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मंदार शिंदे
Mandar Shinde

Sunday, June 20, 2021


Date: 20/06/2021

A Critique on SARTHAQ
with respect to RTE Act 2009


    The Ministry of Education (formerly the Ministry of Human Resource Development), Government of India, released a draft of a new National Education Policy in 2019. Multiple consultations were held by several civil society organisations, networks like Right To Education Forum, and other institutes, to discuss the impact of proposed education policy and suggest changes based on their experience, study, and analysis of the draft. The 484 page long draft was quite elaborative and spoke about restructuring of the Indian education system at all levels, right from early childhood education up to higher education and research.
    The official draft released in May 2019 explicitly recommended extension of the Right To Education Act. It was mentioned in the Chapter No. 3 that “The ‘free and compulsory’ aspect of the RTE Act must be enforced, and extended through Grade 12 and to all children up to the age of 18.” However, in another copy made available in October 2019, it was mentioned in section 3.3 that “The ‘free and compulsory’ aspect of the RTE Act will be examined for extension through Grade 12 and to all children up to the age of 18.” By December 2019, there was another copy circulated with the above statement in section 3.3 changed as “For providing equitable and quality education until Grade 12 to all children up to the age of 18, suitable facilitating systems shall be put in place.” Finally, in the official copy of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the statement appears as - “For providing equitable and quality education from the Foundational Stage through Grade 12 to all children up to the age of 18, suitable facilitating systems shall be put in place.”


    The implementation plan for National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was declared by the Ministry in the form of a document named SARTHAQ (Students’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement Through Quality Education). SARTHAQ links each recommendation of NEP with 297 Tasks along with responsible agencies, timelines and 304 outputs of these Tasks. There are two parts of the SARTHAQ document - Part 1 describing the tasks in detail along 276 pages and Part 2 (156 pages) providing chapter-wise, organisation-wise and year-wise task tables along with guidelines and frameworks for implementation. While it is advisable to read and understand the entire implementation plan, some of the tasks specifically targeting / impacting the Right To Education Act are discussed below.

Chapter 3 - Curtailing Dropout Rates and Ensuring Universal Access to Education at All Levels

3.4 Implementation Plan

Task 68: Alternative and innovative education centres will be put in place by States/UTs (after the amendment in Section 2(n) of the RTE Act) in cooperation with community, civil society, etc. to ensure that children of migrant laborers and other children who are dropping out of school due to various circumstances are brought back into mainstream education. (Timeline: 2024-25)


    According to section 3 (1) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, "Every child of the age of six to fourteen years shall have a right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till completion of elementary education."

    According to section 6 of this act, "For carrying out the provisions of this act, the appropriate Government and the local authority shall establish, within such area or limits of neighbourhood, as may be prescribed, a school, where it is not so established, within a period of three years from the commencement of this Act."

    Any alternative and innovative education centres (as mentioned in the SARTHAQ Task 68) go against the provisions of the RTE Act as according to Section 9 (k) of the RTE Act, "Every local authority shall ensure admission of children of migrant families."

    It appears that the government has failed to bring all out-of-school children to the schools, hence trying to adopt the model of non-formal education (designed and run by non-governmental organisations in response to specific needs and challenges) instead of focusing on universalisation of and improved access to education.

Chapter 16 - Implementation

16.3 Implementation Plan

Task 295: The implementation plan for NEP would certainly require amendments in certain sections of the RTE Act, 2009 (which is the vehicle for elementary education) for its smooth implementation. This task will be undertaken immediately by initiating consultations and discussions, followed by finalising the draft amendment and taking to the Legislature. (Timeline: 2021-23)


    The strongest and most urgent demand regarding amendment in the RTE Act has always been its extension to cover education of all children up to 18 years of age. Even the Draft NEP had clearly recommended such an extension, which was later removed from the final NEP document. However, the NEP implementation guide SARTHAQ directly aims at amendments in certain sections of the RTE Act for smooth implementation in regards with non formal models and privatisation of education.

• The sections of the RTE Act need amendment as follows:
o Section 2 (n): Where the definition of school has been defined, alternate model of schools as mentioned in NEP are required to be added.
o Section 3: A child with disability referred to in sub-clause to be in line with the RPwD Act, 2016 which emphasizes on adapting the disabilities covered as per the Schedule of Disabilities mentioned in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016.
o Section 23: Qualifications for appointment and terms and conditions of service of teachers to acquire ECCE qualifications with minimal disruption to their current work.
o Section 31 and 32: Monitoring of child’s right to education which need to be realigned with the roles and responsibility of Counsellors and safety and security of children.
o Section 21 and 22: School Management Committee and School Development Plan for realigning the roles and responsibilities of School Complex Management Committees (SCMC) in preparing school development plan in the context of school complexes/clusters.
o Section 25: Review of Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR)


     The definition of a school under section 2 (n) of the RTE Act 2009 includes schools established, owned, controlled by the government, as well as wholly or partially aided and unaided schools. Section 19 (1) states that "No school shall be established, or recognised unless it fulfills the norms and standards specified in the Schedule." The Schedule specifies the Norms and Standards for a School defined under section 2 (n), which include Pupil Teacher Ratio as well as infrastructural norms and standards such as separate toilets for boys and girls, safe and adequate drinking water facility, playground, boundary wall, library, play material, games and sports equipment, etc. All of these are included in the right of every child to free and compulsory education. The alternate model of schools to be added in the definition will not certainly follow these norms and standards, depriving the majority of students of their rightful access to these facilities required for their overall growth and development.

    School Management Committee and School Development Plan have their own significance with respect to proper functioning and development of any school. However, even after ten years of RTE Act implementation, the School Management Committees have not been established or functional or empowered in all schools. Instead of empowering existing School Management Committees, the NEP and SARTHAQ talk about introducing School Complex Management Committees which might not work as desired or might work in conflict with the best interest of children at standalone schools. No research and pilot projects have been worked upon related to establishment and functioning of school complexes. Without any data or experience or examples to support the model, School Complexes are being forcefully introduced in the NEP, overlooking urgent needs of the existing schools in both rural and urban areas.

    Other amendments proposed in the sections 3, 23, 31, 32, and 25 should be discussed and evaluated by involving concerned stakeholders such as organisations working with children with special needs, teachers’ associations, early childhood care and education experts, etc.

• The other major focus areas of the implementation plan, which need to be included in the RTE Act include:
o To allow alternative models of education (the requirements for schools to be made less restrictive enabling open school courses equivalent to class 3,5 and 8 (b) establishment of school complexes/clusters,
o Curriculum and evaluation procedure by emphasizing on holistic report card
o Other models for schools will also be piloted, such as philanthropic-public partnerships
o Standard-setting/regulatory framework and the facilitating systems for school regulation, accreditation, and governance


    The section 30 (1) of the RTE Act specifies that "No child shall be required to pass any Board examination till completion of elementary education." Allowing open school courses equivalent to class 3, 5, 8 would certainly involve external exams violating every child's right to continue education till completion of 8th standard as per RTE Act 2009. The open school model also deprives the children of their right to access all necessary infrastructure at schools, including the playground, library, midday meal, etc. Experience with existing schools under philanthropic-public partnerships must have been considered before recommending inclusion of this model through proposed amendments in the RTE Act.

Chapter 17 - Mode of Implementation: Samagra Shiksha, Mid-day Meal, Adult Education

17.2 Background Of Existing Schemes

I. Samagra Shiksha

The Department has undertaken various new initiatives to bring reforms in the school eco system.

3) The RTE (Amendment) Act, 2019 amending the no detention policy of the RTE Act, 2009 has been enacted by Parliament and notified on 11.1.2019. Under this, if a student fails in second attempt, he/she can be detained in Class 5 or 8 or both, or the State can decide not to detain the child. This will pave the way for improvement in learning outcomes of children.


     The No Detention Policy was amended in the Parliament in 2019, but the implementation was left to the States. The No Detention Policy was a very thoughtful provision under the RTE Act, encouraging and ensuring every child to complete elementary education or at least access all the rightful entitlements related to education. The NEP implementation guide SARTHAQ makes this objectionable statement that detaining a child in Class 5 or 8 or both will pave the way for improvement in learning outcomes of children. The No Detention Policy has been misinterpreted by the implementation agencies as a No Exams Policy or a Free Pass Policy. In fact, the RTE Act emphasizes on Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation of the children throughout the year, which should help the teachers understand the learning progress of every child on an ongoing basis instead of periodic exams that are designed to fail and detain and discourage children from learning. Given the challenging situations across the country, especially for girls, and looking at the dropout rates over the years, the No Detention Policy must be strongly backed. No study or research has ever shown that failing or detaining a child improves learning outcomes at any level of the education system. Instead of focusing on improving infrastructure and quality of teaching, the NEP and SARTHAQ are trying to blame the child for not learning. This statement and approach towards education must be strongly objected to at all levels, advocating for continuation of the No Detention Policy in the States.


     This document covers some of the tasks in the NEP implementation guide SARTHAQ, that specifically target or impact the Right To Education Act. It is advisable to read and understand the entire implementation plan from the perspective of universalisation of education and ensuring access to quality education for every child up to 18 years of age. Efforts should be made to create awareness about the proposed amendments in the RTE Act and their impacts on education of children from socioeconomically deprived communities, including girls across the country. Any amendments in the Act must be well discussed upon and opinions and experiences of researchers, educationists, experts, child rights activists, etc. must be taken into consideration. No child should be deprived of its right to free and compulsory education along with all necessary entitlements as well as its right to protection, participation, and development.



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