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Right to Education Act gets debated in Parliament for amendment
The Indian Parliament is currently debating the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which was introduced by the Minister of Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar in Lok Sabha on April 10, 2017.

The RTE Act of 2009 is intended to be amended to extend the deadline for teachers to acquire the prescribed minimum qualifications for appointment.

One may recall that the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009, had guaranteed every child in the age group 6-14 years, the right to free and compulsory education till elementary level. The right of children could not be safeguarded and the now the RTE Act is being called a 'flawed legislation' that needed 'amendment'.

The RTE Amendment Bill, 2017, is batting for the extension provision by stating that 'those teachers who do not possess the minimum qualifications as on March 31, 2015 will acquire the minimum qualifications within a period of four years i.e. by March 31, 2019'.

However, the serious educators and activists feel that that non-provision of qualified teachers within the stipulated period of five years of the passage of the bill in 2009 by itself had been a violation of the right to elementary education by the system or administration. The amendment bill has been introduced to evade cleverly the accountability for not fulfilling the rights of children all these years.

Under the RTE Act of 2009, it was provisioned that if a state did not have adequate teacher training institutions or sufficient number of qualified teachers, the provision to possess minimum qualifications could be relaxed for a period not exceeding five years. The period expired on March 31, 2015, and now the government itself was seeking an amendment to further extend the provision by another five years. This shows that we have become experts in passing the Bills and never implementing the Acts, said an activist in Jaipur without being named.

The way the amendment bill is being debated, once again it is emphasising infrastructure improvement and teacher-student ratio correction. And, no seriousness is being shown about the quality of education indicated by learning outcomes. Also, there is need to debate afresh the implications of the RTE Act for private schools' obligation of filling 25 per cent reserved seats with reimbursements below the mean cost. 

Moreover, the RTE Act does not cover management committee of private schools. Therefore, as far as children's education is concerned, there is need to move out of the vicious cycle of mere entitlements or rights driven legislations, I feel.

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