Education has always been at the forefront of public discourse related to human rights. Compulsory primary and secondary education which deals with basic skills like literacy have been the topic of much debate all over the world. In a large country like India, education is attempting to take centre stage through the pointing out of the sub-par education delivered in a lot of public schools.
The Right to Education Act (RTE), came into force on April 01st, 2010. RTE makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and specifies minimum norms in elementary schools. This includes a 25% reservation policy based on economic status or caste. Through this policy, RTE attempts to bridge the economic gap between the different classes by putting everyone in the same classroom.
The schools are required to ensure that all students receive the same quality of education so that, upon graduation, they are intellectually on par with their peers. Under RTE, the government personally works to ensure that schools receive the highest quality infrastructure and faculty ensure the understanding of subjects. In fact, one of the motifs of the Government of Karnataka’s Deparatment of Public Instruction, is “To ensure that education becomes a means of genuine empowerment of the individual to achieve his/her full potential,” further saying that the learning process for children in their schools will be “locally relevant, child-centered, activity-based and joyful.” Local relevance is a large way of making children relate to their textbooks and what they learn. It therefore makes this a very essential teaching technique. In addition, the same department also encourages community engagement in helping children get educated.
The active involvement of the community in ensuring children receive a high level of education is an aspect which every organisation concerned with education should focus on. If a child’s knowledge is reinforced by a clear connection between their subjects, the likelihood of learning and retaining increases. This is a technique which can be enforced through the involvement of NGOs too.
RTE, however, hasn’t prevented class or caste based discrimination in schools and children who gain admission under RTE provided reservation can be severely affected by the discrimination they face (included but not limited to sitting on one side of the class or having to eat from separate plates and drink from separate glasses during meal times). This is one area in which NGOs can make a huge difference – in 2012, 15 education-centric NGOs undertook a mission, in Bangalore, where they monitored the quality of education given in various rural schools, evaluating the teaching methods and coming up with more effective ways of teaching. This way they formed a group called the School Development and Monitoring Committees (SDMCs), which included children as part of the evaluators.
A large problem, especially in rural India, is that families are not aware that RTE, as a policy, exists. Due to this, a lot of children aren’t sent to school. While the government could undertake programmes which raise awareness about the existence and importance of RTE, the fact is that oftentimes this responsibility falls to the NGOs. Following this, in 2016, a Kohlapur-based NGO, Avani, which has set up schools in the surrounding area, did an awareness drive to inform families about RTE and its benefits.
This way, in addition to setting up schools themselves catered to children belonging to economically and socially backward classes, NGOs can contribute to ensuring that RTE is properly and efficiently implemented in the education sector. Therefore, if a relationship between the schools and the NGOs can be established, the implementation of RTE becomes easier and better, ensuring that the children in the system, under the policy, receive a good quality education, putting them on par with their upper class peers.