THE HRD Ministry has disapproved of the Rajasthan Assembly’s move to amend the Right to Education (RTE) Act to scrap the “no-detention” policy in schools.
Section 16 of the RTE Act prohibits all schools from failing and expelling a student up to Class VIII. But in September last year, the Rajasthan Assembly passed a Bill that diluted this section with an additional proviso which stated, “provided that if a child has not achieved class appropriate learning level in a class, he may be held back in that class.”
“Rajasthan is the first state in the country to do so and this will improve quality of education,” Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education Vasudev Devnani had said before the Bill was passed in the Assembly.
Since the RTE Act is a law enacted by Parliament, Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh had referred the Bill to the Union Home Ministry, which, in turn, had sought the comments of the Law and HRD ministries.
The HRD Ministry has objected to the amendment on the ground that it goes against the spirit of the RTE Act, which is a central law and cannot be changed by any state at will.
According to sources, the Home Ministry received the HRD Ministry’s comments about two weeks ago. “The HRD Ministry has gone by the book. It has said that this is not how a central law is changed. There is a set procedure for that and it has to be followed,” said a source.
The amendment passed by the Rajasthan Assembly needs the assent of President Pranab Mukherjee. But sources said the HRD Ministry’s adverse comments could have a bearing on whether Mukherjee approves the Bill.
Devnani was unavailable for comment.
The RTE Act, passed in 2009, became effective in March 2010. The “no-detention” policy, which is the backbone of the law, has been opposed by several state governments.
The rationale behind this policy is that compelling a child to repeat a class is demotivating and discouraging, often forcing him or her to abandon school/ learning altogether.
Similarly, the notion of “expulsion” is not compatible with the concept of “right”. Hence, the Act, in order to make elementary education a “right”, prohibits failing and expulsion of all students up to Class VIII.
The states, however, want this provision scrapped on the ground that the system of automatically promoting a child was contributing to a sharp decline in the quality of the students at the elementary level.
At the meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education in August last year, all the state education ministers claimed that children were no longer serious about their studies as they did not have to be afraid of not being promoted.
An eight-member committee constituted by the HRD Ministry, headed by Devnani, made the same recommendation . Sources said the HRD Ministry is not averse to reviewing the law.
“The thinking in the HRD Ministry is that the RTE has been in effect for six years and it’s a good time to review the law. But one has to take all the states along in this process. Can you imagine what will happen to the Act if each state starts making its own changes?” said a source.