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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Wrong To Education, Part 1

(The introduction to this series analysing RTE can be found here:
1. Infrastructure & Licensing.
a) Imagine if you defined a market like this:
"A flat area of at least 60 yards, having at least two approach roads of a minimum of two lanes, walled or fenced with gates for the roads, with at least twelve enclosures of not less than 100 sq.ft. area each, of which six must be roofed, and two have cold storage facilities, and each active enclosure manned by not less than two attendants, plus one shopkeeper per 100 daily footfall units, plus at least one watchman per gate, and not less than four safai karmachari*... It shall function for at least 300 days a year, not less than 10 hours a day, including at least one weekend per month...
* For qualifications of attendant, shopkeeper, watchman, karmachari see...

In economics, I learned that a market is anywhere a buyer & seller interact to trade in goods or services. You can define a market any other way, of course, but that won't stop buyers & sellers from meeting & trading anyway. And if you tried to stop this - to stop trade from occurring anywhere except in what you designated a market - you'd
i) Harm the total volume of trade
ii) Cause much inconvenience to both buyers & sellers perfectly willing to trade even without any of your conditions
iii) Look like an idiot.

b) RTE defines a school in infrastructural terms: 
i) Schedule to the Act: No. of teachers, school buildings, no. of working days, hours per teacher per week - plus equipment, sports facilities, library)
ii) Sec. 18 of the RTE Act requires schools to acquire a certificate of recognition from a specified authority, which means they must meet these norms. 
iii) Sec. 19 of the RTE Act penalises schools for running without recognition or after withdrawal of recognition - which they will not get without meeting these norms - to the extent of 1 lakh rupees, plus 10,000/- rupees per day of continuing violation.

Are you thinking License-Permit Raj yet?
When you look at norms like this, you need to ask only one question: Who stands to gain from this? 

Is it students who want to learn, and anyone who is willing to teach them? Or is it the people getting contracts to build these schools, the various officials who will inspect premises & award recognition, and perhaps teachers' unions, who have a rigid set of "rules" to resort to now?

What RTE misses entirely is the broader point: A school is like a market. Wherever students & teachers meet to learn, there is a school.

Exactly as in (a) above, if you try to stop learning from occurring anywhere but what you designate (recognise) as a school, you:
i) Decrease the total volume of education
ii) Cause immense inconvenience to students & teachers willing to function without any of your conditions.
iii) Look like an idiot.

c) The Counterproductive Part.
Schools for the poor run in shacks & fields. (So did gurukuls, and ironically, modern-day gurukuls would probably fail to meet the norms in the schedule.) Fr. Trevor Miranda has, as part of the Rural Education Assistance Programme ( taken classes on the foot overbridges of railway stations in Mumbai for over a decade now. Because anyone who is serious about elementary education has come to the same conclusion: It's the children that matter. Too often, they cannot come to you, so you must go to the children. In hundreds of local endeavours, one or two teachers teach hundreds of students, without regular hours for either, and with little equipment of any description. Often these are people of those very communities, trying to improve the lot of their own.

These will all receive no recognition under the Act. They will all be fined - and fined lakhs, even though they may be running purely on charity - and have to close down.

How is this a step forwards, for educating the poor?


(Part 2:
(Part 3, which is longer than the average, but split into logical & legal analysis: )

(Part 4:

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