into the progress and difficulties faced in the implementation of the RTE at the elementary level and give recommendations on its extension to the secondary stage.
In the discussions held by the committee, concerns have been raised about whether the education would be "free and compulsory" at the secondary level and if yes, the feasibility of such a provision in view of the available resources, infrastructure, financial constraints, trained academic staff and other hindrances being faced by the states.
Bhukkal, who is the chairperson of the committee, supported the need for extension of the Act up to secondary level, but stressed on rethinking the word "free education in the context of the RTE because whenever free is connected with education, its quality gets compromised, according to sources.
When contacted, a Punjab official raised the issue of financial support from the Centre for free and compulsory education under the RTE at secondary level, besides proper assessment of the implementation and difficulties faced by the states in its implementation so that corrective steps could be taken. Then, there are also issues such as ascertaining the role and responsibility of parents, teachers, school and state for proper implementation and "age specificity", according to a committee member from the National University of Education Planning and Administration (NUEPA).
However, the committee members, who will hold another meeting shortly, seem to be in favour of integration of vocational education with formal education at the secondary stage.