Published: 21st February 2018
We need more public schools like Kendriya Vidyalaya in every village: Prof Anita Rampal
From recent budget allocation to effective implementation of the RTE Act, Anita Rampal believes that there is more the government needs to do to strengthen the country's public education system
A professor and former dean of Delhi University's Education department, Anita Rampal's name rolls off the tongue when you talk about the educational sector in India. A staunch vocalist of the Right To Education (RTE) Act, she strongly believes that the sector is fraught with many loopholes and that only if the RTE is implemented in its true essence can the country usher in transparency and efficiency in the education system.
In the wake of the recent budget allocation, we caught up with her to understand her stance on the money allotted to the education sector and what she feels needs to be improved in the sector.
The budget allocation for 2018-19 is just one per cent higher than the previous year. Do you think the hike is a just move?
A serious allocation to education has not come yet. There have been hikes, but the areas that need the attention have not been targetted at all. The overall GDP for education recommended by several committees over the years has been 6 per cent, but that has never happened. One year they increase it and the next year they decrease the budget. The government needs to seriously look into the areas that need improvement.
Which area do you think requires the government's immediate attention?
Teacher education is where we are under-resourced. We don’t have any serious government investment in the area in government universities and 90 per cent of teaching institutes in the country are substandard private institutions. So, there is a great need for the government to support the teacher education department in Central universities with better academic resources so that we can bring out qualified teachers.
Voice for a cause: Professor Anita Rampal during a panel session at the recently concluded ThinkEdu Conclave
The Finance Minister was proposing to integrate schools holistically without segmentation. How effective do you think this measure will be?
I don't think it is a feasible idea. The RTE Act mandates that primary and middle school should integrate to become an elementary school, however, this has not happened yet. Ideally, we should be integrating elementary school first, then think about class X. A good public education means that it should be completely under the government, at least till class VIII. In our country, higher secondary schools are largely in the private sector with many schools still being government-aided. That means that there is a greater need for the government to ensure that every child in every village gets a good education. What we need is a good, well-resourced government school with enough space and materials. We’ve come to a situation where government school teachers are taking three classes together with minimal infrastructure. The need of the hour is for the government to rectify these errors and it's a long journey ahead. Talking about it alone won’t help.
How do we rectify this error? Or is it too late now?
It's never too late to start over. But for this, the government has to implement RTE correctly. Not only have they not implemented RTE properly, but now they are trying to amend it, which is damaging. Only if they implement RTE in its true earnestness, can we bring about change.
But we have heard of cases in Karnataka where kids who enrol through RTE in reputed schools face discrimination because they are deemed unfit. Don't you think, in this case, that the RTE is only disintegrating the education system further?
This happens in the elite schools. According to a few government school teachers, the state government is pushing students to join low-cost private schools as these schools will get government support. At the ground level, the officers are also trying to push for that and as a result, children receive a substandard education. By doing this, the government wants to shut down existing public schools, claiming that there aren’t enough children and teachers in government schools. Only by pressuring the government to set up more schools under the RTE Act can we ensure a more inclusive education.