As education has come tothe forefront of national and international policies, there are global pushesand incentives aimed towards making quality education accessible and affordableto all. The Education For All (2009) move by UNESCO and the move toUniversalize Education under the Millennium Development Goals (2000) put substantialpressure on the educational infrastructure of nations, particularly developingcountries. India’s response to the growing need of a universalized access toeducation can be traced back to its independence. The nascent stage Indiangovernment was faced by the gargantuan task of providing education in a countrywith 88% illiteracy Independence was largely left with an illiteratepopulation, with illiteracy being as high as 84% in 19471. For years, India’s focuswas on increasing access to education to its citizens. This is evidenced in theattempt to universalize primary education in 1986, which was followed up withmultiple education reforms in the 1990’s (Vedachalam, 2012). However no policyhas had a larger impact than the Right to Education Act (RTE) in 2009. The RTEas a policy guaranteed, among other things, free and compulsory education forevery child ranging from the age of 6-14.
While, monumental in increasing accessto education, as argued by Mehendale (2014), just having free and compulsoryeducation didn’t solve the need of having ‘quality’ education for all. The systemrequired processes that could be standardized and replicated en masse, therebyfocusing on quantitative markers rather than quality. The Indian educationinfrastructure is unique, as it has no common schooling system, and is ratherbuilt of multiple parallel systems of education. Children are segregated intogovernment or private schools based on their ability to pay and the socialclass they belong to. English- language schools that are affiliated to theelite examination boards such as CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) orICSE (Indian Certificate for Secondary Education) are considered to be at thetop of the food chain with the highest quality of education and access toresources.
On the other end of the spectrum are schools that are managed eitherpartially or wholly by the state governments. These schools are characterizedby lower resources and generally a lower ‘quality’ of education (ASER, 2013). Yet,these government schools cater to the large majority of the population;therefore while the RTE undoubtedly increased access to education, it stillstruggles to provide equitable and quality education to the students. Tobridge this gap, and maintain quality standards, the government under section12 of the RTE mandated a minimum of 25% free and reserved seats for childrenbelonging to Econimically weaker sections (EWS)2 in all private unaidedprimary schools across the country (Mehndale et al., 2015). While in theory, section12 seems like a perfect solution to start bridging the equity gap amongststudents, and not wait for the eventual strengthening of public school systems,in reality there exist multiple challenges in the implementation of this policy.Most of these challenges stem out of the Bourdieusian (Bourdieu, 2011) argumentof social and cultural capital. Bourdieu argued that people who come from aplace of lower social or cultural capital always find it difficult to competewith those who possess stronger cultural and social capital.
Juxtaposing thisargument into the field of education, Froerer (2011) argues that even thoughstudents from EWS are physically integrated into the private schools, theycontinue to struggle with a seamless integration as a result of various socialand cultural barriers that get institutionalized. This absence of support inschools can be seen as one of the reason that the drop out rate amongst EWSstudents is significantly higher than their peers (Governmentof India, Ministry of Human Resource Development, 2016). Shiftingthe locus of challenges from students to schools, Bhattacharya (2010) arguesthat it is important to realize that many private schools lack the expertise tobe able to help these students. He argues that these expertise needs to bedisplayed all the way from curriculum to the in-class ability of teachers tocreate an environment for EWS students to grow and learn. This essay focuses onthe challenges teachers face as the primary stakeholders responsible for thedelivery of the education, in their quest to provide an inclusive education tothese students. The government of Indiadid foresee some of these problems, but the structures present in the form ofpreemptive measures seem to have had negligible impact. At primary inspection,we see a lack of structural planning for the sheer scale at which this programwas to be implemented. Multiple researches (Sharma and Deppeler, 2005, Jha etal.
, 2013) have shown clear evidence that the education infrastructure in Indiais characterized by a failure of execution at multiple levels. The followingparagraph dwells deeper into the inadequacies of teacher training, and policychallenges in preparing teachers to carry out the equitable, inclusive andquality driven form of education the RTE envisions by focusing on three of themajor such issues; teacher training, policy creation and curricular support. A study done by (Ojha,2013) showed the problematic state of affairs regarding teacher training inIndia. While multiple teacher training and workshops are planned, and evendirected by the RTE act, few actually get implemented. Even when conductedthese workshops do not create processes or platforms for regular support forthe teachers. He argued that thevast nature of India makes implementation extremely demanding.Corroborating this finding, Kidwai and colleagues (Kidwai et al.
,2013) found in their research that there is, in parts of India, a completeabsence of pre-service training for teachers. This becomes deeply problematicwhile looking at the level of diversity in India, and the consequent need forfunctional tools for providing good quality education. This issue arises,even after policy makers clearly highlighted the importance of teacher trainingthat in turn shows a clear lack of communication between the policy and thepeople who have to implement that policy. Flowing from the firstissue, there exists a major dissonance between the vision and articulation ofpolicymakers, and the on-ground realities of what exist in the classroom. Whilenumerous researches and studies have shown the urgent requirement for teachertraining to promote high quality and inclusive education (Giffard-Lindsay,2007), the political discourse in India around these concerns still remainsstagnant. Policymakers and politicians across party lines are still looking atthe right to education as only an access-related program, making statements andarticulating goals related to admission rates, physical infrastructure, teacherworking hours and teacher-pupil ratios, with no focus on quality or inclusion(LiveMint, 2017). Shah and Agarwal’s (2010) critique opines that education inIndia, particularly under the RTE, is still being looked at as an input based,not outcome oriented policy with low regard to curricular or teacher-supportinterventions to promote inclusive education.
Finally, the curriculum –which is the basic content framework that teachers are expected to deliver –contains hidden elements in its design and prescribed delivery that makeinclusion tougher. The curriculum in India rather than supporting the teacherrestricts their ability to provide inclusive education (Giffard-Lindsay, 2007).As Blumberg (2008) states in her paper the syllabus and hidden curriculum reflectsa portrayal of society that subliminally cements social hierarchies in theminds of the students.
The creation of a sociological ‘other’ throughillustrations and stories highlight the physical and social differences betweenthe children from different backgrounds. In its portrayal of an interaction ofa child from a low-income background and a child from a more privilegedbackground, the NCERT textbook of grade 63 shows apronounced difference in the skin color, clothes and lived experiences of theEWS child, that makes reliability amongst students tougher. Making theirpursuit of inclusive and equitable education more challenging, teachers have tocombat the subliminal biases ingrained into the content, and compensate using pedagogicalinnovations, something that they are already undertrained for (Sarin and Gupta,2013, Jha et al., 2013). Overall, a mixture ofthese three and many other challenges makes it extremely difficult for teachersto practice the kind of education that was originally envisioned by the policymakers under the RTE. Regrettably, as pointed out by (Dyer, 2005), the burdenof this policy’s failure is more often than not levied on the teachers, thatmakes their already difficult jobs even harder to carry out. The followingparagraph concludes the essay by suggesting possible solutions around thesechallenges.
Implementing a programfor universalized access to education was always an audacious project. Matchingscale with quality is a challenge for policymakers around the world, but it isa compromise that cannot be afforded in the sphere of education. To createprocesses for quality maintenance under the RTE, the outcomes of this act needto be recalibrated. It must create assessment systems that measure not justquantitative outputs like enrollment or physical infrastructure, but softinfrastructure like student learning outcomes, equity in education andinclusion in the classroom.
Teacher training needs more dynamic in the contextof changing social realities. Teachers need to be equipped with the skills andpedagogical tools to execute differentiated lessons in a class with childrenfrom different backgrounds. Further as Oliver (1996) argues thatinclusion is not a static state but a dynamic process that implies changes inschool ethos to create a community that accepts and values difference, forinclusion to work, curriculum content, rather than merely curriculum delivery,must change where the child’s right to belong to a mainstream school does notremain a matter of legal right but becomes their moral and political. While theoverall picture for equitable education in India looks bleak, as pointed outthere are multiple steps that can move education in the right direction.
Word count: 1617 (Excluding footnotes) References ASER Centre. (2013). Annual Status of Education Report (Rural)2012 Provisional. Retrieved January 8, 2018 fromhttp://img.asercentre.
org/docs/Publications/ASER%20Reports/ASER_2012/fullaser2012report.pdf Bhattacharya, T., 2010.
Re-examining issue of inclusion ineducation. Economic and Political Weekly, pp.18-25. Blumberg, R.L., 2008. Gender bias in textbooks: A hiddenobstacle on the road to gender equality in education.
Papercommissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report. Bourdieu, P., 2011. The forms of capital.(1986).
Culturaltheory: An anthology, 1, pp.81-93. Dyer, C.
, 2005. Decentralisation to improve teacher quality?District Institutes of Education and Training in India. Compare: AJournal of Comparative and International Education, 35(2),pp.
139-152. EFA (2009) Education for All Global Monitoring Report. Chapter3.
Available at: http:// www.unesco.org/en/efareport. Froerer, P., 2011. Education, inequality and social mobility incentral India. The European Journal of Development Research, 23(5),pp.695-711 Giffard-Lindsay, K.
, 2007. Inclusive education in India:interpretation, implementation, and issues.Giffard-Lindsay GOVERNMENT OF INDIA, MINISTRY OF HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT(2016). EDUCATIONAL STATISTICS AT A GLANCE. NEW DELHI: EDUCATIONALSTATISTICS AT A GLANCE, pp.34-36. Jha, J., Ghatak, N.
, Mahendiran, S. and Bakshi, S. (2013).Implementing the Right to Education Act 2009: the Real Challenges (a discussionpaper). Centre for Budget and Policy Studies, Bangalore, pp.1-30. Kidwai, H., Burnette, D.
, Rao, S., Nath, S., Bajaj, M. andBajpai, N., 2013. In-Service Teacher Training for Public Primary Schools inRural India: Findings from District Morigaon (Assam) and District Medak (AndhraPradesh).
LiveMint (2017). Parliament passes bill to allow RTE teacherstime till 2019 to acquire qualifications. online Available at:http://www.livemint.com/Education/iwUT3pamWXWjvZb5G6ZQ3O/Parliament-passes-bill-to-allow-RTE-teachers-time-till-2019.htmlAccessed 17 Dec. 2017. Mehendale, A.
, 2014. The Question of “Quality” in Education:Does the RTE Act Provide an Answer?. Journal of Internationalco-operation in education, 16(2), pp.87-103.
Mehendale, A., Mukhopadhyay, R. and Namala, A., 2015. Right toEducation and inclusion in private unaided schools. Economic Weekly, 50(7), p.
43. Ojha Seema, S., 2013. Implementing right to education: Issuesand challenges. Research Journal of Educational Sciences SSN, 2321,p.0508.
Oliver, M., 1996. Understanding disability: From theoryto practice. St Martin’s Press. Sarin, A. and Gupta, S., 2013. Quotas under RTE: Leading towardsan egalitarian education system?.
Shah, A. and Agarwal, S., 2010. The Right to Education Act: ACritique. Citizen Economists, 2. Sharma, U. and Deppeler, J.
, 2005. Integrated education inIndia: Challenges and prospects. Disability Studies Quarterly, 25(1). Un.org. (2000).
United Nations Millennium Development Goals.online Available at: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/ Accessed 08 January2018. Vedachalam, S., 2012.
Education reform in India. CurrentScience, 103(12), p.1387. 1See more at https://en.wikipedia.
org/wiki/Literacy_in_India2 The EWS includes students who belong to notonly form economically weaker sections but also from disadvantaged groups suchas the Schedule Caste and Schedule tribes along with students who arephysically disadvantaged. 3 The textbooks can be found at: http://ncertbooks.prashanthellina.com/6_SocialStudies.html