In a move that promises to alleviate the quality of education in the State, the training program of untrained elementary teachers was formally launched with the Chief Minister lighting the auspicious lamp to commemorate the occasion. Various initiatives and incentives taken up by the ministry of education such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rastriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) under the Right to Education Act (RTE) 2009 have not achieved its objectives despite four years of concerted efforts.
It has also been reported that a large number of elementary teachers all over the country (more than 7,000 in Manipur alone) have yet to receive the requisite training or the expertise to impart education to the students at the elementary level. The training program is taken up to address this lacuna, with the Chief Minister prominently stating that untrained elementary teachers will not be employed after 2015. It may be mentioned that the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which represents the consequential legislation envisaged under Article 21-A, means that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards. Article 21-A and the RTE Act came into effect on 1 April 2010. The title of the RTE Act incorporates the words ‘free and compulsory’. ‘Free education’ means that no child, other than a child who has been admitted by his or her parents to a school which is not supported by the appropriate Government, shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.
‘Compulsory education’ casts an obligation on the appropriate Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group. With this, India has moved forward to a rights based framework that casts a legal obligation on the Central and State Governments to implement this fundamental child right as enshrined in the Article 21A of the Constitution, in accordance with the provisions of the RTE Act which provides for, among others, Right of children to free and compulsory education till completion of elementary education in a neighbourhood school, making provisions for a non-admitted child to be admitted to an age appropriate class. It also lays down the norms and standards relating inter alia to Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, school-working days, teacher-working hours. And, most importantly, the Act provides for appointment of appropriately trained teachers, i.e. teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications and prohibits (a) physical punishment and mental harassment; (b) screening procedures for admission of children; (c) capitation fee; (d) private tuition by teachers and (e) running of schools without recognition.
Now that one can safely conclude that the groundwork is coming to a satisfactory conclusion, what remains to be seen is how actively and keenly is the Government looking into the implementation of the schemes, for no amount of planning and financial support or investment will reap result unless the teachers deliver, and in time.