The Public Law and Policy Discussion Group hosted a talk on ‘The Anatomy of Right to Education: The Difficulty of a Basic Right’, by Professor Krishna Kumar last Thursday.
Professor Kumar is arguably India’s leading luminaries in the field of education. He was the Director of the NCERT between 2004-10, and it was under his leadership that widespread and creative curriculum reforms were undertaken by the CBSE, including making school textbooks far more meaningful and engaging for students. Currently a Professor of Education in Delhi University, Professor Kumar was awarded the Padma Shri in 2011.
Introducing the theme of the talk, Professor Kumar said the talk would discuss the factors behind the passing of the Right to Education Act , and analyse its composition . The RTE, apparently, is a much more complex Act when compared to its similar cousins in other countries like the United Kingdom and China. It is complicated, he explained, because of the many goals it has to reach, the foremost of them being to fill the large policy vacuum . The Act attempts reforms, but does not take into account the complexities in the implementation, choosing to avoid them.
Professor Kumar elaborated on various issues, such that of the level of quality of education, and how the level of infrastructure required in a school has only yet been talked about in the Act. While speaking about how the RTE attempts to created a gender free childhood , he raised the point about how girls often lose their childhood, and how the idea of a girl as a woman in the making is imprinted in society. While talking about the backlash against the passing of the Act, he talked about how certain states were bringing in their acts to meddle with the RTE, in an attempt to dilute its standing.
Towards the end of the talk, Professor Kumar spoke about how the RTE is a right given to someone who has no idea of the right. It is us, the current generation, who has to hold it and fight for them. The act stands as a metaphor for the burden of consciousness on us, a reminder of what the nation has lost in terms of educating its people. With his soft and articulate voice, he summed up the talk about how the RTE is a demanding bill, almost a fantasy. It does not attempt to intervene with social reality in the least. But it is a fresh new perspective, a new breeze indicating the brightness the future holds.