The Indian Constitution has classified the right to free and compulsory education as a fundamental right. Following this, the Right to Education Act was introduced to expand on the principle behind this fundamental right. There have also been a number of policies on this issue, one of the most recent being the Draft National Education Policy of 2016. Despite numerous legislations on this issue, the statistics have not been encouraging. As parents, it is important for you to be updated on the following policies and laws on education, not only for your knowledge but also to spread awareness among other parents, especially those who might not have access to this information.
The No-Fail Policy May Be on its Way Out
The Right to Education Act does not allow detention of students up to Class 8. This rule was introduced to prevent demotivating children by making them repeat a year. However, reports have shown that this rule has, in fact, caused the promotion of students who have not grasped what they are taught. This means that the standard of education has fallen. Because concerns were raised, there is a proposal to do away with this policy in the near future.
Focus on Preschool Education
The Draft National Education Policy, 2016 aims to improve preschool education, an area that is not stressed upon much in the Right to Education Act. It has been proposed that rules and regulations regarding teachers, curriculum, etc., are formulated by state governments to ensure that quality primary education is granted to children between the ages of 4 and 5.
Changes in the Syllabus
As parents, you can expect changes to be made in the curriculum taught to your children. The stagnant curriculum is one of the causes for poorly informed students. Subject such as Mathematics, Science and English will be the focus. As parents, you can begin exposing your children to more current information right away so that they are able to cope better with the changes in the system when it is implemented.
Male Students Can File Sexual Harassment Complaints
Though the rape laws in India have not changed, the Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment regulations of the UGC allow male students to file complaints of sexual harassment against students, teachers, etc. These gender-neutral regulations on sexual harassment are a great step forward as they recognise that vulnerability to sexual harassment is not confined to a particular gender.
Focus on Inclusive Education
Intolerance seems to be the new catchphrase in recent times. This unfortunate reality can be controlled to a great extent by promoting tolerance towards caste, religion and gender from a young age. The Draft Bill aims at encouraging tolerance and equality by proposing merit funds for deserving students who cannot afford their tuition fees and for differently-abled students. As parents, you can begin sensitising your children to social and physical differences so that they are well-adjusted when introduced to students from different backgrounds at school.
While there is a debate on undertaking a diploma or other non-conventional qualification at the same time as pursuing a degree, the UGC has stated that students will not be allowed to pursue two regular degrees simultaneously.
Validity of a Provisional Certificate
In many cases, students leaving their Bachelor Programs are provided with a provisional degree certificate as the original degree certificate sometimes takes months to be issued. This may interfere with applications for further education. However, the Delhi High Court in 2016 held that these provisional certificates were sufficient for applications for further education in India and no university could deny the holder of a provisional degree certificate admission on the grounds that they do not have the original degree certificate. This is, of course, only until the original degree certificate has been issued.
In the wake of various steps taken to digitalise the Indian system, schools and higher education institutions are also going digital. The HRD Ministry has launched the campaign VISAKA to encourage institutions to adopt cashless ways of functioning. This would mean that you, as parents, should become more tech-savvy to keep up with notifications about your child, communications from the school/college, payment of fees, etc.
State Government Initiatives
While there are nation-wide laws on the subject, state governments also play a big role in the education system. Among other changes made recently by state governments, the Telengana government has become the first state in the country to make gender education compulsory with the introduction of its book, ‘Towards a World of Equals’. This book was introduced in engineering colleges associated with the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University. Also, the Assam government has offered free higher education for five years for students from families with a combined annual income of less than 1 lakh and the Guwahati government proposed a fee-waiver for specially-abled students.
Education has become a top priority, with both the state governments and the central government taking an active interest in it. However, statistical studies conducted in this field do not give encouraging results because of various reasons. Awareness about the rights available to students, and the laws and policies relating to the education system is essential for the success of India’s education system. As parents, it is not only important to keep yourselves updated on these laws but also ensure that other parents know them.
Sushma Sosha Philip is a lawyer with experience in corporate law and IPR. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree from the University of Leiden.
Disclaimer: The article contains only general information about the laws. No part of this article constitutes legal advice of any sort and it cannot be relied on for any legal purpose.
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