The Union government seems favourably disposed towards extending the scope of the Right to Education Act, as one of the eight groups of secretaries set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has suggested that secondary as well as higher secondary education become a fundamental right in three years.
The group of 12 secretaries on “Education and Health – Universal Access and Quality” — which included school education secretary SC Khuntia, financial services secretary Hasmukh Adhia, health secretary Bhanu Pratap Sharma, food and public distribution secretary Vrinda Sarup and sports secretary Ajit M Sharan — made its presentation to the Prime Minister last month. Some of its recommendations may also make it to the Union budget which will be presented on Monday.
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In its report, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, the group states, “In the 21st century work place there would be a need for higher level of education and skill. Hence, elementary education is not enough, and secondary and higher secondary education needs to be universalized. Further access to secondary education and higher secondary education and availability of infrastructure including science lab, library etc. are a priority.” The group suggested a time frame of three years to implement this.
Under the Right to Education Act, education up to Class VIII is a fundamental right. If the suggestion of the group of secretaries is implemented, then the law will cover education up to Class XII.
The committee also suggested the launch of a new umbrella scheme from 2016 called UNIQUE (Unique National Initiative for Quality and Universal Education), which will entail a gradual exit from all exiting education schemes such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Midday Meal Scheme over a period of time. Under UNIQUE, funding will be outcome based. Eighty per cent will be based on a state’s needs and 20 per cent on the state’s performance.
Vocationalisation of school education and improvement of teacher training and education were also among the suggestions made by this group. For improvement of teacher education, the secretaries suggested a new all-India or state-level entrance test for B.Ed courses to “capture bright students in teacher’s pre-service courses” and an integrated four-year B.A./B.Sc. B.Ed course.
“It is suggested to increase the minimum qualification to become primary teacher from +2 to bachelor degree level. Already States of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand prescribe this educational qualification,” the report states.
“Sports yoga should be made compulsory part of the school curriculum to promote healthy lifestyle from a very young age,” the committee also suggested.
Suggestions of group of secretaries on Health and Education
* Integrated 4-year B.A./B.Sc. B.Ed.
* To reduce the likelihood of children reaching Class III – V without basic language and arithmetic skills, we need to earmark the best teachers for Class- I and II and train these teachers differently
* A new all India led/State level Admission test for B.Ed. course.
* Increase the minimum qualification to become primary teacher from +2 to bachelor degree level.
* Teachers to be taken off other tasks such as socio-economic surveys and booth level officer.
* Teachers‟ attendance in schools, and if possible students‟ also, may be monitored through biometrics so as to improve teacher’s accountability
* Secondary and higher secondary education should be universalized.
* Examination process should be reformed from rote learning to using information/ knowledge for applicability in situations and problem solving
* Sports/ yoga should be made compulsory part of the school curriculum to promote healthy lifestyle from a very young age.