With the Right to Education Act (RTE) completing three years, the Mumbai chapter of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a public policy think tank, has recommended the involvement of community members – parents, retired teachers, and educationists in policy making.
A report titled “Why Can’t Children Read and Write”, released as part of a white paper on Saturday by ORF’s research fellow Rammohan Khanapurkar at a round table consultation, states that the government’s share in the total number of schools across the country is 80.37%.
“Because the government provides financial aid to the schools, it gets a say in the way the schools are run. Teachers feel that they are accountable only to them since they are the paymasters. That’s why the quality is going down,” said Sudheendra Kulkarni, the chairman of ORF.
Experts agreed that the quality of education would not improve unless the community is given powers to intervene in the functioning of the schools. “We need to make teachers accountable to the community and not just to the government. If a teacher is not doing well, then the panchayat or any such public body should have the power to terminate the teacher’s employment,” Kulkarni said.
One provision for community involvement, SMCs, or School Management Committees comprising parents, local authorities and school management, is mandated in the RTE Act.
However, it is not being properly implemented, said Farida Lambay, founder-director of Pratham, a non-governmental organisation working to provide education to underprivileged children in the country. “Schools are forming these committees overnight in a shoddy manner under government pressure. These committees are untrained and do not understand their role,” she said.
Exploitation of parents by private schools charging exorbitant fees will not end unless the quality of government schools improve, Lambay added. “Today, we have a high enrolment rate of children in schools, but the learning levels of students are very poor. Parents are enrolling their children in private schools hoping that they will offer better quality education,” she said.
The recommendations made in the discussion will be included in the white paper and submitted to the government, said Kulkarni.