Taking a step closer to free and compulsory education for all, the NDA government is set to examine a proposal to expand the Right to Education Act (RTE) from nursery to Class 10.
The proposal will come up for discussion when the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) meets on August 19 for the first time since the NDA came to power, sources said.
Under existing RTE norms, the government provides free education to children between the ages of 6 and 14 when they attend Classes 1 to 8. The expansion of the RTE was first mooted by the UPA government in 2011 and agreed in principle but not implemented.
“While extending the ambit of RTE would require an amendment of the 2009 Act, its ratification by CABE will kick off the process,” a government official said.
Ashok Agarwal, an advocate who has worked extensively on the effective implementation of RTE, welcomed the move saying school education should be completely free.
“RTE’s extension to pre-schooling will bring under its ambit children of the poor who are not able to send their kids to private school. Also, extending it till Class 10 will help contain the dropout rate of children who quit school after Class 8 as they cannot afford the cost of books and uniforms,” he said.
Although Section 11 of the RTE Act directs states to arrange for free pre-schooling, the wording is poor leading to its non-implementation, Agarwal said.
The UPA government had in 2011 formed a committee on the issue, the recommendations of which were discussed at a CABE meeting in 2012.
The committee had flagged certain points which it said need further discussion before implementation.
These points included the entry age for pre-school, qualifications and capacity building of pre-school teachers and the duration of secondary education.
“As you would all appreciate, these issues need to be discussed comprehensively before we decide to extend RTE to pre-school and secondary level,” former HRD minister MM Pallam Raju had said at the 60th meeting of CABE.
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