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'II 'Preparatory Steps

State Rules. 
  • On last count, only 5 States have notified their State Rules[i]. The remaining States are in some stage of preparation. In addition, Madhya Pradesh’s State rules have been approved by the Cabinet, but are awaiting formal notification. In addition to the regrettable fact that only 5 States have their rules in place, a frequent concern of activist has been about the processes of formation of the rules. A set of central model rules have been circulated by the Centre to form a minimum basic framework to be adapted by the specific States based on their prevailing reality and with the hope that the process would be consultative in nature. However, even a cursory look at the text of the rules- draft or final- shows that not much actual adaptation has happened. While a few states (eg. Karnataka, Rajasthan, AP, TN), have taken inputs from civil society and other concerned stakeholders in the process, the experience in several other locations (eg Delhi) is that the semi-prepared rules were prepared by the department and only put up on the education departmental website for comments for an extremely brief period (the UP government has not done even that till date). Karnataka that had an exceptionally transparent and inclusive process, however, according to media reports it took an intervention by their Chief Minister to convince their education minister to initiate the Act’s implementation from the coming academic session[ii]. Furthermore, some of the draft State rules have retrogressive measures compared to the existing reality (eg UP proposing to extend the basic distance norm for setting up schools to beyond the 1km norm under RTE) or in conflict with the parent Act (eg Maharashtra proposing retaining the division of primary education as Classes 1-4 in contradiction with the RTE citing administrative convenience). Some of these gaps may have since been addressed in higher versions of the rules, however, higher versions of the documents are not in the public domain.
  • While talking of State Rules, however, it would be imperative to point out that notification of the State Rules is not essential for starting the implementation of the Act. The rules are a set of documents that lay down the overall framework for the implementation of the Act on a few selected parameters, not the entire framework. Government orders and circulars are the lifeblood of the government system, with the rules once notified also requiring specific orders to set their implementation rolling. Several states have made critical changes on the ground without waiting for their Rules’ notification (eg Rajasthan that has started the process of formation of the SMCs even without formal Rules)

Pending Amendments in the RTE Act itself

  • Over a year back, when the Act was being passed, a vocal and concerted campaign by Disability activists lead to the Honourable Human Resources Minister agreeing that amendments would be brought about in the Act to ensure that all children with disability (and not just those included in the Persons with Disability Act) are included under the framework of the legislation. However, the promised amendments have taken an inordinate amount of time. According to latest information, the cabinet has finally approved the same in late February, with a view of passage in the present Budget session of Parliament[iii]. The extent to which the schools themselves have become inclusive for children with disability is, however, something to which we would return in the chapter on inclusion.
  • However, the present lot of amendments (likewise approved), relegates School Management Committees (representative groups of parents of children studying in a school) to an advisory capacity in government aided and minority schools. This is a retrogressive step wherein the voice of parents in determining the quality of education of their children is liable to decrease.

Administrative Changes under RTE

  • SSA has been delegated the task of ensuring the implementation of the Right to Education Act. This was an administratively convenient step for the government since it entails using the existing mechanisms of routing resources and taps into the existing staff already in place. However, given the fact that RTE mandates a restructuring of the education system compared to what prevailed under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (which was after all a scheme). The first year of the implementation of the Act saw several rounds of restructuring of SSA nationally to bring it in line with the provisions under the RTE Act. These include new norms (including infrastructural and financial norms and efforts to bring convergence of the structures to streamline implementation. While the document showed a progressive interpretation of the provisions towards a restructuring of the system, a clear mechanism for how this vision would be transferred to the lower rungs of the system is not really apparent. The ultimate test of the implementation of the Act would be whether the teacher, the head teacher and the Cluster Resource Centre (CRC, lowest rung of the education machinery) staff are able to understand what is intended. A system whereby the true intent of the Act is explained to the grassroots level functionaries is needed.
  • Changes in the Management Systems. In addition of the question of awareness and associated change in mindset, the implementation of the Act requires the unification of SSA structures and the regular education department. Additional support systems are also required to be put into place to facilitate the implementation of the Act. The revised SSA framework has recommended a restructuring in that direction. However, with the framework being only finalized in February, it is too early for these changes to percolate to the ground. It is hoped that the necessary changes would happen over the coming year. However, ensuring that the minimum norms and standards and other associated changes under RTE happen in a time bound manner cannot afford to wait till the completion of the process.
  • Rationalizing the Elementary Cycle. A significant change is the need for restructuring elementary education classes in accordance with the consistent definition of elementary education (Class 1-5-8). Even at the end of the first year of the Act’s implementation, some states still conform to the cycle of Class I-IV for Primary and Classes V-VII as upper primary with the Class VIII being covered under secondary education. A move to a uniform elementary cycle across all the States is essential to ensure consistency in the pedagogy adopted, facilitates implementation of provisions as per the new RTE norms (calculated across either Classes 1-V or 1-8), and ensures that children of Class VIII are not deprived of elementary education by being forced to undergo another point of transition.
  • Children under Six. While the law applies to children 6-14 years of age, section 11 speaks of the role of the State to provide ECCE education to prepare them to complete schooling. Admittedly, the wording is vague, stating that the Government MAY make necessary arrangements for providing free preschool education for such children. RTE has had two sets of implications on the pre-primary sector- the efforts towards widening of the preschool net in a few states and the beginning of regulation of the sector. The Union government has been talking about the formulation of a policy for education of children under six. Among the States, Maharashtra, Delhi, Goa and Tamil Nadu had seen efforts to regulate private pre-schools using the provisions under the RTE Act (especially on admissions, capitation fees, RTE compliance in infrastructure). The large number of under-age children enrolled in schools (ASER 2010[iv]) once again reiterated the need for extending provisions downward into a preschool section. Andhra Pradesh has announced that Kindergarten classes would be started in all schools in the coming year[v]. Most of the other States, however, are yet to follow suit.
  • Right to Education- Extension to Post Elementary Education The Right to Education Act applies to children aged 6-14 years of age and Classes 1-8. However, recent signals have emerged from the MHRD that extension of the same to Class 12. The idea is, according to the Minister himself at very early stages of preparation and is a direct offshoot of the process of implementation of the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), the SSA’s equivalent to secondary education[vi]. While not enough tangible information has emerged about the actual plans for the forum to respond, this is an issue of critical importance and which is liable to become more important in the months to come and would need to be watched carefully.

Redressal Mechanisms

  • Any legal right would need to be backed by a clear mechanism whereby the violations of the same can be systematically followed up. The RTE makes education a legal right- and several instances of violation of provision under the same have been successfully taken to court in the preceding year. However, the law also mandates the setting up of additional mechanisms of ensuring instances of violation are addressed without further burdening the already encumbered legal system.
  • The School Management Committees (SMCs) are the first line complaint mechanisms under the RTE Act. However, as would be described in more detail in a subsequent chapter, these have by and large not been formed in most states. This leaves with parents and children without a visible place of resource in case their educational rights are violated. Furthermore, in the absence of a clear restructuring of the government structures post RTE, a lack of awareness of key provisions by key stakeholders and absence of even the frontline SMCs, there is no clarity on how complaints under the Act would actually move.

Role of NCPCR and SCPCR

· Article 31 (1) of RTE explicitly names State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) as redressal bodies under RTE and issues them with additional functions to the ones provided to them under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. Together, they are expected to examine and review the safeguards for the rights provided by the RTE, and make recommendations for their effective implementation. Further, the SCPCR should inquire into complaints relating to child’s rights to free and compulsory education. The mandate given to bodies outside the purview of the line department (in this case MHRD) is a welcome step. With both the SCPCRs and NCPCR being part of the Women and Child Development Department, this gives them relatively more space to raise hard questions about the functioning of the government. However, there are questions related to the capacity (and especially in some states, the scope) of them raising issues given the degree of departmental control.

Constitution of SCPCR/

REPA (15 States)

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Haryana, J&K, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Orissa, Rajasthan, Sikkim

· Of course, the first step is that only half the states have formed SCPCRs or REPAs (Right to Education Protection Authority (an interim body mandated to look at the issues of education alone until a full fledged SCPCR comes into force). It is our understanding that some other States are in the process of formulation of their SCPCRs. Ironically, the SCPCRs of Jharkhand[vii], Uttarakhand and Manipur[viii] have still not been formed despite orders in that direction issued by their respective High Courts in January, 2011.

· While the sheer existence of a commission is a first step, their functioning is of more critical importance. While the structure of the same mandated an independent and apolitical person to head the SCPCR (in order to play the watchdog role on the government), the Commission in Rajasthan is headed by an in-service bureaucrat. At the same time, many of the incumbents lack hard core subject expertise on education. While additional resources have been supplied to the same, most are grossly understaffed in order to enable them to play the role expected. The Madhya Pradesh commission is a single person commission. Arguably the lowest point in the process of streamlining the processes of grievance redressal under the Act was in the month of September 2010 when according to media reports, the Karnataka SCPCR (by all accounts one of the most – if not THE most- active) found its electricity disconnected due to non failure of electricity bills[ix]. Consequently, the mere setting up of commissions is not enough, they need to be empowered and given the necessary support to enable them to play the role expected of them.

· The NCPCR in particular has been playing an active role on the issue of Right to Education. An RTE Division has been set up. Some of the tasks being undertaken by it include developing a concurrent social audit methodology for schools across the country, conducting public hearings around violation of educational rights (some of the places where these were held include MP, TN, Rajasthan, and Delhi) and redressing complaints pertaining to violation of education rights. While the number of public hearings has been limited, they have generated a mass of complaints wherever they happened. In contrast, the number of individual complaints received is fairly small, perhaps because of the lack of awareness in the people at large about the existence of such a structure. NCPCR has furthermore appointed RTE Advisors from within civil society from several States (10 States) to keep the Commission abreast of developments. However, the Commission, with the best of intent, currently lacks the human and other resources necessary to do justice to a problem of this magnitude.

National Advisory Council (NAC) and State Advisory Councils on RTE.

· The RTE Act mandates that an NAC on RTE be formed to advise the government on the Act’s implementation. This has been formed, having some prominent names on education[x]. A few meetings of the NAC have happened, and six task groups have been formed to look in more detail on specific issues- including inclusion, curriculum, mass mobilization, and teacher education. The NAC has been fairly low profile in its functioning and the mechanisms are only slowly being put into place. However, it offers a potential space for interface on strengthening the government system. Very little information is trickling out on the functioning of the State Advisory Councils. However, it would appear that Delhi, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand still lack SACs [xi] as well as UP & Bihar.



Resources for Right to Education Act

The issue of readiness for implementation cannot be addressed without considering the question of financing. Article 7 of the RTE simply states that the Central Government and the State Governments are responsible for the funding of the RTE. It, however, is something of a turf issue between the two. The implementation of the Act was held up for several months over a Centre- State row over cost sharing between the centre and the states. Originally the Central Government planned to start with a 55 to 45 percent funding which would eventually be raised to a 50 to 50 ratio. Following the pressure from the states, the Central government changed the funding ratio to 68% central and 32% state funding. For the north-eastern states the central government will provide 90% of the funds.[xii]This model has been approved by the Expenditure Finance Committee. However, even this reduced formula is opposed by some states like Bihar, MP and U.P., with the latter even going on record to say that the central government should finance the RTE entirely as it also takes all the credit for the legislation.[xiii]



At the heart of the debate are three issues: the precarious status of the finances of the States, poor financial systems that lead to low ability to absorb resources and the lack of overall will (on the part of both centre and states) to do what is needed to ensure implementation. The present section would look at all principal issues:



· 'The quantum'

Outlays for SSA in the Union Government from 2007-08 to 2010-11 (in Rs. crore)

2007-08 RE

2008-09 RE

2009-10 RE

2010-11 BE

13171

13100

13100

15000

Source: Union Budget document, various years from CBGA

The Union government estimates an overall amount of Rs.2,31,233 crore for a period of five years from 2010. The 13th Finance Commission has allotted 24.068 crores for 5 years. However, the outlays have not shown the commensurate increase despite it being the sole carrier of the government’s promise to deliver universal elementary education to all. These estimates are very conservative compared to those made prior to the passage of the Act. However, both the budgets that fall in the period of implementation of the Act have committed resources below even these rock bottom estimates. Indeed, the critique of the previous year’s budget was the low investment heralded the lack of interest in seriously working towards the Act’s implementation. As the implementation of the Act began, additional allotments (8,521.70 crores) were made to several states to fund their implementation of the Act under SSA, However, several of the States failed to opt for this additional grant.



The pattern of under-budgeting continues into the coming year. MHRD had asked for Rs 34,000 crore for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in the 2011-12 budget to spend on recruiting trained teachers, training untrained teachers, setting up schools and improving basic facilities at schools. What the ministry has got for the SSA is Rs 21,000 crore, just Rs 2,000 crore above last year’s revised allocation.[xiv] This is bound to negatively impact implementation since many of the big ticket expenditures were anticipated to happen in the coming year as the system slowly gets into gear for implementation. The track record of the investments committed by the States in the coming year is also patchy- ranging from an impressive and trend setting 109% increase in Punjab[xv] to a roughly 10-15% increase in Delhi[xvi]
What the low quantum of spending entails is States continuing to rely on low cost alternatives like hiring para-teachers (untrained teachers) or back-ending heavy expenditure until resources become available from somewhere.


KENDRIYA VIDYALAYA NORMS FOR ALL SCHOOLS

A frequently cited critique of the RTE Act has been the rather low norms laid down and its failure to ensure equitable quality education for all. In this regard, an alternative exercise of fund estimation by People’s Budget Initiative to arrive at a figure for financing RTE is attempted based on the norms as prescribed for Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV) schools in the country. The rationale to adopt KV norms is to ensure that quality concerns are addressed since KV schools are the most satisfactory model of schools that are financed by the Union government catering only to a small minority of population.

There are 981 KV schools in the country with an outlay of Rs.1967 crore in Union Budget 2010-11. The average amount that would accrue to one KV school would be approximately Rs.2 crore (Table 5). The total number of primary and middle schools in the country is known (Statistics of School Education 2007-08); a simple exercise of providing Rs.2 crore to each of these schools brings the total amount to Rs.12,83,799 crore (i.e. Rs.12.83 lakh crore).

Akin to the government’s estimation, considering this to be the amount that would need to be spent over the next five years, the amount for a year (i.e. one-fifths) would be Rs.2.56 lakh crore. This would be approximately 3.71 percent of GDP on elementary education – a substantial jump over the present 1.4 percent of GDP by the government. In this regard, the government proposal of spending Rs.1.82 lakh crore spread over the five years, which works out a meagre Rs.0.36 lakh crore a year is clearly inadequate.



(Reproduced from CBGA (2010) Education Background Paper for National Convention on Union Budget)


Extent to which resources reach the schools

Information for 2010-11 is currently not available. However, going by the government’s own statistics during 2009-10 (DISE Flash Statistics), 84% schools receive the school development grant and 82% received the TLM grant. What these figures are not necessarily representative of the status prevailing in the preceding year, they are probably still indicative. Thus, 1: 5 schools failed to receive any money for enhancement of school infrastructure or development/purchase of teaching learning materials. The present analysis does not consider the timeliness of the arrival of the money in the schools. There are also dramatic fluctuations- only 40% teachers received funds for TLM development and 54% schools in Meghalaya received money for school development The recent PAISA survey paints an even bleaker picture.



Absorption Capacity and Systems

In year preceding the implementation of the RTE Act- FY 2009-10[xvii]

· Only 83% of total funds available (opening balance, GOI and state releases) were spent.

· However, expenditure as proportion of planned allocation remained 77% indicating a mismatch between planning, release and expenditure.

· In addition, there is a last minute rush to spend funds. In FY 2008-09, only 37% SSA expenditure was incurred in the first two quarters of the financial year.

· Rajasthan and UP have spent over 90% of their allocated resources under SSA, contrasted with Bihar at only 61%

However, the flip side of low overall budgets is the simultaneously low absorption capacity in several places[xviii]. A major reason for insufficient allocation is the consistent backlog of spending on the part of states. With resources remaining under-utilized, the centre factors this amount as already available with the States and reduces the new allocation accordingly. On one hand this means that states never really receive the resources that are needed, but also that a greater effort needs to be made to address the barriers that impede spending.

Late release of resources leading to low quality of spending is a consistent problem. At the same time, previous history of spending under SSA suggests that while expenditure tends to be higher for infrastructural development, some heads like community participation and teacher training consistently lag behind. Hiring of additional accounts staff and expediting the computerization of fund transfer systems are some of the recommendations made in the recently conducted Joint Review Mission of SSA as being instrumental to enhance the ability to absorb resources. The financial manual of SSA underwent a change in the present year, bringing it in conformity with the requirements under RTE. There are also issues related to transparency of the budgets- especially at the grassroots level and the extent to which the fund flow matches the planning that is done. More attention would be given to this issue in the chapter on Community Participation. Consequently, heavy influx of additional resources that the issue requires needs to be accompanied by an effort to address the systems through which the funds flow.



RTE in the 12th Five Year Plan.

The present year saw considerable planning for the initiation of the 12th Five Year Plan. The rhetoric on education spending shows signs of promise with spending close to $100 billion to be spent on education in the 12th plan period[xix]. However, this figure needs to be accompanied by a caveat in terms of the stated intent to open the private sector for more private investment which may have considerable consequences on equity and these investments would need monitoring to ensure that private players adhere to all rules. Furthermore, similar sounding commitments were made at the beginning of the 11th Plan, without the reality undergoing a substantial change. Consequently, it is far too early for optimism.




[i] http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=68514 [ii] http://www.dnaindia.com/academy/report_implement-right-to-education-this-year-karnataka-cm_1497205 [iii] http://www.livemint.com/articles/2011/02/28001623/Cabinet-approves-two-RTE-Act-a.html?atype=tp [iv] http://www.deccanherald.com/content/129608/karnataka-tops-enrolment-five-year.html [v] http://www.livemint.com/articles/2011/02/28001623/Cabinet-approves-two-RTE-Act-a.html?atype=tp [vi]http://www.sify.com/news/right-to-education-to-cover-secondary-schools-soon-sibal-news-national-lbzsaniceeh.html [vii]http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/uncategorized/jharkhand-asked-to-set-up-child-rights-commission_100490868.html [viii] http://www.e-pao.net/GP.asp?src=12..180111.jan11 [ix]http://www.dnaindia.com/bangalore/report_karnataka-child-rights-commission-is-left-to-wallow-in-darkness_1447297 [x]http://www.dnaindia.com/bangalore/report_karnataka-child-rights-commission-is-left-to-wallow-in-darkness_1447297 [xi] http://www.financialexpress.com/news/school-results-are-in-.../764001/0 [xii] Times of India, 65 to 35 funding pattern for RTE rollout okayed, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/6535-funding-pattern-for-RTE-rollout-okayed-/articleshow/6233838.cms (accessed on 23.11.2010). [xiii]The Economic Times, Centre, states to share RTE expenses in 68 to 32 ratio, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/Centre-states-to-share-RTE-expenses-in-6832-ratio/articleshow/6235330.cms (accessed on 23.11.2010). [xiv] http://www.telegraphindia.com/1110301/jsp/nation/story_13650847.jsp [xv]http://www.punjabnewsline.com/content/punjab-increases-education-budget-52-percent-emphasis-human-resource-development/29522 [xvi] http://www.hindustantimes.com/Delhi-may-spend-Rs-1-200-cr-on-education-this-fiscal/Article1-673486.aspx [xvii] http://www.accountabilityindia.in/sites/default/files/budget-education/sarva_shiksha_abhiyan_goi_2010-11.pdf [xviii]http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/50-of-funds-not-implemented-for-ssa-rte-act-parl-panel/601982.html [xix] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/indicators/government-to-invest-100-bn-on-education-in-12th-plan/articleshow/7236425.cms

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