RTE deadline ends, states want norms for hiring teachers eased

Written by Kirtika Suneja | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 1 2013, 07:24am hrs
Even asthe deadline set by the Centrefor privateschools to comply with the Right to Education (RTE) guidelinesended on Sunday, as many as 13 states, including Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, have sought relaxation for the minimum qualification for appointment of teachers.

Only half of the private schools in these statesare RTE-compliant as far as the infrastructure norms are concerned. According to sources from the human resource development (HRD) ministry, the relaxation was sought by the states due to the non-availability of teachers possessing minimum qualifications as laid down by the National Council for Teacher Education under the RTE Act.

Sources said theministry has said that though it will not extend the deadline, itwould leave it to the state to decide the fate of the schools that are not compliant with RTE norms.

No school will close down because it does not have a boundary wall or a playground. Any action will be taken by the states who are conscious of the requirements of students, said a senior official from the department of school education and literacy of the HRD ministry.

There are 13.5 lakh schools in the country of which 2.7 lakh are private schools.

The RTE Act had set two deadlines- until March 31 -- for infrastructure and March 31, 2015 for teachers to attain minimum qualifications (pass Teachers Eligibility Test or TET). Schools face the prospect of closing down under the Act if they are not RTE compliant after March 31. The government also faces the threat of being challenged in court by stakeholders in the event of non-compliance.

As for the infrastructure norms set by the RTE, all-weather school buildings should have one-teacher classrooms, separate toilets for boys and girls, safe and adequate drinking water facilities for all children, a kitchen where the mid-day meal is cooked in the school, playground and a boundary wall to secure the school.

However, the ministry's estimates show that very few schools had met the RTE infrastructure norms in 2010-11. While only 49% schools had a playground in 2010-11, only 57% had a library, girls' toilet or a ramp.

In fact, HRD minister M M Pallam Raju said: The deadline is the objective. It is apparent that most states are going to miss it, but that does not mean we will leave the objective. We will constitute a committee to show seriousness of the implementation.

As per Yamini Aiyer, director of Delhi-based think tank Accountability Initiative, a large number of government teachers have failed to pass the TET mandated by the RTE. In Delhi, only 7% of teachers passed the TET. In Himachal Pradesh, of the 3,750 junior basic teachers (responsible for teaching primary school children) who took the TET in August 2012, only 1,700 qualified. Similarly, in the first TET conducted in July 2011 in Andhra Pradesh, the pass percentage for all papers was less than 50%.

According to the RTE, no school should have teacher vacancies exceeding 10% of the total sanctioned strength. However, at an all-India level, in 2010-11, there was 15% vacancy in government schools.

The Centre and state governments are responsible for its implementation and should have come up with a roadmap having concrete action plan before March 31, 2013 to expedite the implementation, said Ambarish Rai, National Convenor, RTE Forum.