Jeebesh jeebesh at sarai.net
Tue Sep 22 10:46:05 IST 2009

dear all, i came across this letter in another list, where a campaign  
against the just passed education act is brewing. given that in india  
there is a clear move towards an apartheid mode of school education,  
it would be nice to hear some thoughts from people on this list on the  
current schooling system.


Dr. Manmohan Singh,
Prime Minister, Government of India,
South Block, New Delhi

September 19, 2009


We the undersigned wish to express our deep sense of disappointment  
with ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act,  
2009’ signed by the President last month. After waiting for this  
Fundamental Right for six decades, India’s almost 46 crore children up  
to 18 years of age expected a characteristically different Act. It is  
our considered view that this is an anti-Constitutional, anti- 
education and anti-child Act that denies Fundamental Right to  
education of equitable quality – a Right that has existed in the  
Constitution since 1950, as declared by the Hon’ble Supreme Court  
through its historic Unnikrishnan Judgment (1993).

This Act,
guarantees only conditional and arbitrary free education; even this is  
provided only to a category of children while denying it to others;
shall maintain the prevailing multi-layered school system, thereby  
continuing with education rooted in inequality and discrimination;
envisages sub-standard and inferior quality education for almost three- 
fourths of India’s children, including the dalits, tribals, most OBCs  
and the minorities, and particularly the girls in each of these  
categories, thus failing to provide education of equitable quality;
distorts the universally accepted definition of Neighborhood School,  
thereby authorizing the government to arbitrarily compel the poor  
children to study in inferior quality schools;
undermines the universally accepted pedagogic role of the mother  
tongue in acquiring knowledge and learning languages other than one’s  
mother tongue, including English;
misconceives the universally acknowledged concept of disability and  
fails to provide for norms and standards necessary for integrating  
disabled children into regular schools;
discriminates between the children studying in government schools and  
the private unaided schools in various ways, particularly by providing  
for deployment of the government school teachers for a range of non- 
teaching tasks;
legitimizes and promotes privatization of school education under the  
pretext of providing free education to the weaker sections on 25% of  
the seats in private schools; this misconceived provision would not  
give any benefit whatsoever to the deprived children even in the short  
allows for shifting of public funds and other critical public  
resources for privatization and commercialization of education, as  
part of the ‘free market’ policy of Public Private Partnership in its  
various forms, including school vouchers, sale or handing over  
(‘adoption’) of government schools to private parties, tax exemptions  
and subsidies (both direct and hidden);
does not empower the appropariate government to regulate arbitrary fee- 
hikes by private schools, thus opening the flood gates for unabashed  
neither guarantees early childhood care and pre-primary education nor  
provides for Right to secondary education viz. from class IX to XII,  
thus disentitling more than 26 crore children of their Right to equal  
opportunities to participate in national economy; and
enables the State, by not including the financial estimates for  
implementation of the Act in the Financial Memorandum, to abdicate its  
Constitutional obligations for guaranteeing adequate funds for school  

We are convinced that the implementation of this Act would lead to,
abdication of the State’s Constitutional obligation for providing free  
and compulsory education of equitable quality;
steady demolition of the government school system, except the schools  
of specified categories (Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalayas, XI  
plan’s 6,000 model schools, and similar elite schools of the States/UT  
governments); and
increase in the pace of unregulated privatization and  
commercialization of school education.

We wish to register our dismay also because not one public hearing has  
been held since the drafting of this Act began in November 2004 by the  
CABE’s Committee chaired by Shri Kapil Sibal, the then Minister of  
State for S & T under the previous UPA regime. An opportunity for  
public hearing was also denied even when the Bill was sent to the  
concerned Parliamentary Standing Committee in December 2008. Further,  
our appeal to the Lok Sabha Speaker stood ignored. This violation of  
the democratic traditions of India has resulted in a wide-spread  
feeling of grave injustice in the public mind and rising resentment  
against the Act.

Finally, you have missed an historical opportunity by not designing  
this Act in the framework of a Common School System based on  
Neighborhood Schools – a system that would be fully government-funded  
but governed democratically in a decentralized manner with  
participation of local bodies and the community, particularly the  
parents. We are sure you know that such a system has been practiced  
successfully in most of the advanced economies of the world, including  
the G-8 countries. In case you had heeded the rising public demand for  
such a system in the country, your government would have won immense  
political goodwill among the masses. We dare suggest that it is still  
not too late. You have enough time under your leadership to retract  
the retrogressive Act and build a new vision of India’s education by  
moving towards the long awaited Common School System based on  
Neighborhood schools. This indeed is the only historical option in  
school education India has.

Hoping for your decisive intervention in this matter of critical  
importance for the survival of India as a democratic, egalitarian,  
secular and enlightened society,

Name & Designation

District and State

Cc.: Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, UPA

24, Akbar Road, New Delhi, 110011

  HYPERLINK "mailto:soniagandhi at sansad.nic.in" \t "_blank" soniagandhi at sansad.nic.in 

Circulated by

with regards
Sincerely yours,

Ramesh Patnaik
member, secretariat,

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