Attendance and discipline are taking a hit in city schools because many parents and students have misunderstood the bar on detention and corporal punishment under the Right to Education Act, Delhi’s education minister Arvinder Singh Lovely said on Tuesday.
Lack of clarity on the RTE Act has so far forced teachers to avoid taking action against students, Lovely said at a meeting of the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE), India’s apex advisory body on education. “I request the Centre to issue a clarification, explaining the intention behind these clauses.”
Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal, who chaired the meeting, advised Lovely to meet school administrators and explain to them the intentions behind the Act.
Sections 16 and 17 of the Act not only ban schools from holding back students with poor academic record till class VIII, but also punish teachers who mete out physical punishment or mental harassment to students.
These sections are aimed at reducing the stress involved in learning at schools and at eliminating the fear of the teacher. But Lovely’s comments represent concerns that several teachers and administrators have also raised.
Teachers fear that any act of disciplining will be misunderstood by the student or his parents. But educationists, including experts like Vinod Raina who helped draft the law, argue that the concerns surrounding the Act are not unnatural in an education system tuned to using examinations and caning as tools. “The RTE Act, we must understand, is not about just increasing the number of schools.
It is about changing the paradigm in which education is delivered - from one where examinations and punishment are used to discipline students and make them study,” said Raina, who is also a CABE member.