People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 01

January 01, 2012




STFI Demands Pro-Child Changes in RTE Act


THE School Teachers’ Federation of India (STFI) recently organised at New Delhi a workshop on the “Right to Education Act and Its Implementation” While Kartik Mandal presided over the workshop, Ashok Agarwal, a senior advocate and social activist, inaugurated it. After state reports were presented to the workshop, V Balasubramanian, a member of Legislative Council (MLC) in Andhra Pradesh, summed up the deliberations and delivered the concluding address. Joint general secretary S Shahjahan proposed the vote of thanks.


Later on the day (November 24), the STFI secretariat met at Teachers’ Bhavan in New Delhi. It reviewed the workshop. It decided to prepare a memorandum, through consolidation of the state reports presented in the workshop, and to send to the parliamentary sub-committee on education. The STFI memorandum highlights different aspects relating to the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act.


Submitted to the said sub-committee on December 3, the memorandum said the School Teachers Federation of India (STFI), which is an all-India organisation comprising 18 teachers’ organisations from 12 states and represents 12 lakh teachers of the country, was willing to appear before the sub-committee and present its views in detail.


The STFI’s suggestions on some specific issues are noted below.


1. Age of Admission: The memorandum noted that in the age of school entry at Class I in the prevailing pattern in some states like Kerala and Andhra Pradesh is 5 years while at the national level (as per the RTE Act) is 6 years. However, a sudden shift in the school entry age from 5 to 6 years without taking the parents into confidence will adversely affect them at this juncture. Hence a mechanism has to be developed for the transition; otherwise parents would prefer to send their children to nearby private schools, resulting in low enrolment in government schools and government aided schools. Three to four years can be considered as the period of such a transition and the STFI has suggested that the appropriate government should provide for all children 3 to 5 years of free pre-school education in primary schools as proposed in the RTE Act.


2. Structural Change: The change in the structure of schooling system is another area of concern that deserves attention. Now it is not uniform in all states. In Kerala, the pattern is of lower primary classes (1 to 4), upper primary (classes 5 to 7), high school classes (8 to 10) and higher secondary classes (11 and 12). In Andhra Pradesh it is primary 1 to 5, upper primary 1 to 7, high schools 6 to 10 and intermediate 11 and 12. Rajasthan follows the pattern of  primary 1 to 5, upper primary 1 to 8, secondary classes 6 to 10, and senior secondary 6 to 12. On the other hand, the national pattern as per the RTE Act is of elementary classes 1 to 8 and secondary 9 to 12. But different states have their own reasons for following their existing structures. The STFI has made it clear that it is not against any structural change making the state patterns coterminous with the national pattern. However, any change in the structural pattern might adversely affect the security of a large number of teachers. At the same time, it would lead to a number of problems in the service matters of teachers as in many states separate directorates and ministers are there for elementary and secondary education. Hence, the STFI has stressed the need of an indepth study and proper discussions for any kind of alteration to the existing pattern, while the central government must provide full financial support for this transition.


3. Seats for Disadvantaged Groups in Unaided Schools: The STFI has also stressed the need to provide 25 per cent seats in class 1 for the children from disadvantaged groups in unaided schools where there is a dearth of adequate number of government  schools. But in states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamilnadu government and government aided schools are covering almost all the habitations. The public transport system is also comparatively better and hence access to the government and government aided schools is not at all a serious issue there. In such states there is no need to seek the help of private schools for achieving universal access as suggested in the RTE Act. As per Section 6 of the Act, appropriate government and local authorities shall establish school within the areas or neighbourhoods where such schools do not exist, within a period of three years from the commencement of the act. The STFI is of the opinion that provision of private schools where there are enough government schools or government  aided schools is contradictory to the very RTE Act. In the states where there is a strong system of neighbourhood schooling, it is unconstitutional to push the children towards private schooling by reimbursing their educational expenses. It would also lead to doubling of the expenditure of the state in economic terms. Hence the STFI’s suggestion is that government schools should be established in all habitations in all the states as directed in Section 6 of the act.


4. Teacher-Pupil Ratio: The act provides for 2 teachers in schools having up to 60 children and 3 teachers in schools having 61 to 90 students. As per the act, the child has the right to have quality education. But if there are two teachers for 60 children, they cannot concentrate on quality and cannot evaluate the children comprehensively and continuously. This would also lead to multi-grade teaching. At present Kerala provides one teacher for every class and a language teacher in a school, i.e., 6 teachers for each school. So if the provision of the RTE Act is implemented in a state like Kerala, this will lead to creation of schools with one teacher handling more than one class at the same time, which is a retrogressive change.


The STFI’s suggestion therefore is that there should be one teacher for every class. A remedy to avoid deviations is to amend the act to enable the states to effect suitable amendments with the prior permission of the centre.


5. Filling up of Vacancies of Teacher Posts: In this regard, the STFI has demanded amendments to Chapter IV, Section 26. There must not be any vacancies. As in Kerala state, the appropriate government must recruit 10 per cent additional teachers who, to cover the syllabus, can be posted in schools whenever vacancies arise or when teachers go on long leave, e.g. maternity leave, study leave, medical leave etc.


6. Special Training to Children Directly Admitted in a Class Appropriate to Their Age: As per the RTE Act, the children admitted directly in a class appropriate to their age shall be provided with special training in order to bring them to par with others. A school’s management committee or the local authority shall provide a teacher for the purpose. But it is practically difficult to arrange a teacher in a school exclusively for such children if their number is limited. To get fruitful results, these children must be given special training, as designed by academic authorities. Block level residential schools must be established and qualified teachers appointed for the purpose.


7. Collection of Fee: As per the act, no fee shall be collected from a child or its parent. In schools, teachers have to conduct unit tests and terminal exams but there is no provision of funds for this purpose. (Previously, in Andhra Pradesh, a special fee was collected at the time of admission to meet these expenses and children of weaker sections were exempted from it.) In view of this reality, the STFI has demanded that the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and other similar programmes must provide sufficient fund for examinations.


Those who submitted the memorandum on behalf of the STFI included Kartik Mandal (STFI president), K Rajendran (general secretary), N Narayana (vice president) and V Balasubrahmanyam, MLC in Andhra Pradesh.