A note from India’s book: on Pakistan’s Right to Education

Posted on:29-11-12

Mehjabeen Jagmag, Accountability Initiative

Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill1earlier this November. Like in India, education features on the concurrent list in Pakistan -with the Federal government and provinces sharing responsibilities. Pakistan’s RTE Bill is a step towards making education free and compulsory for 5 to 16 year olds in those schools established by the federal government and local government in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), and an attempt to urge all provinces towards uniformly enforcing the implementation of this right.

The Education for All Global Monitoring Report 20122 ranks 120 countries on the basis of their performance on four indicators: universal primary education, gender parity, literacy and quality of education. India ranks 102/120 and Pakistan 113/120; both make it to the list of countries that are far from achieving the six Dakar EFA goals by 2015 (Read more about the goals here).

With more than two years of a head start on the Right to Education (RTE) Act (the Act came into force in India on April 2010), and given the similarities in the RTE mandate in both countries, India’s challenges with implementation can help Pakistan better understand the road that lies ahead.

The table below paraphrases and compares some of the important elements of Pakistan’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill 2012 and India’s The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009.

 

Pakistan

India

Scope of the provisions

Free and compulsory education for all children between 5 – 16 years

Free and compulsory education for all children between 6 - 14 years

Responsibility of parents/guardians

Except in the case of a reasonable excuse (so deemed by the School Management Committee), or where there is no neighbourhood school, it is the parents’ responsibility to send their child to school. If they fail to do so, they will have to pay a fine that may extend to Pakistani Rupees (PKR) 5000 and PKR 500 for every day after conviction. If they fail to do so, they are liable to imprisonment of up to three months.

Every parent is responsible to admit their child or ward to an elementary school. However, no punitive action can be taken against parents who fail to do so.

Private schools (schools that are not receiving any aid from the government)

  • These schools shall admit 10 percent of the total strength of the class, disadvantaged children in the neighbourhood in class 1 or at entry level.

  • Private schools must undergo a registration process based on norms and standards prescribed by the government, schools registered before the Act must comply with standards within two years of the commencement of the Act

  • The appropriate governmental authority has the right to withdraw registration and shut unregistered institutions. Schools that operate without registration may be fined up to PKR 200,000 and a fine of PKR 25,000 for each day post conviction

  • One cannot advertise or promote through a prospectus or brochure schools that have not been registered or provisionally registered. The person failing to comply with this rule will have to pay up to PKR 100,000 or/and an imprisonment term up to 1 year

  • These schools shall admit 25 percent of the total strength of the class, disadvantaged children in the neighbourhood in class 1 or at entry level.

  • Private schools must undergo a registration process based on norms and standards prescribed by the government, schools registered before the Act must comply with standards within three years of the commencement of the Act

  • The appropriate governmental authority has the right to withdraw registration and shut unregistered institutions. Schools that operate without registration may be fined up to INR 100,000 and a fine of INR 10,000 for each day post conviction

  • No such provision exists

School Management Committee (SMC)

  • Composition: All government and government aided schools shall constitute an SMC, 2/3 of which are parents of children attending that school and 1/3 women

  • School Development Plan: will be prepared annually by the SMC

  • Punitive powers: Can pass an order to enforce parents enrolling their child into school. A fine will be levied (mentioned above) upon failure to comply

    Can pass an order to prevent employment of children. Failure to comply with this order will ensure a fine of PKR 50,000 and/or 6-month imprisonment and PKR 1,000 for every day after conviction if non-attendance continues

  • Composition: All government and government aided schools shall constitute an SMC, 3/4 of which are parents of children attending that school and 1/2 women

  • School Development Plan: will be prepared (for either 2-3 years, depending on the state’s rules) by the SMC

  • Punitive powers: None




Teachers

  • Teachers will have to possess government prescribed qualifications. In case a teacher does not have the prescribed qualifications, they will have to obtain them within 2 years from notification of the Act

  • Teachers will not be deployed for non-educational purpose other than population census, disaster relief or election duty. No provisions against private tuition

  • Teachers will have to possess government prescribed qualifications. In case a teacher does not have the prescribed qualifications, they will have to obtain them within 5 years from notification of the Act.

  • Teachers will not be deployed for non-educational purpose other than population census, disaster relief or election duty. Teachers cannot provide private tuitions

Monitoring and Evaluation

No specific group defined for monitoring and evaluation

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights are responsible for recommending measures for implementation, address complains and take steps to uphold the RTE Act. The NCPCR and SCPCR have quasi-judicial powers, thus they can investigate, summon and recommend cases to the courts, but cannot pass judgments and hand out punishments

 

Over the last three years, India has faced problems with implementing the Act in almost all of the areas mentioned above.

Higher enrollment does not guarantee higher learning levels, or even higher attendance

As the Annual Status of Education Reports (ASER) have shown us, year after year, high enrollment rates do not in themselves reflect in greater quality of education being imparted in schools. While India has achieved a laudable high enrollment rate of 96.7% according to ASER’s 2011 estimates, reading and arithmetic levels have declined. The percentage of children in Std V able to read a Std 2 level text has dropped from 53.7% in 2010 to 48.2% in 2011 and the ability of Std V children, to solve basic subtraction problems has dropped from 70.9% in 2010 to 61.0% in 2011. Moreover, there has been a drop in attendance in rural primary schools from 73.4% in 2007 to 70.9% in 2011.3

Reserving seats in private schools does not guarantee inclusive learning environments

Private school owners reluctantly accepted the 25 % percent reservation in April this year, when the court ruled against private schools and in favor of the reservation4. Part of the school managements grouse is owing to the reimbursement amounts offered by the government, which they say are not commensurate with the schools’ fees (Reimbursement amounts are decided based on a state’s calculation of their expenditure per-child or the private school’s fees, whichever is less). Elite schools feel short-changed in the bargain. Moreover, school manage expressed a lack confidence in the government to reimburse them altogether. As a result, they resorted to asking parents to pay fees even if their child is enrolled under 25 percent reservation, with the promise of returning the fees when the government reimburses the school, as has been documented in Tamil Nadu. 5

Instances from reports across the country reveal evidence that entirely undermine the grounds of social inclusion, one of the primary reasons why this clause was included in the Act. Children enrolled under this scheme are discriminated in schools by being made to sit separately. In one case, tufts of children’s hair were cut to identify them as children enrolled under the Economically Weaker Sections of the RTE Act6.

Greater budgetary allocations does not guarantee effective utilisation of grants

Shutting down private schools that do not meet recognition norms does not positively affect the proliferation of higher quality institutions, nor unfortunately does increasing the overall budget for education. This news article7 cites The Pakistan Education Task Force’s estimates that the government would have to spend an extra billion dollars, each year to meet its long-term educational goals. 

The RTE Act has resulted in doubling the budgetary allocations for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) to implement RTE, from Rs 26,169 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 55, 746 crore in 2011-12. Despite this, State Education Ministers had sought an extension on the deadline as government schools have not been able to meet infrastructural norms set down in the Act. Earlier this November Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister M M Pallam Raju stated that the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) decided against extending the RTE deadline, putting greater pressure on erring states to meet their deadlines8.

The PAISA studies tracks the efficacy of the utilisation grants in nine districts in seven states to find that the challenge lies not in allocating money, but ensuring that it reaches its targets. Most districts received the bulk of their allocated grants in the last quarter of the year; much after the need for funds arise. The lack of knowledge about the timing and amount of money among concerned authorities, a lack of clear delineation of roles and bureaucratic hurdles all add to the delay in the receipt and expenditure of grants at the school level.9

Forming SMCs does not guarantee functioning SMCs

Several states in India are moving towards their second term of SMC formation in India, however anecdotal reports from our PAISA districts indicate that a significant number of SMCs exist only nominally. In conversation with a district official responsible for SMC mobilisation, we were told, rather candidly, that formulating SMCs required no great effort. All that is required is to call a few parents and have them sign in a book. The official went on to add that creating functional SMCs was the real challenge. SMCs often lack expertise on how to create School Development Plans and awareness of their role as monitoring and evaluation officers in the school. To train SMCs to not only create annual development plans and take an active interest in enrollment as mandated by the RTE in Pakistan, but also in creating a school that upholds quality and prevent dropouts appears to require rigorous, continuous training in planning, pedagogy and management. Moreover, it needs the undivided attention and consistent attendance of SMC members, that is often a challenge in India as parents who are daily-wage workers or farmers find it difficult to leave work and attend meetings and trainings.

All of these cases call for the need for strengthening delivery mechanisms in the education sector. The overemphasis on inputs and the lack of focus on outcomes has resulted in a slow start for the RTE Act in India. To meet any of the ideals enshrined in the legislation, building capacity to deliver quality education has to come alongside, if not precede goals to achieve universal primary schooling.

1 Text of RTE Bill: http://www.na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/1352867818_812.pdf

2 GMR-2012-EDI-Tables:   http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/efareport/statistics/efa-development-index/

3 ASER: http://www.asercentre.org/ngo-education-india.php?p=Spotlight%3A+ASER+2011

4 Mint: http://www.livemint.com/Politics/v8XGnE7Bw4zVJofReOjvlI/SC-upholds-25-reservation-for-poor-in-schools-through-RTE.html

5 The Hindu: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/school-managements-not-convinced-of-reimbursement-under-rte/article3950744.ece

6 The Hindu: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/article3650505.ece

7 NYTimes: http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/16/pakistans-new-education-bill-is-more-old-politics-than-new-policy/

8Deccan Herald: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/291019/march-2013-deadline-rte-school.html

9 Indian Express: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/a-crisis-of-implementation/1020557/0