Ministries squabble over education bill
A legislation that seeks to provide free and compulsory education for all children between the ages of 6 and 14 is now caught in a dispute between the ministry of human resource development (HRD) and the law ministry.
The law ministry has opposed provisions in the Right to Education (RTE) bill that talks of quality of education and wants it deleted. The HRD ministry insists that these provisions must remain. If the two ministries cannot resolve their differences, the Union cabinet will take the final decision. The UPA government has promised to introduce the bill in the monsoon session of the Parliament.
The government has circulated several drafts of the legislation after the 86th constitutional amendment made education a fundamental right in 2002. The bill seeks to give effect to this amendment, but has been delayed due to disagreements among various stakeholders over its provisions and financing.
The current draft was sent out to other ministries in February this year by the human resource development ministry, for comments.
The law ministry wants parts of Chapter 4 of the draft legislation deleted, citing the possibility of large-scale litigation. For instance, section 32 of the draft bill says that “all schools shall function in a child-friendly and child-centred manner,” and shall “allow the views of the child to be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.” The draft law also mentions benchmarks for teacher training, examination etc. The law ministry feels such non-quantifiable provisions will lead to a flurry of legal disputes.
The HRD ministry and RTE activists say the legislation without quality specifications will do no good.