IIM Indore hosted a ‘Right to Education’ Conference on February 20, 2016 marking the presence of esteemed panelists gracing the occasion and contributing with their insightful thoughts. This discussion marked the first major step in IIM Indore’s journey towards ensuring that every child has the right to free education. Mr. Damodar Goyal, key petitioner during the implementation of RTE, Mr. Sumer Singh, Principal of The Daly College Indore, Mrs. Vijaylakshmi Iyenger, SMC Member in SICA Educational Trust of Indore, Mr. Ishu Gupta, Representative of Right to Education Resource Centre, IIM A, Mr. Ankit Chhabra, Campaign Lead – Communication and Operations, IndusAction, Delhi and Ms. Arupa, an NGO representative, were the key speakers for the event.
A short video clipping portraying the disparities in our current education system was played at the onset. Thereafter, keynote speaker, Mr. Sumer Singh, spoke about how he wasn’t against RTE but against the methodology adopted for its implementation.
Mrs. Iyenger then talked about the case studies she had personally monitored, most notably in the village Jhabua, where individuals do not have access to basic amenities like water. The question of education arises much later. She noted that even though it is a fundamental right, one must not forget that rights should be equal for all. Admitting a child into a good school under RTE should not be the only objective of a parent as very often a child from the EWS category finds it very difficult to cope with the new system.
Mr. Damodar Goyal mentioned that when the original Bill was drafted by Justice Jeevan Reddy, there was a clause penalizing parents who fail to send their children to school, but that clause was removed. He then questioned how it was possibly the right to ‘free and compulsory’ education when the basic compulsion wasn’t made compelling.
Ms. Arupa also highlighted that people are not aware of the dates of admission applicable under RTE. Another major issue faced is that NGOs believe that this is the responsibility of the state and that they should refrain from breaching this area. Mr. Ankit Chhabra emphasized on the role of non-profits in bridging this information asymmetry, and thereby supporting the government. He stated that with the advent of digitalization in MP, there was scope for nearly 1.6 lakh additional seats in the state.
The fact that parents only target select schools was brought to notice by Mr. Damodar. He quoted that out of 33,000 schools in Rajasthan, more than 12,000 have no admissions under the RTE provision. Mr. Singh also pointed out that tuition fee is generally exempted under the free learning provision. As a result, schools across India are keeping tuition fees at a low, and raising fees for ancillary services. This leads to the emergence of a pool of semi-educated, misfit children who are embarrassed of their own families.
These words were met by thunderous applause from the audience. It left them with tremendous food for thought as to the relevance of the RTE Act.