A year has passed since the Right To Education Act (RTE) came into force but teachers — particularly those from unaided schools — are still clueless about what the law means.
A survey of 600 teachers across 60 SSC schools (30 aided and 30 unaided) by a non-profit group, Parent-Teacher Association United Forum, found that only 60% of unaided school teachers and 50% of aided school teachers were aware of their duties and responsibilities as enlisted under this Act.
There are different sections of the RTE Act, each of which deal with different roles and responsibilities of teachers, schools and local authorities. Teachers are responsible for completing the syllabi, providing additional help if the child needs it, ensuring attendance and punctuality and staying in touch with a child’s parents to appraise them of his/ her performance.
While 71% aided schoolteachers were aware of what the Act says about children’s rights, only 54% of unaided schoolteachers knew about this. Further, only 45% of aided schoolteachers and 52% of unaided schoolteachers were aware of the school’s duties and responsibilities.
“I was surprised by these results; awareness levels were very low among teachers,” said Arundhati Chavan, president of the Forum, who conducted the survey across the city’s four zones through a multiple-choice questionnaire. “It appears that since unaided schools are not under the control of the education department, they are not exposed to the Act enough. We found that unaided school teachers in particular had a very casual attitude towards the Act.”
The Maharashtra government is yet to notify the rules necessary for the implementation of the Act. “You can’t entirely blame the teachers for their ignorance, even the government has been slow about the implementation,” said Chavan.
Unaided school groups, including the city’s Unaided Schools’ Forum, are in the midst of fighting a case in the Supreme Court against clauses in the Act that they claim violate their rights as private schools. This too, has perhaps negatively impacted awareness levels of teachers.
“In unaided schools especially, teachers are dominated by the management, and know only what the management wants them to know,” said Pratima Sharma, who teaches at St Xavier’s School, Nerul. “Unless the department makes such training programmes compulsory, teachers are not sent.”